5 Unsafe Design Trends Home Inspectors Wish You’d Stop Doing

updated Jul 11, 2022
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When it comes to home design, the popular trends don’t always heed a “safety first” warning. That’s according to home inspectors — the people tasked with inspecting properties for immediate or potential problems. As more homebuyers renovate fixer-uppers or look to Pinterest for DIY design inspiration, home inspectors are spotting some design tactics that may look nice but aren’t necessarily safe. 

Here are five home trends that give property inspectors pause because of their potential for health and safety issues.

Floating Shelves

Floating shelves in the kitchen are a neat way to show off your pretty stoneware or, in the living room, they can provide a gallery space for your favorite books or trinkets. While adding floating shelves may seem like an easy task, Valentino Gecaj of Valentino Home Inspections in Westchester, New York, says many of the DIY installations he’s seen don’t have adequate support. If you’re attaching a floating shelf to, say, plaster or drywall, you need molly bolts or wall anchors. “Floating shelves are much easier to overload with weight than traditional shelves,” Gecaj explains. 

Vintage Appliances 

Vintage appliances may add a little whimsy and a pop of pastel to your kitchen. But not only are replacement parts hard to source should you need a repair, some of these appliances can spell danger. “They hold a much higher chance of starting electrical fires,” Gecaj says. Many vintage stoves also aren’t outfitted with modern safety features like anti-tip technology and sealed electrical components. If you love the retro look, there are many appliance manufacturers who are replicating the designs to meet modern standards.

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Exposed Brick 

With the ability to add charm and character to any room, exposed brick makes a statement. But brick is porous, and a not-so-great insulator, Gecaj says. Not only does this mean your home is less energy efficient, but “exposed bricks can bring in excess moisture and a variety of insects into your home,” he says. If you do move into a home with exposed brick walls, be sure to apply a sealant to the wall to help protect it from dirt as well as the aforementioned moisture (which can lead to mold problems).

Nixing Handrails 

Handrails may not be the most exciting design element in your home. Still, they exist for safety reasons and can help prevent nasty falls. Over the past several years, though, Welmoed Sisson, a home inspector and author of “101 Things You Don’t Want in Your Home” has taken note of a dangerous trend: Homeowners removing the graspable handrails attached to their walls and replacing them with things like rope for a nautical vibe or hockey sticks for a sports theme. Those DIY handrails wouldn’t pass the muster in a home inspection.

Floating Staircases

On the topic of stairs, Joe Tangradi, director of technical services at HouseMaster, a Neighborly company, has taken note of sleek staircases being built in both new construction and renovated homes. But these ultra-contemporary, floating staircases are often plagued with safety problems. For one, a handrail is required when four or more risers are installed, he says, but many modern stairs throw caution to the wind and don’t have handrails, or have ones that wouldn’t be considered graspable. Also, risers may be open as long as the spacing doesn’t exceed 4 inches. (If it’s any bigger, there’s a risk that young children or pets can slip and fall to the floor!)