Many local governments rely on a building code that focuses on new construction. It is often difficult to determine how rehab projects fit into building code categories. The high standards set forth in these codes can make rehabilitation costly for homeowners, discouraging improvement projects that benefit the entire neighborhood.
This checklist is a guide for local governments that want to consider making changes to their current building codes to accommodate residential remodeling. A community does not have to act on, but it should consider, each item.
If your agency addresses each checkpoint, it will help put in place code that encourages residential rehabilitation; a staff familiar with how to apply it consistently; and a remodeling industry and community that understands the process.
Building Codes Checklist
- Does the current building code present any problems for homeowners
- The city’s chief building official, fire official and representatives of the remodeling community should sit down and review the current building code and identify specific sections that present problems for rehabilitation. How can these problems be overcome?
- Questions that should be addressed:
- When does a rehabilitation project trigger standards in the code?
- When does a project require building changes beyond the remodeled portion of the home — such as whole-house rewiring?
- Does the code allow leaving existing stairwells in a remodeled home even though the stairs are steeper than permitted in the building code?
- Is the city willing to consider adopting a new code or modifying the current code in order to encourage remodeling?
- How are building officials trained in inspecting rehab projects? Is there consistency in what they are looking for, helping to reduce confusion about what is expected? Are they familiar with the rehabilitation provisions of the city’s building code and how to apply them?
- Does the city have a program to educate the remodeling community and homeowners on the rehabilitation portion of the building code, its impact and how to use it?