within the law

What laws do you often have to work around?

Working in the home improvement industry requires a wide base of knowledge. You have to know how to handle your tools, how to talk to clients, and how to manage your finances and keep your company afloat. As if all that weren’t enough, the home improvement industry is also highly regulated, which means that keeping your work safe and within legal parameters also requires you to be a lawyer, capable of understanding what the codes mean for your clients’ projects.

Working within legal restrictions can be challenging and frustrating. That’s why we turned to our experts, to find out how they navigate the laws when it comes to their work. They had a lot of interesting things to say about why codes exist and when they are most important.

Why do regulations exist?

Like in most industries, home improvement regulations are designed to improve safety, both on the work site and in the finished product once the construction is over. Rules about ventilation, foundation thicknesses, etc. are meant to ensure your project is safe. In short, they exist for a reason, and ought to be respected as much as possible. Even just getting a permit ensures that your project is safer. Expert Nancy Dalton explains,

“The benefit of permits are twofold; first you have a second set of eyes looking at the work and you have documentation the work was done to code when you sell your home.”

Getting a permit benefits you in the long run, even if it does cost more in the short term.

When can the rules be bent?

Sometimes, though, the laws don’t seem to be written with practical application in mind. It’s easy to impose a law, but not so easy to enforce it. In some cases, permitting systems just don’t have the manpower to keep up with the demand, as expert Greg Chick explains:

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…. Homeowners alone cause enough replacement to overload the existing staff.”

Regulations aren’t always practical, and sometimes it comes down to the experts in the industry to know when it’s okay to fudge on the rules a little bit, while keeping in mind the possible risks of doing so. This is why it’s important to understand why the regulations exist, even if you can’t acquire the proper documentation.

How can you stay within legal boundaries?

Finally, for homeowners, staying on the right side of the law might seem like a pain in the butt, but it’s important to remember that those rules exist for a reason and that the professional you’ve hired understands them better than you do, and is probably better up-to-date with recent changes. Trusting the advice of those professionals is the best thing you can do for yourself–even when they disagree with you. As expert Mark Puglisi notes,

One of the other issues that is tough to get around is many clients are not aware of these changes and still demand that we treat areas the way they want regardless of what laws are in place because they are paying the bill.”

Of course, for this to work, you have to trust the professional you’ve hired. As usual, always check the credentials of the company or contractor that you’ve hired. A properly licensed professional is always the best option, and will ensure that you get what you paid for and aren’t in danger, legal or otherwise.