How To Crack Your Home’s Building Code

“This would have never had happened if you had followed the building code! A house shouldn’t collapse no matter how powerfully a wolf is blowing … “

– Greg the Insurance Adjuster to the Three Little Pigs in the newspaper comic strip WUMO by Mikael Wulff and Anders Margenthaler

Wondering if your home is up to code might be the world’s least exciting subject to give thought to. But knowing whether your home is in violation of local building standards is priceless, essential information every homeowner should have. Problem is, most American homeowners are in the pitch black dark.

“Whether or not anything in your home is in fact “to code” is a mystery to most homeowners,” U.S. News & World Report’s Devon Thorsby notes.

Spoiler alert: Your home is most likely not up to every code in the book. But just because your house doesn’t follow all building codes to the letter, that doesn’t mean the roof is caving in tomorrow. While inspectors check the work sites of homes under construction repeatedly to ensure the foundation is poured correctly, walls are secured properly and the property is radon free, everything chances once a homeowner gets the keys from his or her contractor.

Most homes are in violation of some building code or another via all the small repair work and Do-It-Yourself renovations they’ve had done over the years. Heck, some government buildings are in violation of their municipalities’ own codes. Even Bill Gates might be breaking a code rule or two at his $127 million, seven-bedroom, 24-bath, six-kitchen, 66,000-square foot Medina, WA., palace.

“Whether it’s replacing an air conditioning unit, installing a bathroom vanity or doing electrical maintenance – there’s a good chance (your home) is not” up to code, Thorsby says.

Most U.S. municipalities have adopted a set of building codes that establish standards for properties. From whether a floor can bear an adequate load to an elevator’s weight capacity to a restaurant’s maximum occupancy, codes, while ranging from city to city, keep buildings safe.

But understanding code can seem like trying to understand nuclear engineering for the average homeowner.

“One reason homeowners put off fixing issues around the house is a lack of knowledge or confusion over where to start,” Improvenet.com’s Katie Carlson writes.

With that thought in mind, let’s crack the code. Here are answers to common questions about residential building codes:

Question: Is My Home Up To Code?
Answer: The only sound, sure, correct answer to this question is having a professional perform a code inspection. While an inspector is definitely going to find multiple issues, they can also point out the pressing issues, like poor workmanship in a finished basement or leaky plumbing that could be causing water damage.

Question: Will A Code Violation Kill Your Ability To Sell Your House?
Answer: No, as long as your code violations don’t pose an immediate danger. Because, let’s face it, probably no American home is 100 percent code perfect, not even the White House.

“You wouldn’t force someone to bring a house up to code because if you did, none would ever sell,” Jim Davis, owner of Houston’s About the House Inspection Service, told U.S. News &World Report.

Question: Does A Code Violation Mean Your Home Is In Danger?
Answer: It depends on the severity of the violation. Minor violations – such as the distance from the toilet to the door in the bathroom – are trivial. Codes are about minimizing risk. For example, a serious, life-threatening code violation would be a lighting or electrical outlet located to close to a swimming pool or directly above water creates a serious risk of accidental electrocutions.

Question: How Can I Find Out If The Home I Am Considering Buying, Is Up To All Local Codes?
Answer: Excellent question, Young Housing Code Grasshopper! Ask for permits from your municipality and have a general inspector check the quality of work completed.

Question: Can You Fix A Code Violation?
Answer: When a municipality receives a code violation complaint, a city inspector will visit the property to verify if the complaint is valid. It if is, they will inform the property owner and provide a list of what corrections need to be made.

The Sinister Six Code Violations That Must Be Corrected ASAP

Remember when we were talking about major code violations? These are Improve Net’s worst of the worst, immensely dangerous home code issues that must be solved ASAP to ensure you and your family’s safety.

  1. Electrical Errors
  2. Handrails Not Installed On All Staircases
  3. Missing & Broken Smoke Alarms
  4. Improper Bathroom Ventilation
  5. Dangerous Or Damaged Windows
  6. Malfunctioning Water Heaters

Folks, we know reading up on your community’s building codes is about as much fun as studying up on the U.S. Tax Code, but keeping your house up to code wherever possible is essential to the health and well being of you and your family.

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