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September 26, 2016

Avoid These DIY Building Code Blunders

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Avoid These DIY Building Code Blunders

Small upgrades can help make the most of a home's living space, not to mention they can really boost its value. Tackling these small improvement projects yourself can also save a lot of money. But if these projects aren't done correctly, they can also cause a nightmare of building code violations that will render the original savings useless.

Read more: Home Remodeling Surge Coming: Here's Why

John Riha, the editorial director of the Black & Decker Home Improvement Library shares five of the most common DIY building code mistakes to keep in mind when starting a home improvement project.

1. Not getting the proper permits. Sure, not all home improvement projects need a permit, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Before starting your DIY project, you should discuss the details with a local building authority. Think about it this way, if your project has a permit it will be inspected by an expert, it will adhere to energy and water standards, and you won't be in danger of having to redo anything if you decide to sell. Not getting a permit means DIY mistakes "may be discovered by an inspector when you try and sell, putting a big damper on your plans. You may be required to fix any problems (with added expense) before a buyer will consider making an offer. And if your buyer should later discover fixes that aren’t up to code, you could be sued for repairs and damages," Riha points out.

2. Forgetting to test for dangerous materials. Lead paint and asbestos are two risky and strictly regulated materials still found in homes that you need to check for. Independent testing facilities can be found in most cities and for a small fee, can show if asbestos is present. If you want to test for the presence of lead, DIY lead test kits are cheap and easy to use. 

3. Failing to fasten deck ledgers. The good news: building a deck is fairly easy DIY project. The bad news: the most challenging step, fastening the deck ledgers, is one of the toughest and most important. Avoid securing the ledger to the house with old fastening techniques like plain nails, and make sure to keep water from collecting behind the ledger so the wood doesn't soften and rot.

4. Not making this basement addition. When turning the basement into an extra bedroom, you'll need to add an egress window. This type of window must be at least 20 inches wide and 24 inches high, and have a minimum opening of 5.7 square feet. "The installation of an egress window costs $2,500 to $5,000 — well worth it for your peace of mind and the safety of your family," says Riha. "Without an egress window, a real estate appraiser won’t qualify the space as a bedroom, which may hurt your chances to sell your home."  

5. Ignoring the rules for fence height. While in some instances you want to avoid seeing your neighbors at all costs, but unfortunately the law is not on your side. In fact, fence height arguments are one of the most common complaints to local building and planning departments. Most codes limit fences on the sides and in the back of property to 6 feet, and 42 to 48 inches in the front. Failing to follow these standards will result in a complaint and most likely, your fence will be torn down.

Check of this slideshow of other common remodeling mistakes at Houselogic.

Source: "The 7 Most Common Code Violations Remodelers Make," Houselogic (Oct. 2015)