Is Building To Code Enough?
Written by Todd Fratzel.
Building To Code = Building To Bare Minimum Specifications
Somewhere along the line the general public has mistakenly been made to believe that building a home to meet code means that it’s built to some great standard. I hear it all the time; “this house was built to the latest code”, followed by a question of how could this happen if in fact that house was built to code.
In most cases that statement is almost completely the opposite in reality. Codes have been developed to define the absolute “MINIMUM” standard for safety. The code doesn’t address best practices or suggestions about better options. It simply sets a bottom threshold to be used as a minimum.
A few years ago I ran into a perfect example of this situation. A competitor was building a house right next to one we were building. The building inspector had just inspected the framing at the other house and stopped at our jobsite to inspect our framing. He was shaking his head with disgust as he walked up to me.
I asked him what he seemed so disturbed about. He said that the other house floor system was being framed with 2×8 floor joists at 16 inches on center and 5/8″ thick floor sheathing. I was completely shocked and asked him how on earth they could do that. He proceeded to pull out the Code book and show me that a 2×8 was acceptable for the span they had.
Obviously he and I both knew the floor was going to be like a spring board. The new owner would surely feel that floor bounce every time they walked across the floor. Compare that to the house we were building where our “minimum” specification is building a floor with 12″ deep engineered I-Joists and 3/4″ thick tongue and groove sheathing.
I could go on and on with examples of how crappy minimum code can be. The point here is twofold:
- Homeowners – You should insist that your builder give you several options from minimum code up to preferred building techniques. This should happen on all major building components. Ask enough questions to ensure your builder is keeping up with the latest products and techniques.
- Contractors – You need to set yourself above the average builder. To do that you have to insist that you build to a certain standard which is above the minimum required by law. You need to showcase and brag about your added services.
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