As summer approaches – and with May being Building Safety Month – we’re urging homeowners to take the time to check outdoor areas for potential safety hazards.

Proper inspections now can help to keep you family and friends safe in the future.

Porches, decks and balconies can be at risk of collapsing if they are not properly constructed or if they are old. Oregon has building codes that homeowners must follow when building or repairing porches.

A common safety hazard occurs when porches are nailed to buildings rather than being attached with the proper anchors or bolts. Nails are a poor method of attaching porches to buildings,

because they work their way loose over time.

Other safety hazards to look for include:

  • Split or rotting wood
  • Wobbly handrails or guardrails
  • Loose, missing or rusting anchors, nails or screws
  • Missing, damaged or loose support beams and planking
  • Poor end support of the porch deck, joists or girders
  • Excessive movement of the porch when walked on
  • Swaying or unstable porches.

Building or repairing your home and deck to the requirements of the Oregon Specialty Codes will help ensure the work is done safely and will help prevent accidents.

All decks and porches taller than 30 inches or closer than 3 feet to the property line require a building permit to build or repair. And most repairs to your home will require permits. Call your local building department if you have any questions.

Another warm-weather activity – barbecuing – can cause problems if it’s done on or near combustible areas, creating a fire hazard. That not only puts your family and visitors at risk, but in condos and apartment buildings can put your neighbors in danger as well.

The Oregon Fire Code prohibits the use of charcoal and gas grills and other open-burning devices on wood porches or within 10 feet of any combustible construction. The exceptions are for one- and two-family homes and where buildings and porches are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.

The most-common grilling hazards are open flames and heat generated in the grill base. Both these can be transferred

to the wood of a porch, deck or siding, causing a fire.

When grilling, follow these simple safety tips:

  • Place the grill away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches
  • Periodically remove grease or fat build-up
  • Use only proper starter fluid and store the can away from heat sources
  • Check propane cylinder hoses for leaks before use
  • Do not move hot grills
  • Dispose of charcoal properly, keeping ash containers outside and away from combustible construction.

Meanwhile, in other news ...

Wall bracing calculator

The Oregon Building Codes Division is offering a new Wall Bracing Calculator to help residential contractors design building plans to meet new and highly technical wall-bracing requirements.

This calculator is not intended to teach the user how to do a lateral bracing calculation or to teach code. It is intended to help the user present his or her work to the local building department in an easy-to-follow format and to do the math for the user.

The user needs to be familiar with the code requirements when using this calculator to be able to take advantage of its versatility.

This handy tool can be found at the Oregon Building Codes Division website’s helpful tools section at http://oregonbcd.org/programs/residential.html#calculators.

Design class for wood frame structures

Clatsop Community College is offering a CCB continuing education class May 10 from 6 to 8:50 p.m. at the IMTC Computer Lab, MERTS Campus.

Attendees will learn and apply provisions for designing wood frame structures for wind, snow and seismic loads based on the Wood Frame Construction Manual (WFCM) for one- and two-family dwellings built under the Oregon Residential Specialty Code.

The course fee is $60, or $45 for the North Coast Building Industry members who sponsored the course.

Students will learn to read and interpret the WFCM and apply it to both new construction and historic preservation projects.

For more information, call 503-338-2301 or email lswerdloff@clatsopcc.edu to register for the class.

Accessibility training for designers and contractors

The Oregon Building Codes Division is offering online accessibility training, an excellent course for design professionals and commercial contractors to help understand the changes to ADA rules in Oregon.

The course is the equivalent to four hours of classroom training. There are four lessons, each consisting of several presentations, an assignment and a quiz.

The registration fee for the class is $35, paid directly to Chemeketa Community College.

Once registered for the course, students will have access to the site 24/7 and can go at their own pace. Students must finish the course within the same Chemeketa quarter as the one they began.

The summer term for the course will begin June 25.

The online course is self-paced.

The Building Codes Division has a link to access it on the Chemeketa Community College eLearn page at http://www.cbs.state.or.us/external/bcd/chemeketa_reg.html.

Historic Preservation Fair

The City of Astoria Community Development Department, in conjunction with Columbia Pacific Preservation, the Lower Columbia Preservation Society, and Astoria Event Center, is sponsoring the community-wide Historic Preservation Fair.

The event will be May 12 beginning at 10 a.m. It will be held at the Astoria Event Center, 894 Commercial St.

There is no cost to attend the event, which is open to the public.

This year, there will be an interesting and rare tour of Astoria underground downtown basements scheduled for 1 to 2:30 p.m.

The 2012 Historic Preservation Fair will include many new exhibits, as well as demonstrations by local craftspersons and contractors specializing in historic preservation.

Speakers will cover refurbishing windows, architectural styles, and the restoration of the Astoria Train Depot.

Visit the City of Astoria Building Safety Month table for information on codes and permits, and information on how a historic designation can make code compliance much easier in Oregon.

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