Any home improvement project must meet local building codes. In order to have a home that is compliant with local codes, homeowners must document the renovations they plan to make, submit the paperwork to the local building authority, and pass inspections verifying that the work is being done properly.
You can avoid accidents from happening in your home by checking for and repairing building code violations. Poorly located smoke alarms, missing flashing, unfinished handrails and improperly installed bathroom vents are all situations that need to be fixed in order to ensure that your home is up to code. We discuss those and a few more below.
1. Working Without Permits
The first step in any renovation work is getting the proper permits. Many homeowners decide to go ahead and complete a DIY project without having the plan approved by an authorized organization. If any work has already been completed in your home, check to be sure that the permits were filed and approved. If you plan on doing some work in the future, submit the proper documentation to get a permit. Proper building code permit documentation ensures that any work done in your home will be safe.
2. Missing Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. A GFCI protects the possibility of electrocution around outlets. These devices halt the power running to a circuit when a change in electrical current is detected. Without the proper GFCI devices, you could accidentally become electrocuted when you go to plug an appliance into an outlet. You can purchase a GFCI tester at your local hardware store and use it to check for GFCIs in your home.
3. Improperly Installed Bathroom Vents
Bathroom areas create a great deal of steam and require exhaust fans to prevent moisture and mold problems. Exhaust fans must be connected to an opening to the outside of your home preventing any warm, moist air from acummulating inside your home. Exhaust fans can vent through your roof to the outside, but never directly into the space below your roof. Take a look into your attic to make sure there is nothing venting there. If you do find a venting system in your attic, you will need to have it re-routed in order to keep your home up to code.
4. Unfinished Handrails
Building code standards require homes with stairs to have handrails. Handrails provide a supportive bar to grasp while moving up and down the stairs. There rails must have a thickness ranging from one and one quarter to two and five-eighths of an inch. They must be installed thirty-four to thirty-eight inches above the stair treads and they must have a direct connection to the wall at either end. This connection piece prevents items from latching onto the rail and causing people to fall.
5. Missing Flashing
Flashing is installed on decks and rooftops. It is used to prevent water from leaking through boards and shingles into the house. If you have a deck, check to be sure the flashing is properly installed and that deck ledger boards are secured to your home. If you are not comfortable with checking your roof flashing, have a roofing professional come over to check for you.
6. Poorly Located Smoke Alarms
In the event of a fire, the best protection is a smoke alarm. These devices notify all those inside the home of the situation, and increase the possibility of getting out safely. A smoke alarm must be installed on every floor of your home and next to each bedroom entryway. Newer homes must have smoke alarms that operate on both the electrical system and a battery. These alarms must also be connected to each other so that when one sounds, they all sound. Alarms on the ceiling must be four inches from walls, and wall alarms must be four to twelve inches away from the point where the ceiling meets the wall.
7. Improper Basement Bedroom Egress Windows
The basement in many homes becomes a perfect spot for adding another bedroom. Homeowners put up the drywall, lay down some flooring, add a door and think that’s it. Nothing else is needed right? Wrong. Without a secondary way to get out of this room, a bedroom in a basement can become a dangerous spot. And it’s not just a basic window that must be installed to create a second way of getting out of the space. The window must be a specific size in order to ensure that there is enough space for a human body to pass through the opening. Egress windows must be a minimum of twenty-four inches high and twenty inches wide. In order to create the proper space through which an adult can crawl, a window wall on the exterior must be added as well.