Don’t you wish you had a kitchen or bathroom like the ones you see on Houzz? Aren’t they beautiful, elegant, and luxurious? What you don’t know is that some of the designs you see on Houzz may not comply with building code requirements.
Why wouldn’t someone want to comply with code requirements? One reason is that you’ll have to give up the aesthetics and beauty of a space in order to comply with code. Another reason is you have to pull a permit and people don’t want to deal with the hassle of going through the permit process and inspection process. So, what are building code requirements? They are a collection of regulations regarding building construction that are meant to ensure public safety. There are codes for a lot of things such as fire, electrical, plumbing, ceiling, fenestration, fireplace, and more. Example: A minimum ceiling height needs to be 7′ 6″ for habitable spaces and hallways. A shower stall needs to have a minimum finished interior of 1024 square inches that surrounds a 30″ diameter circle (32″ x 32″ is one size). Stairs require a maximum riser height of 7¾” and a minimum tread depth of 10″. The stair width must be at least 36 ” wide. The list goes on with more rules regulating the rules, but they are all there for a good reason.
Yes, it’s frustrating when you are planning on remodeling your kitchen and bathroom and realize you have to sacrifice something, including aesthetics in order to comply with code. If you are remodeling a bathroom, want to change the layout, and have no room to expand (keeping the walls, windows, and doors intact), then you are left with the existing space. With a small bathroom of 6′ x 5′, you wonder how will you meet the code requirements? It can be done, but you’ll have to sacrifice something. You may need to sacrifice the luxury of a larger shower in exchange for a smaller one. Or, if you prefer to have a larger shower, then you may have to accept a smaller lavatory. There’s no way around it. You just have to do the best you can while trying to make it as beautiful and as elegant as you imagined. In this scenario, you do need to pull an alteration permit which will save you any headache or stress in the future if you decide to sell your home. It ensures your safety as well as the safety of future homeowners when they move in. In the long run, it’s going to benefit and protect you.
However, if you decide not to change the layout and just want to swap out old fixtures like an old sink or old toilet with a new one in same dimensions, replace your existing tub with a shower stall that is the same size as your old tub, or update your vinyl floors with ceramic tile, you don’t need to pull a permit (if your home is an older home). This was confirmed by the Building of Inspection in SF. By sticking to the existing floor plan, it relieves a lot of stress and frustrations. The downside can be that your current layout doesn’t flow very well and may not be the best layout, especially in older homes. Another downside is that when you open up your walls, there may be mold or the pipes have been corroded, rusted, or decayed and need to be replaced. You will need a permit if you need to re-pipe. If you are in doubt, check with your local building inspection before starting any home renovations. So, what are some examples of home remodels that don’t comply with code requirements? What are examples of renovations that do comply with code requirements yet are also beautiful and elegant, especially in small spaces where it may be challenging to comply with code? See if you can tell which images below comply or don’t comply with code and let me know what your challenges are when it comes to your remodeling project!