For Home Owners

Does your home comply with the California standards of building code? Find out the most common mistakes made during planning and construction.

April 17, 2019
Design Everest

California Building Code

For the average homeowner, the answer to whether their home is “up to code” is often a mystery. While California municipalities have an established set of building codes that determine the standards for properties, for many homeowners this can frequently be overlooked and misunderstood. Often times it is not until beginning a construction project or planning a new build that a homeowners attention to California Building Code is brought up. If code inspectors visit your construction project it is important to be informed and prepared.

CCR Regulations, application and enforcement

The building regulations and standards for the state of California are set within the California Building Code, Residential Code, Fire Code, and other subsets of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), which is issued by the California Building Standards Commission. These consist of the regulations passed by California that enforce builders and property owners to follow state laws and requirements. This includes all regulations for the design and construction of buildings, guarantees maximum structural integrity, and the overall safety of public and private buildings.

The California Building Code relates to most of the structural and architectural requirements for structures, while other sections like the Existing Building Code or the Historical Building Code provide additional specifications for these types of buildings. The CCR also contains codes for fire protection, plumbing installation, energy efficiency, and many other disciplines that are involved in the construction process.

These codes are ultimately enforced by county and municipal inspectors. Their job is to ensure strict compliance with the standards based on location, climate and geography. For example, in California standards for earthquakes, fires, mudslides and drought must be considered and reviewed by the California Building Standards Commission.

How to know if your home complies with California Building Code and if it can be fixed

If your home is a new build, then it will likely will meet most modern code standards. This is because all of the plans and permits had to be checked and approved all the way through the final inspection. The city itself would issue a certificate of occupancy indicating that your new home was within code compliance.

For older buildings, specifically those built 10-15 years ago or more, may or may not meet these same California building code standards. The best way to find out if your house complies with current state codes is to ask for previously completed permits and plans. An engineer or home inspector can review this and evaluate the structure on site to determine if there are code requirements that have not been met or other issues.

California law dictates that the current homeowner is responsible for any code violations that arise in a home. If a city inspector visits your home to verify the code violation complaint is valid, the homeowner will then be notified of any corrections that need to be made within a given time frame. If your home is undergoing a remodel, it is likely that inspectors will be at your house throughout the process, and a violation notice could lead to significant delays in the construction process.

Most common planning mistakes when building a home

Designing, building or remodeling a home is often a homeowners dream, but making mistakes during the process can be costly and unwanted. The following is a representation of some of the most common mistakes homeowners make during the planning of a redesign or new build.

  • Not Planning for needs as well as wants. Most property owners have an image of their perfect home, but incorporating all of those ideas along with the code-required upgrades is not always practical or within budget. Utilizing the services of an architect or engineer can help to set realistic expectations of the space, and stay within the allotted timeframe and financial capabilities.
  • Failing to Choose the right Architect, Engineer, or General Contractor. When choosing these roles for your project it is important to do your research. While cost plays a vital role, it is not the sole indicator of who to choose. A good architect will help create your vision without adding unnessary and costly elements. Your engineer should work with your architect to create a structural system that fits the budget and matches the plans. A good contractor will work within your budget and review the proposal in detail before construction begins to identify potential problems and help you avoid additional costs during the process, and hiring a contractor that is not insured or bonded can put you at risk if something goes wrong or if the contractor does not finish a project.
  • Floor plan design. Whether you are building or remodeling your current home, deciding on a floor plan that suits your family and fits the current space is essential. The size of the home should always be considered first when determining the design of the space. There are pros and cons to all floor plans, so decide what you can and cannot live without. Then utilize the services of an architect or contractor to properly choose a layout within your budgetary limits.
  • Not obtaining the necessary permits. As previously stated, California Building code has a strict set of standards all homeowner must comply with. This includes getting the proper permits before starting a project. Without the right permits, the city can stop work on your project which will cost you time and money.

Most common building mistakes during the construction phase

It is not uncommon for mistakes to happen during the construction phase of a home. Avoiding these mistakes though will result in a higher quality build without extra cost to the homeowner. A finished project will feel even more rewarding if these simple mistakes are prevented.

  • Properly placing ductwork. Ductwork that is installed incorrectly can create hot and cold spots throughout a home. Improper ducts can also cause the air conditioner to have to work harder and run for longer to successfully cool the house down. A good contractor will know that placing ductwork in a conditioned space can help to reduce both heating and cooling loads. They will be diligent about choosing the right size ducts, making sure they are properly sealed and place the ducts based on the location of the air conditioning system.
  • Improper installation of the insulation. It is important that insulation is installed based on the recommendations of the U.S. Department of Energy. Proper installation will make the home quieter, and cheaper to heat and cool.
  • Mechanical, lighting and water control issues. Mechanical equipment and lighting controls should be tested to make sure each responds to controls and are properly adjusted for long-term operation. Controlling moisture issues will prevent damage to materials in the home and prevent mold formation.
  • Working with poor foundation. The foundation is the most important part of a home. The strength of the entire structure lies within the foundation. Ensuring the foundation of your home is strong and secure, will prevent long-term issues and provide the structural integrity the home needs to last. For older homes, such as those with brick foundation, it is very common to need new foundation or a partial or complete foundation replacement where a remodel or addition is occurring.
  • Doing it yourself. While there are several parts of a home renovation that the average homeowner is capable of doing themselves, there are times when a professional is necessary. Finishing touches like painting walls, installing hardware can be done on your own and will help to save money. However, you should leave the big projects to the builder especially if it involves a code regulation like installing a new air conditioner.

Protecting your building projects from these construction mistakes and following the California Building Code guidelines will protect you as a homeowner. Successfully avoiding these mistakes will result in a higher quality, time managed, cost-efficient build. If you have questions about the compliance in your own home please contact Design Everest at 877-704-5687.

Sources:
[1] https://homeguides.sfgate.com/title-24-california-building-code-2736.html
[2] https://www.facilitiesnet.com/designconstruction/article/10-Most-Common-Building-Construction-Phase-Mistakes---17658
[3] https://www.probuilder.com/5-common-construction-mistakes
[4] https://loghome.com/articles/article/10-most-common-planning-mistakes
[5] https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/5-must-ask-questions-about-code-violations-in-your-home

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