When most people think of essential people in home improvement,
they often think of contractors, tradespersons or architects. But there's one
person who can make or break a project with the stroke of a pen: the building
Whether you're giving the old place a
makeover yourself or working with a contractor, in most cases you will need to
have your project approved by your local building inspection department before
you begin construction, and even destruction.
a permit" and hanging it on the outside of your house is just the beginning
of your relationship with your building inspector. Look for them to stop by at
key stages of your project to make sure your work is "up to code" (that
is, meets minimum building code standards for your city, county and state) and
grant occupancy when your remodel is complete.
Wrong. In fact, the convoluted yarn ball of overlapping
city, county, state and federal building codes in the United States has long been
the bane of the construction industry.
codes and more codes
No one questions the need for building codes;
after all, they've been around since the Code of Hammurabi in 1800 B.C. to protect
the public from slapdash, slipshod and unsafe workmanship.
do there have to be so many of them? In the United States alone, every town and
county has its own building code fashioned after one of four national models:
BOCA (Building Officials and Code Administrators), CABO (Council of American Building
Officials), ICBO (International Conference of Building Officials) and SBCCI (Southern
Building Code Congress International).
Paul Fisette, director
of the Building Materials and Wood Technology program at the University of Massachusetts,
says some of the differences do make sense.
we might be very concerned with seismic issues; in Florida with moisture, rot
and termites; and in Massachusetts with snow load and cold and insulation. So
there is certainly a regional sensitivity that is illustrated in these various
codes," he says. "But I do think you could take care of this in one
Toward that end, three of the code organizations
formed the International Code Council (ICC) in 1994 and have developed a nationwide
set of standards which, according to the ICC's most current information, has been
adopted by the governments of 36 states and the District of Columbia.
states have statewide codes," says Fisette. "But even of those, in New
York for example, if you build in New York City they have tougher codes than the
state of New York. So city codes can be more difficult to satisfy. The safe thing
is to always talk to your local building inspector first."