State of Healthy Housing: Key Definitions of the Characteristics Used in the Report
Holes in floors. Respondents were asked about holes in the interior floors of the unit. The holes may or may not go all the way through to a lower floor or to the exterior of the unit. The holes are only counted if large enough for someone to trip in.
Open cracks or holes (interior). Statistics are presented on open cracks or holes in the interior wall or ceilings of the housing unit. Included are cracks or holes that do not go all the way through to the next room or to the exterior of the housing unit. Hairline cracks or cracks that appear in the walls or ceilings but aren’t large enough to insert the edge of a dime are not counted. Very small holes caused by nails or other similar objects are also not counted.
Broken plaster or peeling paint (interior). The area of peeling paint or broken plaster must be on the inside walls or ceilings and at least one area of broken plaster or peeling paint must be larger than 8 inches by 11 inches.
Signs of rodents (mice or rats). The statistics on signs of mice or rats refer to respondents who reported seeing mice or rats or evidence of mice or rats inside the house or building during the three months prior to interview or while the household was living in the unit if the period of habitation was shorter than three months. Signs of mice or rats include droppings, holes in the wall, or ripped or torn food containers.
Water leakage during last 12 months. Data on water leakage are shown if the leakage occurred in the 12 months prior to the interview or while the household was living in the unit if the period of habitation was shorter than 12 months. Housing units with water leakage are classified by whether the water leaked in from inside or outside the building and by the most common areas (roof, basement, walls, closed windows, or doors) of or reasons for (fixtures backed up or overflowed or pipes leaked) water leakage.
Water supply stoppage. Water supply stoppage means that the housing unit was completely without running water from its regular source. Completely without running water means that the water system servicing the unit supplied no water at all; that is, no equipment or facility using running water (kitchen or bathroom sinks, shower, bathtub, flush toilet, dishwasher, and other similar items) had water supplied to it or were all inoperable. The reasons could vary from a stoppage because of a flood or storm to a broken pipe, to a shutdown of the water system, to a failure to pay the bill, or for other reasons. Data on water stoppage are shown if they occurred in the three months prior to the interview or while the household was living in the unit if the period of habitation was shorter than three months and if the breakdown or failure lasted six consecutive hours or more.
Flush toilet and flush toilet breakdowns. A privy or chemical toilet is not considered a flush toilet. Flush toilets outside the unit were not counted. The statistics on breakdowns of flush toilet are shown for housing units with at least one flush toilet for the household’s use only. The flush toilet may be completely unusable because of a faulty flushing mechanism, broken pipes, stopped up sewer pipe, lack of water supplied to the flush toilet, or some other reason. For households with more than one toilet, the question asked about times when all toilets were unusable.
Sewage disposal breakdown. The data on breakdowns in the sewage disposal are limited to housing units in which the means of sewage disposal was a public sewer, septic tank, or cesspool. Breakdowns refer to situations in which the system was completely unusable. Examples include the septic tank being pumped because it no longer perked, tank collapse, tank explosion, sewer main broken, sewer plant not operating as result of electrical failure, or water service interruption. Data on breakdowns are shown if they occurred in the three months prior to the interview or while the household was living in the unit if the period of habitation was shorter than three months and if the breakdown lasted six consecutive hours or more.
Lacking complete plumbing. The category with all plumbing facilities consists of housing units that have hot and cold piped water as well as a flush toilet and a bathtub or shower. For units with less than two full bathrooms, the facilities are only counted if they are for the exclusive use of the occupants of the unit. Plumbing facilities need not be in the same room. Lacking some plumbing facilities or having no plumbing facilities for exclusive use means that the housing unit does not have all three specified plumbing facilities (hot and cold piped water, flush toilet, and bathtub or shower) inside the housing unit, or that the toilet or bathing facilities are also for the use of the occupants of other housing units.
Heating equipment breakdown. Statistics are shown for housing units occupied by the householder during the winter prior to the interview and refer only to the main heating equipment. The data are classified by whether the housing unit was uncomfortably cold for 24 hours or more, the number of times equipment breakdowns occurred lasting six hours or more, and causes for the breakdowns. The heating equipment is considered broken if it is not providing heat at its normal heating capacity through some fault in the equipment.
Room heater without flue. This refers to any room heater that burns kerosene, gas, or oil, and that does not connect to a flue, vent, or chimney.
Exposed wiring in unit. A housing unit is classified as having exposed electric wiring if the unit has any wiring that is not enclosed, either in the walls or in metal or plastic coverings. Excluded are appliance cords, extension cords, chandelier cords, and telephone, antenna, or cable television wires.
Rooms without working electric wall outlets. A housing unit is classified as having rooms without working electric wall outlets if there is not at least one working electric wall outlet in each room of the unit. A working electric wall outlet is one that is in operating condition; that is, it can be used when needed. If a room does not have an electric wall outlet, an extension cord used in place of a wall outlet is not considered to be an electric wall outlet.
Lacking kitchen facilities. Lacking a kitchen sink, refrigerator, or cooking equipment (stove, burners, or microwave oven) inside the structure for exclusive use of the unit.
Roofing problems. Units with a “sagging roof,” “missing roofing material,” or a “hole in roof” were classified as having roofing problems. A sagging roof is a critical defect indicating continuous neglect or deep serious damage to the structure. Only roofs with substantial sagging were included. “Missing roofing material” includes rotted, broken, loose or missing shingles, tiles, slate, shake, and tin, caused by extensive damage from fire, storm, or serious neglect. “Hole in roof” occurs when the missing roof materials expose the interior of the unit directly to weather. Holes caused by construction activity were not counted unless the construction had been abandoned. The statistics do not include multiunit structures.
Siding problems. Units with either “missing bricks, siding, or other outside wall material” or “sloping outside walls” were classified as having siding problems. “Missing bricks, siding, or other outside wall material” applies to the exterior wall (including chimney) of the structure. Those defects may have been caused by storm, fire, flood, extensive neglect, vandalism, and so forth. Materials may include clapboard siding, shingles, boards, brick, concrete, and stucco. The missing materials do not necessarily expose the interior of the unit directly to weather. Missing materials resulting from construction activity were not included unless construction had been abandoned. “Sloping outside walls” is a critical defect indicating continuous neglect or serious damage to the structure. Only walls with substantial sagging were included. Statistics do not include multiunit structures.
Window problems. Units with either “broken windows” or “boarded-up windows” were classified as having window problems. “Boarded-up windows” have been sealed off to protect against weather or entry and include windows and/or doors covered by board, brick, metal, or some other material. “Broken windows” indicated several broken or missing windowpanes. The statistics do not include multiunit structures.
Foundation problems. This category includes large cracks, holes, and rotted, loose, or missing foundation material. The statistics do not include multiunit structures.