Woodchuck holes, barbed wire fences and sleep-overs.

There just aren’t enough ways for kids to injure themselves these days.  Kids today can move through childhood and never get to see their own blood.  There is something just-plain-wrong about that. There is some truth in the boldest of lies  Of course there are the incidental wannabe injuries or scrapes that only require Sponge-Bob Band-Aids or a hug–but real bleeding?  Pretty rare.

woodchuckholes1One time, a long, long time ago on the farm, the cows were headed in the wrong direction and so I ran as fast as I could across the pasture to cut them off.  They were headed straight to a nirvana of sweet alfalfa–ready to be cut for hay.

It was at this moment that I was unknowingly headed for yet another opportunity to see my own blood.

There was a barbed wire fence between me and the intercept with the errant cows.  I had jumped over this fence many other times–no big deal.  This time however, I was not fortunate enough to see the newly excavated woodchuck hole, exactly where I needed to plant my foot for the launch.  I ended up wrapped up in the barbed wire fence, ripping my leg open like a gutted fish–all the way from my knee cap to the top of my foot.  It is never a good thing to see one’s own bones.

Bleeding like the proverbial stuck pig, I made it to the farm house where my aunt casually bandaged me up and sent me on my way.  LITERALLY–pretty much just like that!  She washed the wound with soap and water until my eyes watered—this hurt much worse than the missed jump.  There were no antibiotics given and NO stitches–and I had already had a tetanus shot from a previous misadventure with an improperly placed nail.  That was some 55 or so years ago and I still have the nasty scars to attest to the cows getting their way.

Today, as an inspector, I routinely point out things on properties that could be a danger to persons on the property–children or otherwise.  The litmus test I use as an inspector, to determine safety around the home is this:  If a young child has a bunch of friends over for a sleep-over and they are chasing each other around the house–inside or outside–in the dark, are there any bears that will bite them?  It becomes a question of: “where are the woodchuck holes and the barbed wire fences?”

It is never possible to foresee all eventualities–kids are kids after all.  But I will point on things that seem obvious to me–like the things in the following picture.


I personally think these could be pretty nasty things to fall on in the dark—or in the daylight for that matter.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email! 🙂

Functional? Really?

This post is the first in a series of posts that wants to get at the real question of the day.

How did we get “here”—and from “where” did we come?

forclosureThis is not simply about “directions,” although in a twisted way maybe that is what it is all about. Garmins and TomToms will not provide the real directions or answers here—they can still be a case of garbage in, garbage out. And there I go again, figuring it out ahead of where it is supposed to all come together at the end of the post.

Perhaps it is all about garbage in, garbage out—then again, perhaps not.

What I am trying to get at is more about the metaphorical “here” and the metaphorical “we” and the metaphorical “where.”

Therefore, if anything, it is about garbage other than what buried the entire house.

It is not just about the pathetic, the unfortunate, or those that made poor choices. It is not about genetics, economic disparity or “tinkle-down” economics (now there is a topic that could piss off almost anyone–or more accurately, leave someone feeling tinkled on).

This post could just as easily be about sleazy landlords as it is about sloven tenants. Both of which were some mother’s and father’s “most-adorable-babies-in-the-whole-wide-world.”

This is also not about how this could “never happen to me”—or to you, my reader, because I know that it could. This stuff happens to people that say that it could never happen to them! It happens to good people every day of the week. Of course I do realize that is “them” and not me and you–so we are saved for the moment.

Everyone knows about the best laid plans of mice and men however.

This is a story of not how one person could come to this position in life but about how three people all in one house, all at the same time, got to this position. They surely cannot be alone in these United States.

It is a story about a house too. It is a house with no functional toilets–at least not in the normal sense of “functional.” One toilet was truly not functional, as flushing it allowed water to squirt out of a hole in the side of the toilet all over the wall and floor. Based on the amount of dust on the cover, I am guessing that a decision was made to not use this toilet. Evidence that “decisions” were still being made on some level.


The second toilet was apparently being flushed by filling the tank with water as necessary. (And one has to admire the towel covered cardboard lid.)


There was one “functional” shower in the home. By functional I mean to say that you could stand under the shower head, water would come out of the shower head, and a good percentage of the water would go down the drain.


The fact that the wall tiles were nearly entirely missing and the entire floor around the toilet and tub was rotten apparently did not lessen the obvious functional daily use of the shower.


The moldy wallpaper and moldy ceiling only adds to the ambiance.


Next time we will talk about where all that water was “really” going.

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email! 🙂

Gravity—it is often not our friend

We have all experienced gravity–it is very helpful in everything we do from brushing our teeth to getting out of bed–or even staying in bed. Controlling our movements, as well as the movements of the objects around us, in relation to gravity is important to our health and safety.

Gravity can be very patient

Gravity can be very patient

Today I want to focus on control of the movement of the objects around us.

If you live in a seismic zone and experience earthquakes you are likely very aware of how easily heavy objects can tip over. In those zones there are often requirements for preventing heavy objects from tipping over–such as is the case with water heaters. When water heaters tip over water lines and gas lines can be ruptured–also electrical connections can be ripped apart. The necessity for restraining such an appliance is pretty obvious.

Other reasons for restraining objects is to prevent unwanted tipping over of objects that could result in crushing someone–especially a child. Anti-tip brackets for kitchen ranges is good example of this. Children like to open oven doors and climb on them to get to the proverbial cookie jar. Of course adults need anti-tip devices as can be seen in this video–especially after tipping a few too many.

But seriously, according to the CPSC, thousands of children are injured by appliances, televisions, bookcases, and bureaus tipping over on them. Between 2000 and 2010, 245 children were actually killed by these objects. Emergency room visits from injuries from these objects tipping over on them amounts to over 43,000 kids under the age of 8—per year.

Here are the CPSC’s recommendations:

To prevent tragedies follow these safety tips in any home where children live or visit:

Anchor furniture to the wall or the floor.

Place TVs on sturdy, low bases.

Or, anchor the furniture and the TV on top of it, and push the TV as far back on the furniture as possible.

Keep remote controls, toys, and other items that might attract children off TV stands or furniture.

Keep TV and/or cable cords out of reach of children.

Make sure freestanding kitchen ranges and stoves are installed with anti-tip brackets.

Supervise children in rooms where these safety tips have not been followed.

But what about outdoors? What about the things outdoors that can tip over and either damage the things they fall on or injure persons that they fall on.

On an inspection a while back, it occurred to me that there might be an issue with this elevated rain barrel.

Rain Barrels need to be restrained

Rain Barrels need to be restrained

This barrel, when full of water, weighs almost 500 lbs. Would a kid want to see if they could climb this structure to get to the deck? Of course they would. Or perhaps they would just climb on it to see how much water is in the barrel. Either way this barrel needs to be properly restrained to prevent it from tipping over.

Anyone that has raised 6 year old’s knows what it feels to be awakened from a nice nap as the 50 lbs of joy lands on you from a running start. Now while a 500 lb rain barrel has no razor sharp knees and elbows to hit inappropriate areas of one’s body–it can do even more damage.


By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

If you enjoyed this post, and would like to get notices of new posts to my blog, please subscribe via email in the little box to the right. I promise NO spamming of your email!