Building Codes are There for Your Safety and They’re the Law
If you have a home do-it-yourself project in mind, it’s important to consider the law when planning your work. In the U.S., The National Electrical Code written by the NFPA (U.S. National Fire Protection Association) has guidelines that will help insure a safe and legal repair or update.
Examples of Code Restrictions for Home Improvement Projects
Receptacles and Switches
FP code limits the number of wires under each screw in a receptacle or switch to one. It appears safe to use two, but fires can occur when the second wire pops out from underneath the screw. Code also requires that outlets be placed every six feet along walls in most rooms, and every two feet along kitchen counters to accommodate the short safety cords on kitchen appliances.
Kitchen Electrical Requirements
All light fixtures must be grounded. In kitchens there must be a 15-amp lighting circuit, as well as a separate circuit for the dishwasher and refrigerator, and two 20-amp circuits for receptacles.
Fire Prevention Code requires a layer of drywall when installing foam insulation, even when it’s being faced with other wall coverings like wood, bamboo, or faux coverings. This added layer delays the spread of fire and contains some of the acrid black smoke created when foam insulation burns. This is a safety precaution, but it’s also the law.
Understanding Your Responsibilities When Repairing or Updating Your Home
Local and federal codes change, so it’s important to do the necessary research before you begin a project. Restrictions are put in place to ensure your safety and the safety of your family and neighbors, and there are serious legal ramifications in ignoring them. Check for the appropriate offices in your area by visiting the National Building Code Library for all 50 states at firstsource code listings.
Should you have to hire a professional for any future projects, the presence of repairs or additions that are not up to code may result in expensive rework. In the event of a sale of your home, an inspection that reveals violations may result in your not being able to complete a sale until all necessary standards have been met.
Getting More Information On Building Codes
The best way to make sure that you are meeting current codes is to ask your local building inspector. Many published how-to leaflets and books available through your local building supply or home improvement outlet that will also help you make a safe and legal repair. Large jobs will require a permit, and your local building department will often be able to provide you with common code references if you ask.
Home repair and improvement can be satisfying, less expensive than hiring a professional, and quicker than placing your project on someone else’s schedule. Before you start a project, however, keep in mind that the codes that exist are there for your protection. A little research will result in repairs that are safe and legal.