4 Types of Code Violations Explained By a Chicago Construction Lawyer

When starting a construction project, new residential and commercial building owners face a variety of information that makes the entire process seem complicated. Even though the majority of construction companies seem to follow the guidelines, it’s highly important to control the process.

Knowing the building code and the common mistakes made by people who ignore it can help you avoid problems with your building or home.

In this article, you can learn what you should pay attention to during the construction process to avoid any complications down the road.

What Makes a Building Code-Compliant?

What do you check to ensure that the building is code compliant? Here are a few basic things you must be monitoring.

·         Structural integrity – the strength of frame and foundation

·         Emergency exits – to evacuate the residents or workers in case of a fire

·         Sanitation – proper drainage of water waste

·         Lighting – proper lighting for comfortable and safe exploitation

·         Ventilation – proper ventilation for sufficient air quality and structural safety

·         Energy efficiency – the ability to preserve heating and cooling energy

·         Safety – fire-safe materials and layout.

4 Most Common Building Code Violations

According to Mark B. Grzymala, Chicago construction lawyer, building and homeowners should check for these most common code violations to avoid problems with inspectors and maintenance.

1. Bad or Missing GFCI Outlets

According to the National Electrical Code, you must have GFCI (ground fault current interrupter) outlets in areas where water could be present. This includes kitchens, bathrooms, pools, etc.

The outlet stops the flow of power if there is a current charge. This protects against electrical shocks. To check if the interrupter is functioning, you can use a GFCI receptacle tester. Such an outlet has two red or black buttons in front of the outlet. The black button can test the outlet while the red one resets it in the event of tripping.

It’s important to follow the latest NEC’s requirements regarding GFCI installation. If you are renovating a house that has been built earlier than 1971 (when GFCI became a requirement), you may avoid these interrupters without being penalized by a home inspector.

However, GFCI outlets maintain the safety of the inhabitants and prevent fires. So it makes sense to install them and check regularly.

2. Absence of Handrail Returns

Handrails having returns means that they don’t just run straight but bend at the end but bear against the wall. This requirement prevents clothing or purses from catching at the end of the handrail and causing slip and fall accidents.

In fact, many building code violations have to do with something as seemingly simple as handrails. They should be present at least on one side of a continuous run of threads. They must follow strict size and height guideless. There should be a certain space (not less than 1.5 inches (between handrails and the wall).

Constructions workers may ignore these guidelines. Meanwhile, inspectors pay special attention to them.

3. Bad Bathroom Venting

Ventilation is one of the most important parameters that should be paid attention to by homeowners. Bathroom ventilation is often overlooked. The bathroom exhaust vent should be channeling the air outdoors, not into the attic. If such moist air goes into the attic, it increases the humidity and leads to mold formation and roof framing rotting, thus endangering the lives of inhabitants.

Since it’s easier and faster to install the venting in the attic, some construction workers may try to do that. If you are planning a renovation, make sure to check how the bathroom venting is arranged.

4. Poorly Installed or Misplaced Smoke Detectors

Special guidelines for installing smoke detectors exist for construction workers and homeowners to follow. In case a fire occurs and mistakes with smoke detector installation are discovered, there will be grounds for a lawsuit.

It’s important to check if the detectors are up to date. They have to be replaced every five to eight years. Each unit must be tested regularly.

What to Do When a Violation is Discovered

What happens if you find a violation or, worse, an inspector discovers it? It’s important to understand that a violation isn’t the end of the world, but it should be dealt with immediately.

1. Thinking Like an Inspector

The best way to forget about violations is to anticipate them. For that, as a building owner, you need to think like an inspector. What are the most common code violations? Where will the inspector look closer?

Try to discover the problem before the inspection comes. You can consult building code specialists to ensure all problems are discovered and eliminated timely.

2. Understanding the Problem

Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to avoid a building code violation. Before you start fixing the seeming problem, find out what the local building code says about it. Different cities and states have different rules. You may not be breaking any laws in one state while facing a violation in another.

Understand the problem and check if it requires changes.

3. Eliminating the Violation

When you see the violation at the initial stages of the project, it may be easy to fix. If the construction is already on the way, you may need to spend some time finding the most efficient and cost-effective way to eliminate it. Construction companies usually have sufficient experience dealing with such problems so the faster you address it, the better.

4. Getting a Second Opinion

What one inspector calls a violation, another may not consider as such. Think about getting a second opinion. Building codes tend to change rather often. So make sure the violation truly exists before taking any actions to eliminate it. You could save considerable time and money.  

5. Hiring Experts

The simplest way to avoid building code violations is to work with experts from the start. Once you have a project plan, you may want to arrange a consultation with a building code compliance expert. Such a specialist can point out potential problems and make sure your project complies with the law.

Final Thoughts

Building owners face a variety of building code violations during construction and renovation projects. With an expert’s opinion, it’s possible to avoid problems before they start. However, if a violation is discovered, there are many ways to eliminate it without jeopardizing the entire project.

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