How to Determine If a House Has Building Code Violations

As a homeowner or a prospective homeowner, you're probably aware of building code violations. Unless a house is brand-new, chances are it has some building code violations, including the one you currently live in. Here is what you can do to determine if a house is up to code.

Get a Copy of State and Local Building Codes

Obtain copies of local and state requirements because, in some instances, the codes may differ. Check your municipality's building inspection office or the zoning and building department. Local builders and remodelers are also good sources as reputable ones have to be up to date on the latest codes to make sure that their work passes muster.

At the same time, make sure that you know what year the home was built. Knowing this information will give you an indication of what potential code violations you may find as well as what you need to do to bring those violations up to code. The International Code Council Commercial and Residential building codes local rules are based on are updated every three years, so having this information in hand could also be helpful.

Key Areas to Assess

All building codes address safety concerns, but some are considered more crucial than others. Examine these key areas in your house to determine whether they meet building code.

Electrical errors are the most important safety concern since issues with wiring can lead to fires and shocks. Check the electrical panel to make sure circuits are correctly labeled and breaks are sizes to match their circuits. Have a qualified electrician examine wires and connections to check the state of your wiring as aging wires may require replacement.

Do all of your staircases have handrails? They should. Every set of stairs, whether inside or outside, should have handrails as more people are hurt on stairs than on any other areas of homes. This violation has an easy fix.

Some municipalities may require you to have a hard-wired smoke alarm in every bedroom and in the hallway outside of those rooms. You also need to ensure that those smoke alarms are installed correctly and working properly.

Improper bathroom ventilation is another factor that surprises homeowners. Your bathroom vent cannot release air into the attic. It must release air to the outside.

Dangerous windows are another important consideration. All windows should be constructed with tempered glass. Trade in single-paned glass for double-paned windows. Ensure that every window has fasteners to ensure proper installation.

Water heaters are another problem area. Make sure that yours has an expansion tank, along with good ventilation so that the tank works correctly and does not explode.

What If I am Selling and My Home Is Not Up to Code?

First off, just relax. Most inspectors are looking for outright dangerous situations — not the little things. The bottom line is to look for violations where someone will become truly injured.

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