Legal Issues - Building Codes and Permits

Building codes are in effect to safeguard public safety, health and welfare in regards to the occupancy and use of buldings and structures. Building codes are designed to regulate and control the design, materials and construction processes used for all buildings and building service equipment.

Some counties are still using the Uniform Building Code to regulate the construction, repair, alteration and demolition of structures while some other counties are switching over to the International Building Code for the same purposes. The only way to know which code to use in your local area is to talk to the County Building Inspector.

While a building permit is required for nearly all types of construction, alteration, repair, installation and demolition, separate permits may be required for electrical and plumbing work. There are certain types of work that are exempt from permit requirements (residential painting or wallpapering, for instance) but generally, almost everything construction-wise will need a permit and inspections.

When applying for a building permit, you will need to provide a description of the proposed activity, its location and its projected cost. You may also be required to submit plans, drawings and other specifications. Plan reviews and permit issuance may require the payment of certain fees and fee schedules vary by county.

Permitted activities are subject to inspection by county officials. In most locales, you don't want to get caught engaging in an activity that requires a permit and you don't have one. The purpose of inspection is to ensure that the applicable building codes are being adhered to and that your final product will be safe for human use and occupation. This also requires that construction work remain accessible and exposed for inspection purposes until the inspector has approved it and signed off on it.

All reputable contractors should have a contractor's license and carry insurance (liability, workmen's comp, etc.) When interviewing potential contractor's for a project, make sure they are licensed and insured, check their references, obtain detailed, complete bids from several of them (so there are no financial surprises at the end of the job) and never pay for services or materials that have not yet been provided.

I'm sure you've heard all this about contractors before. The situation here is no different than it is anywhere else in America: there are good guys and there are bad guys. The more attention you pay to this, the happier you'll be with the end product. And remember: the lowest price doesn't necessarily mean the best performance. logo
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