Tag Archives: municipal code

Are construction code violations a serious matter?

You bet they are…

People call me all the time to ask me about the severity of the changes they made to their properties without permits. There’s no such a thing as a free lunch, people…It is cheaper to hire a consultant to prepare plans for a remodel or addition to your home than to have to pay the fines for construction code violations and deal with the harassment from the City officials after you get caught. They do not like people who try to full them.

To give you examples, let me mention a few:

Non-permitted brand new second story addition: A homeowner thought that because the pitched roof was so steep it gave the house enough head room to have a second story (smaller than the first floor plan, of course), he did not have to bother with the permits. Plus, nobody could see the work being done from outside because all he added to the exterior was a couple of dormers, so he thought he was off the hook. Too bad, he got into a fight with a neighbor and guess what? The neighbor turned him in at the Neighborhood Code Compliance Department. This is what he told me: “All I did was install flooring on a floor structure that was already there!” “I didn’t add anything!” “This is my house and I should be allowed to do whatever I want to it.” The result? A case was filed against his property and he had to pay the fines plus get the permits he didn’t want to pay for to start with.

Complete interior and exterior remodel of a two story house: A homeowner who is a RE agent “didn’t know” he had to get a permit before doing any construction work on his recently purchased property. The changes included: Relocating load bearing walls, reconstruction of balconies, replacement of roof members that were dry rotted, replacement of all the electrical and plumbing  fixtures. “Oh, but I didn’t know, I never thought…” The result? Again, a case was filed against the property, etc., etc., etc.

Garage conversion: A homeowner called me outraged because the City was harassing her about taking out a parking space inside her attached garage. What did she do? She built a wall in the middle of the garage and built an office connected to the house through the self closing garage door which connected the house to the garage before. In other words, you had to step down to go into the office (7″ lower) because the office was on the garage slab which is absolutely not allowed by the Fire Department.  She complained that she didn’t have to tell anybody what she was doing to her house because she had owned that house for over 20 years. And what does that have to do with anything? You tell me… The result? A case was filed against the property, etc., etc., etc. Continue reading

What kind of stairs are you allowed to build in your home?

stairs4_opt-300x1641One thing we have to keep in mind is that the Municipal Code plays a big role in the approval of your home design. The stairs are a vital part of your home and we need to remember they do need to comply.

There are standard clearances and dimensions commonly used which are the minimum required by the construction code like tread and riser minimum dimensions, or stair width but one thing people do not know which is worth mentioning here, is the importance of the stair style. Continue reading

Changes during construction

Be very careful when you or your contractor make changes on the site

As a professional dedicated to serving my clients, I do not seem to ever be prepared to watch the homeowners turn on me and the other consultants to side with their contractors. It is amazing to me how blind and deaf homeowners can turn over night.   picture-003_opt1

My job, while designing somebody’s home, is to guide that person through the entire design process and to make sure everything I show on the plans reflects what my clients want. Once the project is approved by the city or county, the contractor picked for the job by the homeowner needs to follow the plans approved by the officials. Those plans reflect what the homeowners want and the city and county stamps make those drawings legal documents. We, as designers, do not get paid to protect anybody from their contractors but we feel it is our duty to notify them when we observe irregularities at the job site. Continue reading