How do I learn local building codes & requirements?

8 Replies

I am in the process of building my knowledge before I dive into my first flip, and there is one area that I feel lost in...Building codes/permit requirements!

For those of you who were new to flipping, how did you learn your local requirements?  Do you suggest calling and talking to the local building department?  City website? Contractors?

Was there anything that you wish you knew before you started pertaining to this topic?

Hi Jacob,

Architects, local contractors, and the local building department will be your best sources. Ask an architect if you can shadow him/her on a day in the field and ask questions about construction code. Check to see if there are any relevant courses at the community college (one of my architects teaches such a course). Check to see what publications the city has that summarize portions of the building code. The code itself is lengthy, continuously being updated and it's difficult to discern what's being enforced and what's been on the books for the last 70 years.

...Then triangulate the information you receive. I'm still amazed at what information gets passed on as "building code" and isn't. 

Real Estate property improvements are governed under local laws. Do some time online or go to the housing permits office and ask all the questions you want.

Pretty much every area now uses the IBC or international building code. You just have to find out which version your local district is using currently and you can buy the book (you want the commentary) online. Look up you county's building permit website and you should be able to call and find out. For residential you will want the residential code.

Thank you all for taking the time to help.  The problem I have is that maybe I'm going about this wrong.  My local city website does have a directory of building codes, but maybe I'm needing to be more specific and talk to someone in the building division of the city.  

I'm currently reading "The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs" by J Scott, and maybe I'll get to it later in the book, but do I need to pull permits and submit architectural drawings in order to say, remove a wall, load bearing or not?  Maybe this is the responsibility of a good GC or sub but I haven't come across this answer anywhere yet.  I'm still confused about what requires permits and what doesn't.....is there a general rule of thumb?

Just visit the planning dept counter and find someone knowledgeable. They will tell you the answers to almost everything you asked, in excruciating detail, and for free!

Best of luck!

@Jacob Smith , your local building code department should be happy to talk to you about all these questions you have. My code office is super helpful, because they recognize the value that a homeowner is bringing to the city by improving their house. Not all code offices feel this way, and some code officers can be downright awful.

Call the code office and ask what is their typical slow time, and see if you can stop by and ask questions. You absolutely don't want to start a project - or worse finish a project, only to discover it needed a permit and you have to dismantle some of it to be checked. 

I rehabbed my whole house. Some things, like upgrading the electric service, is kind of a no-brainer that it needs a permit. Other things, like replacing cabinets in the kitchen, do not need a permit in my city. Moving a gas line does. 

Building an entire playhouse structure for my kids doesn't need a permit provided it is less than 120 sq ft. Uh, yeah. Pretty sure it will be less than 120 sq ft. That would be some playhouse!

@Mindy Jensen and @Doug M. Thank you for the advice, I will take that step.  I'll start building a list of questions!  Thanks to everyone's help, I found the list of all city codes and ordinances, including building regulations.  Let's just hope the people in the code office are as helpful as you!

Free eBook from BiggerPockets!

Ultimate Beginner's Guide Book Cover

Join BiggerPockets and get The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Real Estate Investing for FREE - read by more than 100,000 people - AND get exclusive real estate investing tips, tricks and techniques delivered straight to your inbox twice weekly!

  • Actionable advice for getting started,
  • Discover the 10 Most Lucrative Real Estate Niches,
  • Learn how to get started with or without money,
  • Explore Real-Life Strategies for Building Wealth,
  • And a LOT more.

We hate spam just as much as you