Updating Within Code: 7 Facts About Home Updates, DIY, and Building Codes

In House Stuff, Household Repair and Decor | |

Do-it-yourself projects and home improvement ideas are all over the internet, expanding like wildfire as people see that ideas they once thought were out of their league are actually possible with a little tutorial and a lot of patience.

Sometimes those projects end up just fine – maybe not picture perfect, but close.  Other times, well, those easy and inexpensive home improvements become nightmares of epic proportions that can only be fixed by calling in the experts.

No matter where you stand in the experience range, whether you are about to embark on your very first home improvement project or you do it all the time and no renovation is too intimidating for you, there are a few facts that you need to know before you jump in and begin your next job.

Home updates and do-it-yourself projects are not excluded from meeting building codes, and you must ensure that your “improvements” do not end up hurting your home’s resale value, increasing your insurance premiums, or possibly even causing dangerous potential harm to your home and your family.

These seven facts about home updates, DIY projects, and building codes need to be considered prior to your next project.

  1. Home projects can make a mess that you need to prepare for.

If your mess is demolition-quality or bigger than your trash can, you may want to look into renting a dumpster ahead of time.  However, some of the debris you may encounter can be considered hazardous and you can’t use a regular dumpster or trash can to get rid of it.  Look into your county’s garbage rules for hazardous waste and be sure you dispose of your trash properly.

You can also set aside a pile for burning if you have a lot of materials, like cardboard boxes or unstained woods, that are safe to burn.  Again, check with your county’s ordinances to determine when safe burn times are recommended, and be sure to learn about what is and is not considered safely flammable.

  1. Plan ahead and avoid safety hazards.

Depending on your type of home improvement project, you may need to consider the possibility that you will come into contact with electrical or water lines.  Call your power and water companies and have them scope out the perimeter that you are planning on working on before you lift a tool.

Check before you plan on taking down any walls, as well.  The one you are working on may end up being a loadbearing wall.  These often overlooked steps can end up resulting in severe property and physical damage.

  1. Check first to see if you need a permit.

You might automatically assume that a project as large as adding on a room to your home needs a permit, of course, but in your county, or even in your home municipality, you may need permits for things you don’t even think about doing.

In most cases, permits are not needed for basic fencing if it is not over six feet high or part of a pool barrier, and for walls that are not over 24 inches in height.  Painting, refinishing, and cosmetic changes are not usually on the “must-have-a-permit” list.

Permits are usually required for any type of conversions, new building construction, adding sheds, or modifying any sort of electrical or structural fixture.

There is no general rule of thumb, however, since each county has different ordinances on when and where permits are required, so look into yours before beginning a project.

  1. If you build something without a permit, you may have consequences down the road.

Not only could you potentially be causing potential danger since your project may have the ability to affect water, power, or gas lines, but violating codes when you do your improvements can actually prevent you from selling your home in the future.  Home inspectors are trained to find work that may not be up to code.

  1. Before you decide you want to invest in a DIY improvement, plan it out and consider the costs.

You may decide that the combined cost of time and money are not worth you completing it yourself, in which case you can begin to seek estimates from professionals.  Consider that while you are doing large renovations, you will be living in the mess for long periods of time if you can only work on the project when you are not at your daily job.

You may save on labor, but materials can become expensive.  Receiving an estimate usually includes prices of materials, so you know what your budget will be.

Certain projects are also generally advised against if you are not an expert, like anything involving work that could seriously injure you or damage your home.  Often, this includes electricity and plumbing work.  There are many experts in these fields that are able to help you so you can avoid making serious mistakes in your project, and you can find more here.

  1. Sometimes your town may have safety-mandated building codes.

Usually, these larger building codes require a permit to be pulled before work can begin, and quite often that permit has to be pulled with someone who is licensed to do that work.        In these cases, you need to hire an expert or face potentially large fines and other consequences.

  1. Many DIYers are guilty of common code violations.

You may not mean to, but unless you check ahead of time with a home inspector or your county offices, you are probably going to break at least one violation.  These violations can include anything from working without a permit, not testing older materials for asbestos, or venting your bath fan into an attic.  To be sure you are following safety guidelines, plan ahead and ask for expert help.

Do it Yourself, or Let the Professionals Handle It

Whichever way you decide, you will need to ensure that building codes are being met and the safety procedures are being followed.  When safety is first, the rest falls into place and you can enjoy the results of your hard work for years to come.