Building Code, Quality of Construction, and the Home Inspection – Part 2

This 4-part series will help buyers set and maintain realistic expectations about the home they are purchasing.  Part 2 will cover questions about building code.

Building Code, Quality of Construction & Home Inspection – Part 2

Part 2. Does That Meet the Building Code?

This question often arises during an inspection. The answer depends on when the home was built and whether it met the building code at the time. Building codes today are far more stringent and based on construction and technology advances. Building codes are continually evolving. 

  • What if items do not meet code standards? 
  • When the seller built the home, did it meet the building code at the time? 
  • Will updates be required before a sale? That depends. 

What are some examples of building code issues that often arise?  

  • All outlets in a garage require ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Many people have a second refrigerator or freezer in their garage. The home inspector inevitably will point out that the lack of a GFCI is a violation and safety issue – which it is. However, anyone who has lost a refrigerator full of food when the GFCI trips (nuisance tripping) understands that some codes don’t make sense in the real world. 
  • If you buy a 30-year-old home with an electric garage door opener that met code when installed, it does not meet today’s code. If the garage door does not have an electronic eye, it will not auto-reverse. Does the buyer have the right to demand a new one be installed? In this case, no. In Delaware, there is no Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.) inspection required on the sale of an existing home. In other states, townships inspect all homes on transfer, and the seller must make specific improvements before the sale. 

If your home meets the building code, is it a quality home?

This is a tricky question. Sometimes the answer could be yes, but not always. Building codes tend to refer to safety concerns as defined by an engineer. We human beings define quality in more stylistic terms. Buyers want perfection, but building code only requires safety; it doesn’t have to be pretty to work correctly. 

In Part 3, we’ll discuss home inspections and new construction .

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