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Know YOUR Local Building CODES

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by DVS Hardscaper, Dec 27, 2005.

  1. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,601


    It's winter for most of us Americans here, and now is a great time for contractors to take the time to educate themselves on their local building codes.

    I'm seeing many pictures of patios with steps where the steps do NOT meet building code(s). I'm seeing pics of patio steps with 4 risers and NO hand rails! :nono: I know most jurisdictions state a handrail is needed with 3 risers or more. Also there are codes on the riser height and variance from step to step.

    The codes do vary town to town, city to city, county to county, state to state.

    Even though we are not 'CARPENTERS', our work must be DONE in accordance with our local building codes.

    There is a contractor in my area that lost a civil suit, just this past summer, because his steps were not built in accordance to the local county building codes.

    folks, if someone falls 11 yrs from now....you can be liable.

    There is NOTHING "beautiful" about a hardscape job that has SAFETY infractions. There is no "you do nice work" when the job has SAFETY violations!

    Step up to the plate and get handrails on your steps. get handrails on your walls. This is somthing that shall not be taken lightly. Even if its only 3 risers, landing or NO LANDING, whatever your local lbuilding code calls for...do IT! Its YOUR responsibility to know this stuff, not YOUR client's :)
  2. makfence

    makfence LawnSite Member
    Messages: 24

    I agree with dvs. I`m a carpenter and know even if there hasn`t been a permit drawn, If there not built to code. Proper even risers, uneven risers are a trip factor. No hand rail after 3 risers. If some one should trip and fall. You better have deep pockets. Building inspectors are real strict on safty issues, esspecialy stairs.
  3. neversatisfiedj

    neversatisfiedj LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,028

    Hey DVS - do you have a reference for MD codes ?
  4. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,601

    Never satisfied -

    No i do not because the codes vary from city to city and county to county.

    EX: Baltimore City will have their own codes that pertain to anything within the Balt city limits. And Baltimore county will have their own codes, inspectors, etc.

    Many contractors like to meddle with people's dryer vents under their back doors. yes, there are even codes on the overall length of the ductwork for dryer vents. Me, I do not touch them. Huge HUGE HUGE fire hazzard. If a dryer vent is where steps need to be - then we do wooden or iron steps. I do NOT want any part of their dirty dryer filter causing a fire and fingers pointing at me.

    Knowing building codes can make a sale for you on the initial consultation. So many contractors have no clue that codes exist. Go to a prospective job and in a calm, competent manner, humbly point out that you need to conform with the building codes, and state the codes....and you'll impress the client. You'll have them sold on your company on the spot.
  5. neversatisfiedj

    neversatisfiedj LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,028

    If anyone knows where to get a code book - Pm me. Thx
  6. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,601

    Call the office for the jurisdiction(s) of where you work and they can fax you the codes for steps, walls, etc.

    UNISCAPER LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,426

    There is a much easier way to find out the codes rather than rifling through an outdated code book. We pull permits on everything because much of what we do is outdoor structures, and items that require inspection. So, when the inspector comes the first round, simply ask and document what he says. More often than not, something has changed and if you follow the book, you will end up taking it down and redoing it. The book will give you a guide, after that, it's in the hands of the inspector.
  8. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,601

    One could do as Bill suggests.

    But the purpose of a scaper knowing / practicing / and following codes is for liability purposes.

    The codes for steps, walls, and dryer vents do not change.

    See, with plumbing, electrical, supporting an entire home, etc, the codes can change as new inventions come out.

    BUT...with steps and walls....height is height :)

    Its best to have the county or city spec sheet on hand and in file. Its the same sheet that would be used in court if anything were ever litigated. Written statements always override verbal statements. I saw it first hand in a local contractor / homeowner lawsuit.

    UNISCAPER LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,426

    Along the lines of codes, comes idocy from building departments, red tape, and proceedure.

    Let me elaborate. Last July, we built a firepit and used a 1" PE gas line to supply the gas. Subsequently, permits were pulled and the 4 phases were inspected and signed off of. Here is the idiotic part. Some overpaid genious from the building department screwed up his paperwork after the inspection card was signed off of. In their records, it appeared as though permits were pulled and trench depth was signed off on, and nothing else. Ain't technology grand? I mean that is what the physical card is for, in case of a mess up, you have the record of someone being on site and signing off. Anyhow, this inspector guy shows at the clients house and tells them he needs to see a pressure test on the line (which by the way, he initialed on the inspecgtion card, admittedly, when he did it the first time. His deal is, he tests the line AGAIN, or, he will make us dig up the line.

    So, the only way we can play this without a huge pissing match which no one has any time for, is go back to the job, pull the ball valve shut, place a gauge on the line and pump it up so he can see it again.

    Even if you are right and they are dead wrong, you need to find a way to be diplomatic. So, as I send out a guy to charge the line and call it in again, I bite my tounge and be ready to move forward. Had the data been entered correctly the first time, we would not even be having this issue. After the line is signed off of, I'm sure he will want a final AGAIN.....But what the heck, it's only money....

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