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Thread: Building Codes

  1. #1
    Senior Member Yppej's Avatar
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    Building Codes

    For those of you in big government states, what has been your experience with building codes?

    I have thought of making some improvements to my 71 year old home, but I hear horror stories such as any time you have to pull a permit the city or town you are in can force you to update everything else in your home to bring it to current code. Any time you add anything, any other structure it connects to must be inspected and brought up to current code. My neighbors recently put up a detached rather than attached garage and I am thinking this is the reason why.

    There are state building codes, local building codes, stretch codes, and in some places green building codes.

    It seems the way to go is either let your house deteriorate or do things yourself or with contractors who won't pull permits, then wait at least 10 years before selling your house so you are past the statute of limitations and can't be fined.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yppej View Post
    For those of you in big government states, what has been your experience with building codes?

    I have thought of making some improvements to my 71 year old home, but I hear horror stories such as any time you have to pull a permit the city or town you are in can force you to update everything else in your home to bring it to current code. Any time you add anything, any other structure it connects to must be inspected and brought up to current code. My neighbors recently put up a detached rather than attached garage and I am thinking this is the reason why.

    There are state building codes, local building codes, stretch codes, and in some places green building codes.

    It seems the way to go is either let your house deteriorate or do things yourself or with contractors who won't pull permits, then wait at least 10 years before selling your house so you are past the statute of limitations and can't be fined.
    neither of those two scenarios sound very workable.

    I guess maybe a good thing is to find a contractor person you trust and have them explain to you how the building code thing works. I would not want to have to wait 10 years to sell the house.

  3. #3
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    If your locale is excessively intrusive in exercising their power in addressing building code violations, I’m not sure it helps to know what our experiences are elsewhere.

    here I’ve never heard of getting a building code for X project and having to redo your entire house. That is preposterous actually.

    I do miss the good old days here when urban pioneers like DH and me could move into a house with barely any functionality, no inspections were required. My neighborhood was exempt from the city wide requirement of needing an occupancy permit.We were special because...powerful Aldermen got us this exemption.

    believe me, this worked in favor of young enthusiastic people living in their old Victorians while carrying out gut rehab jobs. It supported sweat equity efforts and is one of the things that made our neighborhood what it is.

    But now, all houses need an occupancy permit when they change hands or extensive renovation is taking place. Ugh.
    note: occupancy permit goals are different from building permit goals, but are related.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iris lilies View Post
    here I’ve never heard of getting a building code for X project and having to redo your entire house. That is preposterous actually.

    I do miss the good old days here when urban pioneers like DH and me could move into a house with barely any functionality, no inspections were required. My neighborhood was exempt from the city wide requirement of needing an occupancy permit.We were special because...powerful Aldermen got us this exemption.
    I've heard about redo when doing a MAJOR renovation. Example, building a new addition to the house, where you tear into over 50% of the old structure (tearing down outside walls around multiple rooms along the length of the house, moving them, enlarging those rooms into the new structure, etc.)
    Not with an addition that you are only into one wall (small side of the house), just updating the electrical panel for the new construction, no plumbing etc.
    I would think it would make a difference what your doing.
    Now the closest I did to that, was putting a new roof on the entire house, no major renovation required.

    Back when one sibling built their house, I did the phone and computer wiring. Where he built, didn't have a clue about codes (type of wiring needed for exposure in the attic or crawlspace, etc. etc). His electrician, wanted the two of us to go to work for him. I have had issues getting an electrician do work for me, as he has seen my work and said he wouldn't have any issue with me even working on the outside meter. I know I can pull my own permit and do my own work in cases, but there are times you want someone else to do it.

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    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    It all depends...

    When we've had contractors put in new windows and doors in both our house and the rental property, the contract stipulated that certain codes needed to be met by construction time, mostly for the windows/doors but extending to things like current code requirements for GFCI outlets and smoke/CO detectors. That's not a huge expense and they're easy to retrofit. They're nothing as extensive as moving the circuit breaker panel in our house (which was okay for where it was located in the 1970s but isn't the three-feet-away-from-anything required today).

    I've had to have a couple of fire department inspections for the rental property over the years. They really frown on extension cords, which can be hard to avoid in a 100-year-old house that predated code calling for outlets every six linear feet. So those have to disappear for inspections. And I did replace cheap extension cords with surge suppressor strips that shut things down before they get super hot. The inspector also didn't like the size of a window in one bedroom (small enough for 1920s-sized people but deemed insufficient for 2008-sized people) and I got a variance for that rather than have to install a new window I didn't have money (or maybe even space?) for. The bathroom in that house has been torn out completely and replaced and the only code requirements outside the bathroom for that project were a hardwired smoke detector and additional CO detectors.

    On the other hand, friends of ours built their own house in an unincorporated area of western Wisconsin about 20 years ago and the state granted them a certificate of occupancy once the structure was closed in and before any electrical and heating/AC was done. So it really varies.

    btw hiring a contractor who doesn't pull permits (or doesn't know they need them where you live) can be really expensive, as a subsequent inspection may have you rip out whatever work was done that isn't visible to the inspector. Going that way really requires a belief in a special kind of luck. Find out what "current code" actually means in your area and then evaluate what that means in your situation. It is possible (at least in some locales) to appeal the code requirement if it's not possible to achieve economically. You really don't know till you're down to specifics.
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

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    We've done 2 major projects (1 on each of our homes) that required building permits and final inspections. 1 of those projects required architect blueprints be approved by the city. Neither our city home nor mountain cabin required us to "upgrade all".

    Building codes are by city/town in my state. The next over could be completely different.

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    Senior Member Yppej's Avatar
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    We have hardwired smoke detectors that DS upgraded to a combo that includes CO detection. The circuit breaker panels are maxed out - one circuit is split in two.

    Our bedroom windows are newer, though maybe not in size. But there are homemade window bars over 8 windows in the family room that are low to the ground to deter break-ins. There is an exterior door in that room so the windows wouldn't be needed to escape a fire but DS thinks it might be a code issue.

    Other potential issues I could foresee are old plumbing (rusty main line leaving the house - plumber says it looks like exterior rust only), insulation that was blown in degraded over the years so we are definitely not to green code, ceiling in one room is caving in in one corner, possible asbestos. The original owners did lots of things themselves and not properly. For instance, the heating ductwork is held up in places with bent wire coat hangers.

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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gardnr View Post
    We've done 2 major projects (1 on each of our homes) that required building permits and final inspections. 1 of those projects required architect blueprints be approved by the city. Neither our city home nor mountain cabin required us to "upgrade all".

    Building codes are by city/town in my state. The next over could be completely different.
    Yes, building code ordinances are local, but The National Building Code is pretty much what municipalities and other jurisdictions adopt. They do not write their own code, they may change bits of the National Codes to a local flavor, but generally speaking, they adopt the National Code although may adopt revisions at different times.

    The National Fire Code, The National Electrical Code, The
    National Plumbing Code—same thing.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Yppej's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by iris lilies View Post
    Yes, building code ordinances are local, but The National Building Code is pretty much what municipalities and other jurisdictions adopt. They do not write their own code, they may change bits of the National Codes to a local flavor, but generally speaking, they adopt the National Code although may adopt revisions at different times.

    The National Fire Code, The National Electrical Code, The
    National Plumbing Code—same thing.
    Municipalities in my state vote whether to adopt additional codes like green building and this has led to some contentious town meetings.

    To me updating an existing home is always greener than taking up open land to build a new house and green codes, which hurt poorer homeowners, are a bad idea. I think a better way to be green is to stop gobbling up open land with McMansions. Some towns now have two acre minimums for any new homes, so they definitely sprawl.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iris lilies View Post
    Yes, building code ordinances are local, but The National Building Code is pretty much what municipalities and other jurisdictions adopt. They do not write their own code, they may change bits of the National Codes to a local flavor, but generally speaking, they adopt the National Code although may adopt revisions at different times.

    The National Fire Code, The National Electrical Code, The
    National Plumbing Code—same thing.
    Not our experience in 2 locations in a single state.

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