Know the codes when making home improvements

Code violations can be dangerous, costly


Follow the rules or risk paying the price – that's especially true when planning a home improvement project – big or small.  You want to be certain all the work being done on your home is up to code. If you don't, it could cost you.

Code violations often involve electrical, plumbing or structural issues that pose some sort of safety hazard to either the occupants of the home, surrounding residents, or both.

Angie's List asked highly rated home inspectors about code violations.

 "The most common code violations we normally find is breakers are too large for the appliance that they are serving," explained HVAC contractor, Alan Winters. "In some cases, the wiring is not sized properly and a breaker is a point of contact so if something goes wrong that's supposed to give out first to protect the home, protect the equipment and everything. If you have a breaker that is too large what is going to happen is something else is going to give and that could be a potential fire."

Any new renovation work must meet current code at the time it is performed. Sometimes, renovations lead to the entire house needing to be brought up to code. If something is code when you put it in and then code changes, you don't have to bring it up to code, though it might still be a good idea to from a safety standpoint.

Ignoring a code violation could be an expensive mistake.

"If you ignore code violations in your home you might find that you face financial fines as well as legal ramifications. It's really important that you bring things up to code when you discover them," explained Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Typically, when a code violation is identified, homeowners are required to bring the issue up to code or remove the offending source entirely within a specific period of time. Don't comply and you could face significant financial penalties and even legal ramifications.

Common code violations:

  • Convert spaces that are not designed or originally permitted for living space. (For example, unfinished basements or garages).
  • Home not properly equipped with ground fault interrupters (GFIs) and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs).

Many contractors, electricians and plumbers offer code violation inspections and correction work. It's important to note, though, that not all code violations count the same.

Angie's List Tips: Correcting code issues

  • Often requires specific trade skills, so it's important to find a contractor who specializes in addressing code violations that pertain to your issue. By addressing those issues, you'll not only make your home compliant to local regulations – should you choose to sell it – you'll also make it safer and reduce your risk of significant financial loss.