Whether you’re engaged in home repair, renovation, or new construction, there are hundreds of decisions to be made and hours of research to be done. From deciding between contractors to choosing materials and design, the list of steps for even simple projects can often be daunting. At the end of it all, the last thing a homeowner wants to deal with is a code violation, especially one they didn’t know about.
Building codes are meant to keep people safe and in recent times, to ensure that new homes are running at adequate efficiency levels. But in some cases, they seem to only exist to frustrate those excited about finally completing a new project. To help our homeowners avoid code hold-ups, we asked our panel of home improvement experts about the best ways to comply with building codes.
We’ve rounded some of our favorite comments below. Check back later in the week for our follow-up article outlining the basics of avoiding problems with building codes.
What Should Homeowners Know About Building Laws and Codes?
Can you rely on contractors to take care of any permits and regulations that are necessary?
What about smaller jobs that only involve one professional: a plumber, roofer or electrician?
Are they responsible for following all building laws?
How do you know when a project might violate a local building law or code?
What are the usual penalties for violating building codes?
If you have an old project that violates a new building code, what happens?
"Sometimes home sellers have no problems selling properties with illegally added structures, and sometimes they do, depending on the market and the situation. I have seen one situation where one house in a very popular area had an illegal structure, and despite being in a very popular area, it was hard to sell the property. In that case it did hurt. In another case, one of the buyers planned on knocking down the house and building a new one on the lot. Obviously in that case, the homebuyer didn’t care." read more
"The idea is to find professionals who are ethical; ethics require integrity, reliability and consistency in work. Ethical professionals treat consumers with respect, honesty and integrity. They back up their promises, and they keep their commitments. Here again is where your due diligence comes in, verifying any claims made about the company, its products and its people. Contact the BBB, run an online search for comments, and not only ask for testimonials, but follow up on them. The onus is on you; conduct your due diligence." read more
"A homeowner shouldn’t have to know all the codes. Rely on licensed professionals (architects, licensed contractors, plumbers, electricians, etc), it is their job to do due diligence to meet code requirements. Insist on a permit and inspections except for the smallest maintenance type jobs. Don’t make final payment until the city/county has signed off on the project as complete. One final comment: never accept “the inspector didn’t say anything or didn’t notice.” Code compliance is still the responsibility of the installing contractor, not on an inspector “catching” it or not in the field." read more
"Often times a contractor will do work without submitting permits or getting building department sign offs. The real risk falls on the home or building owner. While the cost may be less to avoid the permit fees, the consequences can be much more costly if discovered later. Additionally, if the work was done without permits and building department sign off, chances are we will find some short cuts that don’t adhere to the minimum standard. As the dominos continue to fall, when the Building Department does come into the house, they may look for other items that don’t adhere to the code. All of this may result in fines, new submission fees, professional engineering fees, new construction costs, and time." read more
"Each project needs special professional attention by a licensed individual of those trades. Each jurisdiction decides what professional is needed and what kind of license. Do not always trust the advice from a private party such as contractor. Do your own research and act according to the laws which are enforced in your area. Then at least you know you can have peace of mind." read more