You don’t have to update your home to reflect every code change, but if you’re planning major repairs, additions, or remodels the work has to meet the latest codes. If you’re planning to sell the property, it’s also important to satisfy local building codes. Since these codes are intended to improve the safety of the occupants, it’s always a good idea to keep them updated. Here are some ways to make sure your home is in compliance.
Get a Home Inspection
Building codes in the U.S. generally stick to the latest International Residential Codes established by the ICC, or International Code Council. However, they may vary from state to state, and from county to county. It’s a good idea to have a certified home inspector in your area go through the house. They’ll do a visual inspection and provide you a report of anything they find wrong.
Upgrade Electrical System
There are some common requirements that you can check for yourself. For instance, you should have smoke-alarms hard-wired, because battery-powered units are useless if you forget to change the batteries. There should be one alarm in every bedroom, the kitchen, and over stairwells at the least. You should also ensure that you have ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets in the kitchen and bathroom to protect your family against the possibly deadly combination of water and electricity.
Bad plumbing is mostly found in older homes that might have lead pipes or fixtures. Replacing these is a priority. Modern updates might include things like a pressure-balance valve in the hot water line that prevents scalding water when, for instance, someone else flushes the toilet. More water-efficient products like low-flow toilets, faucet aerators, and modern appliances help satisfy water conservation needs. Have your home’s water quality checked, and if you have problems with installations, water pressure, slow drains, or leaks, call a licensed plumber for help.
Know the Codes
Check with your local building inspector. They may have quite specific requirements for certain things. For instance, some localities may require double 2x6s as floor joists rather a single one. You will find that there are well-defined requirements for stairs, decks, garages, roofing, sheds, and more. A responsible contractor will ensure code compliance, but if you’re a DIY type of person it’s your own responsibility.
Residential building codes are defined for a good reason. If you fail to follow them, you may be endangering your family, and could be forced to remove or rework non-compliant projects.