The Code Game

Across the country builders, contractors, and home improvements professionals have a challenge they have to meet on projects – code compliance.

Let’s start with the basics – What is a Code when it refers to the building industry? A code is a set of regulations to ensure items such as the safety of the building, energy efficiency, air quality, comfort or more. A code will have minimum standards that must be met to pass an inspection. There are national codes and local codes and they are just like they sound. National codes must be met across the United States while local codes are specific to a region. For instance, a home built in Florida will have specific codes to prevent damage from hurricanes. A home in say Iowa will not have those same codes as they are a bit less likely to experience a hurricane (according to our research the last hurricane that almost made it to Iowa was Galveston in 1900 and it was only a Tropical Depression by the time it hit).

A challenge building professionals have is that the codes are always changing. As the industry becomes more knowledgeable about things like Indoor Air Quality, efficiency, construction techniques, and so forth codes are updated to incorporate that knowledge. You can see this very clearly by comparing the construction techniques of a home built today versus one built 10, 30, 50 years ago. For instance, one a lot of people are familiar with is knob and tube wiring. Back in the day, this was the building code. Now we know a lot better and have much safer ways to wire homes.

What do you do if your home is not up to code? This depends on what is not up to code. Most codes have a grandfather clause in them and as long as you are not doing a major renovation, you have nothing to worry about. An inspector is not going to come to your home and kick you out because you need another millimeter of insulation to meet the current code. With that being said, there are ones you might want to do. Generally, these are focused on safety or comfort. We were talking about knob and tube wiring before. That is an item that you should consider bringing up to code as there is a real safety aspect to it. Something like the insulation might be a consideration because it will reduce your energy costs and comfort.

At this point you are probably asking, “What are the codes in my area?” That is a great question. Here is where we are going to disappoint you – sorry. There are thousands of codes across the country and without making this blog thousands of pages long, we just can’t put them all in one place. If you search for “Building codes in (put your state or county here)” you can generally find long complicated lists. Really, the best way is to consult a trusted building professional. It is their job to be versed on the latest building codes. Before starting any DIY project, it is a good idea to find out if there are any codes that need to be followed. While you might not have any issues at the time, it could affect the sale of your home if an inspection shows that something was not done to code. Generally, these are bigger items (additions, removing walls, electrical and so forth) and they most of the time require some type of permit to complete. Again, it is best to check with a building professional or the local building inspector just to be safe.

We will mention one national code that most effects building ventilation – ASHRAE 62.2. We have explored this code in one way or another in many of our previous blog posts. ASHREA 62.2 focuses on how and how much ventilation your home needs. There are specifics to the type and duration of exhaust fans as well as bringing fresh outside air into the home. Air King offers an array of exhaust fans, range hoods, and fresh air machines to comply and exceed the ASHREA 62.2 standards.