House and Home

Is Your Outdated Kitchen Dangerous To Your Family?


An outdated kitchen can endanger your family in many ways. There is a significant risk of burns, electric shocks or poisoning. Some problems also have the potential to cause cuts, falls and other injuries. It’s a good idea to inspect your kitchen for safety issues. Potential areas of concern include appliances, fixtures, woodwork and plumbing.

Types of Dangers

The cabinets, windows, walls and furniture in an outdated kitchen could contain lead paint. Kitchens from 1978 or earlier may have this type of paint, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s more likely to be a problem if the kitchen was constructed prior to 1960. Lead paint is toxic and can lead to poisoning. Cabinets may also pose a threat if they have broken hinges or unstable shelves.

An old refrigerator is more likely to poison you than undisturbed lead paint. Food may become unsafe if the refrigerator or freezer doesn’t keep it cold enough. There could also be a refrigerant leak. It’s a bad sign if the refrigerator runs at all hours or has a strong odor. Ovens and stoves become more dangerous when their timers or indicator lights stop working. An oven with a broken handle is difficult to open safely.

Small appliances can also be hazardous. A microwave oven with a broken window or door latch could leak radiation and increase the risk of cancer. Frayed electrical wires may cause shocks, especially if they come in contact with water. It is dangerous to use an appliance with a grounded cord that is missing the third prong.

It’s vital for a kitchen to have three-prong GFCI outlets. Appliances draw substantial amounts of power and people operate them near water. A shock may occur if you touch a sink and an ungrounded appliance at the same time, according to the Tennessee Valley Authority. You might overload the circuit if you use outlet splitters or extension cords.

Some outdated kitchens have broken or inadequate light fixtures. People are more likely to burn themselves or spill things in dim light. Unprotected light bulbs should not be installed near sources of water or steam. It is best to only use permanent fixtures. A corded lamp could fall over and land on a stove burner or sink.

To prevent burns, the hot water knob on your kitchen sink ought to be clearly marked. The counter should provide enough room to place the toaster and coffee maker at least a foot away from the sink. A major faucet leak that makes the counter or floor slippery will increase the risk of a fall or an electric shock.

An outdated kitchen may also have broken or missing floor tiles. This creates a tripping hazard. It is particularly dangerous to stumble when you are carrying hot food or boiling water. Small holes and cracks make the floor difficult to clean. This allows bacteria to grow and makes the kitchen more habitable for pests, such as ants and fleas.

Getting Started

The first step is to make a list of problems that you want to correct. Examine all of the fixtures, appliances and electrical cords. You can use an outlet tester, multimeter or surge protector to confirm that each outlet is properly grounded. Put a thermometer in the refrigerator and keep the door shut for an hour. The temperature should not exceed 41 degrees.

If you cannot begin a home improvement project immediately, make some minor changes to enhance safety. Install plastic covers on any outlets or switches that don’t have them. Place a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. Tighten loose handles on appliances and pots. Repair or discard any small appliances with frayed cords or broken glass.

Making Improvements

The safest approach is to start by repairing or replacing the most dangerous thing you can afford to fix. If the refrigerator is too warm or leaks refrigerant, make it your first priority. Next, try to eliminate fire, shock and tripping hazards. Upgrade any obsolete outlets. The EPA recommends that people leave lead paint in place if it isn’t flaking. Minor faucet leaks and cosmetic issues hold relatively little importance.

It is safer to fix all of these problems as quickly as possible, but a step-by-step approach proves best if you have limited time or money. In addition to improving safety, kitchen remodeling will raise the value of your home and enhance its appearance. New appliances and light fixtures may also reduce your electricity bills.

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