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Barry Stone: Child safety for laundry chutes

[Metro Creative Connection]
[Metro Creative Connection]

DEAR BARRY: My home was just inspected, and the report says the laundry chute is unsafe for small children. So, I checked with the local building department. They said the chute does not violate any safety codes, but the people who are buying my home agree with their home inspector. They want me to upgrade the door of the chute for child safety. Are you aware of any safety standards that apply to laundry chutes?

— Andy

DEAR ANDY: The home inspector’s advice is based upon common sense, but there is no code requirement to back it up.

Laundry chutes, in some homes, can be hazardous to small children, depending on the size and location of the opening, but the only requirements pertaining to laundry chutes involve fire safety, not child safety. The code specifies the types of materials to be used for controlling the spread of fire from one portion of a building to another. That is all it says about laundry chute construction.

Laundry chutes are convenient amenities in many two-story homes, and some are built in ways that enable easy access by curious and adventurous children. With large floor-level openings, one can easily imagine a child crawling in and falling to the lower floor, or simply becoming stuck in the chute. Regardless of code requirements, caution is advised to ensure reasonable child safety.

There was a story about a boy who had been forbidden to play at a particular neighbor's home. The kid, however, had a mind of his own and figured he wouldn't get caught because his friend’s parents had gone to work. This clandestine caper was cut short when he heard adults coming up the stairs earlier than expected. To advance his getaway, he dove headlong into the laundry chute, but the plan went awry when he became stuck halfway between the upstairs hallway and the laundry room.

Other incidents involving laundry chutes have been less humorous. Therefore, child-proof latches are advised for the openings on chutes, regardless of whether they are required by code. Besides that, it’s not an expensive upgrade.

DEAR BARRY: The home I just bought has a hollow-core front entry door, and there are no other exit doors anywhere in the building. I thought that front doors were supposed to be solid-core and that a back door is also required. Do these conditions sound like building code violations?

— Brad

DEAR BRAD: A single-family dwelling is required to have one exterior door only, the primary requirement being a minimum width of 36 inches. Additional doors are only needed if the home is designed for occupancy by 10 or more people. If your home is intended for normal occupancy, then no back door is specified by code.

There is also no mandate for a solid-core entry door on your home. Solid doors have become standard issue for nearly all homes, to provide added security against forced entry, but this is not a compulsory building standard.

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