People don’t often think about the fire risks posed by the light in their clothes closet, but it’s one of the few places in the house where a source of high heat can get too close to flammable materials. I come across this problem often in early 20th century homes. Back then, is was all too common to see a lone incandescent light bulb with a pull chain in a closet. Today, lighting must be installed safely, with adequate separation from clothes, boxes and other flammables stored in the closet. We can also choose the quality of the light, as well as bulb efficiency.
According to the 2009 International Residential Code, closet lighting should be surface mounted with lamps completely enclosed with a clearance from any combustibles of, 12 inches for incandescent or LED lights, and 6 inches for florescent lighting.
Metal pull chains on old ceramic closet fixtures may be dangerous as well; if the base cracks, the chain can become electrified. Should you be standing on a hardwood floor barefoot after a shower, you may get the surprise of your life.
Homeowners should replace lighting in their clothes closets if the light has the potential to ignite flammable materials in the closet.
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Scott Price, CPI, #1532
Certified Home Inspector
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