How to Find Building Codes and Other Legal DIY Resources

A building plan surrounded by a level and keys.

When it comes to building your own home, conducting renovations, or really any DIY project, it’s certainly not all fun and games! While it can be fun and rewarding to complete these projects, it can also be confusing and stressful because there are building codes and a number of other laws to follow. What begins as a simple DIY project can easily escalate to a legal mess and, unfortunately, some people find this out too late.

Because we understand the heightened risks of completing a project without having the right legal information and resources, we’ve compiled a guide to figuring it all out for you to utilize before you embark on your next DIY home improvement or renovation journey. Keep reading to learn more!

Why Do These Building Codes Exist?

A toilet in a modern gray bathroom.

Before we delve into how to find the codes you need to be aware of as you begin a DIY home project, let’s explain why these codes exist in the first place. In the U.S., states and municipalities have adopted these various codes as they are meant to ensure the health, safety, and general well-being of the occupants within homes and buildings. To fulfill that responsibility, these codes can be anything, from ensuring that buildings have adequate exits to dictating the distance a toilet must be from a wall.

Finding Building Codes

A building inspector holding a level and a clipboard while looking at a gutter system.

With so many building codes out there, it can certainly be overwhelming to find them all when you’re renovating or building a home from the ground up. To avoid serious risk, you will also want to ensure that you have the proper permits to complete whatever project you're embarking on. As you're planning the project, it's also important to remember that besides state codes there are also codes specific to your city, making it even more important to be diligent in the information gathering stage of planning.

Of course, the internet is a great resource to find different codes for your area. Specifically, The Buildings Guide blog has compiled different government sites that you can visit to check out all applicable codes. The government sites linked on the blog contain useful information surrounding building and dwelling codes as well as many more including structural, plumbing, mechanical, electrical, and accessibility codes. Government sites prove to be a reliable and believable source. There are many other sites with tips, tricks, and valuable information to ensure that you dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s before starting with renovations.

Another useful way to find all the building codes you must follow while working through your DIY project is to talk to a local home or building inspector to gather advice and information. These individuals are highly knowledgeable about the codes that must be followed in your area. They can also offer great advice on how to adequately meet those codes and how you can receive the help you need where applicable.

Illegal DIYs

The internet serves again as a resource to provide valuable information surrounding certain DIY projects that are actually illegal. For instance, converting a stovetop from electric to gas or replacing a hot water heater are in many states the required work of a professional. This is because of necessary permits, the adherence to specific codes, and safety regulations. Attempting to complete these projects independently can cause poor air quality, fire hazards, costly leaks, or other complex problems.

Beginning a large-scale DIY project can be overwhelming since there are so many aspects to plan for and consider. First and foremost, ensure that you are adequately researching the legal side of things to spare yourself a large hassle or future problem that can be easily avoided from the start.