House Numbers

Introduction and back-story:

The other day, while I was looking for the house I was set to inspect, I came across an issue that could make a critical difference in an emergency.  The house did not have an address displayed.  Now normally it's pretty easy to find the houses I'm going to inspect, since the Realtors put a nice sign in front of the house to at least let me know I'm in the right area.  This one though, had two similar houses next to each other, both for sale by the same agent.  I was able to pull up the listing online and see pictures of the house to figure out which one I was supposed to inspect though, so all was good.

For several years I was a volunteer Firefighter and EMT.  Imagine if I had been coming to this house in a different capacity, while someone inside was in desperate need of help?  A firefighter wouldn't have the benefit of looking up the listing online, and it may also be in the dead of night.  Make sure that your house number is clearly displayed, and visible from the street.  For those of you that live in the country, make sure that the number is also displayed at the end of your driveway or on the gate.  It might just save your life some day.

Now, on to the rest of the story:

Ever wonder about your house number? Often, the previous owner installed the number and the new owner never had to think about it, leaving them clueless as to why it was placed where it is or why a particular color or size was chosen. These numbers are more important than you probably realize, and a lot of thought goes into making sure they are visible.

House numbers should be clear enough so that police, the fire department, paramedics, etc., can quickly locate properties in an emergency. Numbers are often the only way that first-responders can identify their intended destinations. Your city might even have laws requiring your house number to be of a certain size or color. Also, think of the poor pizza delivery guy who runs late because he can’t find your house, or frustrated party guests who have to knock on neighbors’ doors before they find yours.

Consider the following recommendations:

  • The numbers should be large, within reason. Try to make them at least 5 or 6 inches tall. Smaller numbers may not be visible from the street if you have a large front yard. Replacement house numbers can be purchased from hardware stores and online.
  • The numbers should be of a color that contrasts with their background. Reflective numbers are great because they are easier to see at night. Brown on black or white on yellow may look swanky but are bad choices for the purpose.
  • Try not to put house numbers behind any trees, shrubs, or anything else that may obscure their view from the street.
  • Make sure that the number faces the street that is listed in the house’s address. It does emergency workers no good if the house number faces a different street than the one the workers are traveling on.
  • Is your house not visible from the road? Then the number should be placed at the driveway's entrance.
  • When we inspect your home we'll advise you if your numbers are adequate (Normally upon arrival when I tell you I had a hard time finding the house).

Keep in mind that you may need to make adjustments.

Even if your house number is currently adequate, we believe that it might need adjustment in the future. The following are common reasons why you may need to adjust your number in the future:

  • The addresses assigned to houses by the city occasionally change, and you must adjust your numbers accordingly.
  • The trees or shrubs in front of your house have grown so much that the number is no longer visible.
  • House numbers installed in the winter may be visible during that season, but become blocked by budding vegetation by spring or summer.

Maintain your house numbers, along with the rest of your home's exterior.

  • Keep your numbers clean. They may not be reflective or contrasting if they are covered in mud.
  • Trim back vegetation as needed.
  • Don’t let piles of snow obscure the numbers. If this happens, raise the number so this situation does not happen again.
 Just in case you were wondering, there is actually code requiring all of this:
From section R319 of the 2015 International Residential Code:
Buildings shall be provided with approved address identification. The address identification shall be legible and placed in a position that is visible from the street or road fronting the property. Address identification characters shall contrast with their background. Address numbers shall be Arabic numbers or alphabetical letters. Numbers shall not be spelled out. Each character shall be not less than 4 inches (102 mm) in height with a stroke width of not less than 0.5 inch (12.7 mm). Where required by the fire code official, address identification shall be provided in additional approved locations to facilitate emergency response. Where access is by means of a private road and the building address cannot be viewed from the public way, a monument, pole or other sign or means shall be used to identify the structure. Address identification shall be maintained.
In summary, house numbers serve a critical function for emergency personnel and should be clearly displayed.
To have your house numbers (and the rest of your house) inspected, contact Veteran Home Inspections at 210-202-1974
by Nick Gromicko, Mike Marlow and Kenton Shepard