Expert Awards

within the law

Working Within the Law: Home Expert Awards

Working in the home improvement industry comes with a lot of unique challenges. Learning how to navigate the legal codes and restrictions around home building and maintenance is just as important as learning to use all of the tools of the various trades, because the last thing you want is to be on the wrong side of the law. Sometimes it feels like you have to be a lawyer yourself just to keep up with them, which is why becoming a licensed professional before doing home work is so important.

We wanted to know how home improvement experts work within and around legal codes to make sure their clients are happy and safe. We asked them about their experience with the law, and for their tips and tricks for making sure that projects are resolved legally. As usual, they had a lot of good insight!

Below, we’ve compiled a few of the helpful answers our experts provided. Check back later in the week for a follow-up article!

What laws do you often have to work around?

Are there any building regulations in your area that you don’t agree with?

How can homeowners find out about building regulations before they start designing a project?

If you could make up a new regulation, what would it be?

Most Inspiring

"Reputable General Contractors, plumbers and electricians follow codes. If a homeowner finds a person or company that suggests not following codes don’t hire them. If they are not licensed and don’t carry the correct insurance, don’t hire them. Poor work and bad reputations come from sketchy un-licensed and non-code compliant companies." read more

As Nancy points out, following legal codes and restrictions in the home improvement industry is about safety. The laws are there for a reason, and contractors who want to work around them make dangerous business partners. If a contractor is urging you to break the law, chances are that contractor does not have your best interest at heart.

eLocal Expert Network

Most Creative

“Certainly we as contractors are need to follow laws, codes and local regulations when it comes to working on homes. Just as important are the laws of physics, and paying attention to building science when improving homes makes for effective and lasting improvements.” read more

As Jason points out, working within the law doesn't just mean the legal code. The laws of physics are just as important. In many cases, the legal code is written to try to incorporate safety issues brought about by the physics of various situations. For example, a regulation might be designed to ensure that a family's home is properly insulated, but it's the contractor's job to go above and beyond that regulation to make sure the insulation actually works instead of just meeting code.

eLocal Expert Network

Most Insightful

“There are also types of building codes that can get in the way of rehabbing your home. For example, if a homeowner wants to change the layout of their historic home, believe it or not state regulations can prevent these changes to maintain the history and character of the home. Although these laws can take time to work around, it is often worth the wait of approval instead of moving out of a dream home.” read more

Sometimes, regulations can see like a huge, unnecessary obstacle during the construction process, especially where zoning laws or historical homes are involved. When these situations arise, it can be tempting to work outside the law, but in the end going that route will cause you more trouble. It's better to wait for approval, even if it can be frustrating.

eLocal Expert Network

Most Articulate

“As a plumber, many things require a permit to be replaced. Technically all plumbing fixtures such as a water heater, toilet, sewage ejector, shower valve, and so on. If every water heater getting installed as replacement to a leaky one actually got a permit, the county/city would need to build a new building and hire a large enough staff to issue and inspect the water heaters.” read more

Greg makes a great point about the sheer volume of regulations involved in the home improvement industry. Understanding and working within safely laws is one thing, but often the requirements for getting permits far exceed the ability of the government to process and grant them. When this situation arises, it's up to the home improvement professional to find a way to ensure that the installation is done safely, even if they have to bend the rules slightly. A good rule of thumb is to go above and beyond regulation--even if getting the proper permits is unrealistic.

eLocal Expert Network

Most Informative

“Many pest control operators have come and gone because either they can’t afford the changes, or just don’t want to follow them. Unfortunately, like many other industries, regulations are ignored and corners are cut, which puts their customers at risk. ... Safety is the most important factor in our business. Always check the local governing boards for the contractor you're considering to use and check for complaints.” read more

Unfortunately, there are many home "professionals" who don't think safety regulations are worth considering. They cut corners, which can quickly lead to dangerous situations. This is something homeowners need to be aware of when they are hiring professionals; the cheapest option is often cheap for a reason. Always check for complaints from previous customers.

eLocal Expert Network