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Properly Designed Stairs and Railing Can Prevent Falls

Jul 15, 2020 12:00:00 PM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in Safety


Inadequate, poorly designed stairs and railing in the home are the root cause of thousands of significant fall accidents across America. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, each year falls result in three million emergency room visits, with one in five falls resulting in a broken bone or head injury, costing Americans over $50 billion per year. While new homes constructed in Florida must follow building codes for stairs and railing, these codes are minimal and in certain cases not adequate to account for children and seniors. As a rule, there must be a better push to bring older homes into code compliance because many of them lack the basic railing for health and safety.

Florida Building Code mandates that railing be used on any porch, ramp, and raised floor that is 30 inches, or more, above the floor or ground below and that the railing be a minimal of 36 inches in height. This sounds reasonable if you are a young, vibrant 20-something who can withstand a fall from a porch that is two and a half feet off the ground. However, what about your 80-year-old Grandmother or two-year-old niece? Could seniors or young children survive a fall onto the ground from 30 inches without injury or death? Porches that are just six inches off the ground can cause a hard fall, which can easily result in an emergency room visit. Although builders are slow to add any home feature without being required to do so by code, for those with the elderly or young children in their family, porch railings should be installed in elevated areas.

Children and animals are little magicians who can get themselves caught in a tight spot with no way out. The maximum clearance between rails is only four inches and there are homes on the market today wherein the rails are six inches, or farther, apart. This is a huge hazard. This is how a head can get stuck and neck broken while parents are not watching. If you are looking at an older home, ensure the railing splits are no more than four inches apart.

The rise of stairs is basically the height of the step. Back in the day, builders who were poor planners would be left with stairway areas in which the rise was unreasonably high because they did not have enough room on the slope. Have you ever walked up or down a set of stairs and it was a struggle? Going up makes you breathless and going down makes you feel like you are falling on each step. Normally, when you notice the actual up and down of stairs, it is a safe bet these stairs are not compliant when it comes to the rise. A stair rise should be 7 to 7.5 inches at the most and the stair treads should be at least 10.5 inches wide. Anything smaller is normally a trip hazard.

Another mistake made in many homes is the lack of a top or bottom landing area for the stairs. Stairs that immediately go to a top door or area at the bottom without a landing are huge fall hazards. Just imagine opening a door and your first step is a set of stairs. Without watching, the next step could be a doozy and a potential trip to the hospital. The landing should be a minimal of 36 inches, and larger, if the door at the top of the stairs is a 36-inch door that opens outward. You should design the system to allow people to adjust their footing when they go up or down a stairway, and that is what landings allow.

Finally, I do not like rounded stairs and steps because they are falls waiting to happen. Yes, many designers love the look. In some cases, spiral staircases are used because of limited areas for landings. However, the problem with spiral and curved staircases is that the treads are typically not the same width from side to side. Instinctively, the mind thinks stair treads are the same width all the way across and when they are not, people tumble and fall. Do not sacrifice stair safety for a look—many seniors have died from a head injury because of a fall from a curved stair tread.

Many falls can be prevented with proper design and project planning. Check the stairs and railing before building, remodeling, or buying.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House, which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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Six Tips for Fire Prevention during Summertime

Jul 8, 2020 12:00:00 PM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in Safety


Most homeowners view wintertime as the prime season for home fires. However, in many respects, summertime is the more dangerous time of year because people are more active and doing things they should not be doing. Fire safety around the house has become a yearlong battle and homeowners, especially in Central Florida, should be mindful of the hazards. Many of the accidental home fires during summertime can be prevented by simply pausing, thinking, and not taking the risk. In other words, commonsense prevention.

Here are six tips to prevent fires around the house during summertime.

First, be careful with gas cans. Summertime brings taller grass, weeds, shrubs, and the need to crank up lawn equipment. Most homeowners have multiple cans of fuel around their house with straight gas for mowers and treated mixed gas for four-stroke engines like weed eaters. Oftentimes, these fuels are stored in unapproved cans, which can create static electricity, causing an explosion; or, the cans are poorly capped, which can create dangerous vapors. A spark from an electrical switch, a gas water heater, or a lit cigarette can create a very bad explosion and fire. Handle gas with care and only store it in approved containers in a safe area.

The next hazard is how you handle the gas in the can. Believe it or not, many homeowners disrespect the volatility of gasoline and the burn units across America are filled with adults and children needlessly burned because someone did something foolish. Gasoline should never be used as an accelerant for a fire like a barbecue or trash fire. When ignited, the gasoline will explode. Many times, if you are holding the container of gas you will be immediately engulfed in flames. You should never use gasoline to start any fire or add gasoline to a fire.

Third, there is nothing like a big fireworks show, until it lights up your home. Fireworks in Florida are supposed to be used in agriculture, not for making huge displays. Yet, local and state governments turn their head and wink at consumers buying fireworks for celebrations. That is okay—if it is done safely. There have been many homes set on fire because some pretend military man decided to shoot a high-flying firework, which landed on a nest of leaves on a house. If you must shoot fireworks off during summer celebrations, do so away from any home and be mindful of trajectories.

Fourth, do not ignore the smell of burning electrical wires or continuous electrical flickers and surges—that could mean trouble. It is extremely hot in the summer, especially in the attic, walls, and outside parts of your home. During the heat of summer, air conditioners, appliances, and more people at home put exceptional demand on your home’s electrical parts and pieces. If you are a homeowner who has ignored maintenance, or worse, takes shortcuts to patch up your electricity around the house, then you could be in danger of a summertime electrical fire. Be sure to call a licensed electrician to repair and inspect any suspected electrical issues. Also, check your fire alarms.

Fifth, although everyone loves grilling during the summer, a grill close to a house can start a big barbecue. An afternoon thunderstorm in Central Florida during summertime is almost a daily occurrence and there are homeowners who think bringing a grill inside their garage or under a porch is a great solution for barbecuing in the rain. That is a probably one of the dumbest things you can do. One inattentive moment, the grill being knocked over, or the burst of a flame upward can create a huge fire that engulfs your home in a matter of minutes. Grill away from the house, and if you are doing it in Central Florida—buy an umbrella.

Finally, kids are at the house. Some children are more active than others. Some homeowners have teenagers who want to rebel and take chances. Protect your home against an unintended fire by storing and locking flammables out of the reach of children and keeping tabs on your teenagers, especially if you see matches or lighters in their possession. Help prevent a fire as well as your children getting in trouble by taking the accelerants out their hands to avert arson.

As a homeowner, you should assume the role of Smokey the Bear and be very proactive in preventing summertime fires—it is already hot enough around the house.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply and host of Around the House, which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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Set Jobsite Standards to Save Money and Time

Aug 26, 2019 8:02:11 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in construction materials, Safety, Legal Matters


The costliest part of most construction projects is the waste that occurs on the jobsite from theft, poor cleanliness and workers’ disregard for supplies on the project. It is hysterical how construction project owners will chase the absolute lowest price on a 2-by-4 stud, then lose it tenfold because of poor jobsite management.

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Accidents Often Occur Within a Comfort Zone

May 14, 2019 10:16:45 AM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply posted in Safety


During the last several months, there have been several experienced local construction tradespeople who have had serious accidents on the job,

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