You’ll have a safer, more trouble-free home if you keep an eye out for these common mistakes and violations of building codes.
This AC condenser unit is in need of some TLC. Building codes say the unit should sit on a solid, level concrete slab, not a few loose blocks. The top of the slab should be elevated at least 3 inches off the ground. In hurricane-prone areas, local codes may require that the unit be bolted or otherwise firmly attached to the slab. Cleaning up around the unit so that air circulates properly isn’t code compliance, it’s common sense.
Can You Spot the Common Code Violation?Watch Your Steps
Uneven stair height is a leading cause of trips and falls — and a common mistake of DIY stair builders. The maximum height for a stair riser (the vertical part) is 7¾ inches. Codes don’t dictate a minimum height, but the maximum allowable difference in height of risers in the same stairway is ⅜ inch. The minimum allowable depth of the tread (the horizontal part, front to back) is 10 inches, with a max differential of ⅜ inch.
Can You Spot the Common Code Violation?Water, Water Everywhere
Building codes don’t require gutters, downspouts, splash blocks, and downspout extensions except “in areas where expansive or collapsible soils are known to exist.” Check with your local building code authority to find out if your property is affected. Regardless, dumping rain water next to your foundation is a bummer — you could cause leaks and damage your foundation. Drain roof runoff at least 10 feet away from foundation walls.
Can You Spot the Common Code Violation?Shocking Discovery
Lots of older homes have wiring systems with two-prong plugs and no grounding wire. In bathrooms, kitchens, and at outdoor locations, a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) receptacle is now required by code. You can protect an older two-wire circuit with a modern GFCI, but you should label the GFCI as “no equipment ground” so anyone working on the circuit will know it’s not grounded. Your best move? Consult a licensed electrician about upgrade options.
Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
Can You Spot the Common Code Violation?The Supporting Cast
Home inspectors agree that nearly half of the nation’s 40 million house decks suffer from poor building techniques and may be in danger of collapse. That’s especially true of decks built before 1990, when stricter codes came into effect. Joists should be attached to beams and ledgers using metal joist connectors. Retrofitting is possible, but this entire deck should be inspected and evaluated.
This violation is clear cut: Masonry chimneys are required to have a protective cap made of stone, metal, or concrete, and the cap must be sloped to shed water. This prevents precipitation from entering the chimney and fire box and causing leaks. A combo rain cap and spark arrestor helps prevent damage to your home and surrounding houses (and may be required in fire-prone areas).
Image: Jeannie Venti, Duxbury Chimney Sweep
Can You Spot the Common Code Violation?Look Out Below!
Be sure to keep your balance climbing this set of stairs. With no handrail for safety, it’ll be hard to halt a tumble. You must provide a handrail on at least one side of a stairway that has four or more risers (steps). This is an easy fix — install the handrail 34 inches to 38 inches above the nose of stair treads. The end of the handrail should return to the wall (an open end might snag a purse strap).
Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
Can You Spot the Common Code Violation?Tight Squeeze
Looks ordinary enough, but this toilet has been installed too close to the shower stall. You need at least 21 inches of clearance in front of a toilet (and in front of a sink counter or vanity), and at least 15 inches from the center of a toilet bowl to the nearest wall or fixture.
Image: John Riha for HouseLogic
Can You Spot the Common Code Violation?The Dirt on Drainage
The soil around your foundation should slope away from your house at least 6 inches over a distance of 10 feet so excess water doesn’t put pressure on foundation walls, causing cracks and leaks. We fess up: It’s not a code violation, but a home inspector will note it when you try to sell. BTW, those plants growing against the siding are more bad juju — they conduct more unwanted moisture to your siding.