Understanding Local Building Codes and Permits
When you purchase house plans from us here at The Plan Collection, it’s likely out of motivation for the perfect dream home or the master bathroom that exactly suits your needs. The beauty of searching for just the right fit in your next home through a database of floor plans is that you’ll likely find exactly what you’re looking for, with every element of your new home in the right place.
What you might not be thinking about as you nail down your ideal plan are building codes, construction standards, and permits. These are the natural next steps in the home-building process, as you’ll need to secure the proper permits to begin construction on that perfect plan you've found among our style, collections by feature, or regional houses.
You have found your ideal dream home and have purchased the house plans, but thats just the beginning of your journey. There are lots of hoops to jump through and papers to file with local building authorities before you can build a house like this 3-bedroom, 2.5-bath luxury Ranch style home (Plan #198-1001).
Your Plan and the IRC
Here at The Plan Collection we want to remove as much guess work as possible when it comes to building your new home, and that includes offering only plans that conform to the International Residential Code (IRC).
The IRC is a stand-alone residential code developed by international code officials of the Internation Code Council that evaluates and establishes minimum regulations for residential dwellings, but it’s not a standard set by specific counties or states. It’s founded on largely broad-based principles, so the IRC alone may or may not fulfill all the rules and regulations set by your county, municipality, or state.
All house plans offered for sale by The Plan Collection, like this 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath contemporary Colonial style home, comply with the IRC (Plan #142-1185). Although that is a great standard and a good start, there are likely to be other local building regulations with which your plan must conform.
Benefits of the IRC
Factoring in the always-changing regulations of every town and county our clients might build in would be near impossible, but you might be surprised with the degree of benefits a plan developed with IRC standards might offer. The IRC contains its own set of code provisions that meet the minimum standards of most regional regulations and covers all aspects of the construction of your new home.
With the protection of public health, safety, and welfare in mind the IRC focuses specifically on the
• Building of the plan
• Energy conservation during and after construction
• Proper plumbing
• Mechanical elements of the plan
• Fuel gas provisions (through the American Gas Association)
• Electrical provision from the National Electrical Code.
The efficiency of IRC designs not only takes into account all elements of a successful home build but provides flexibility for the code official, builder, designer, and architect. And not only will your home include state-of-the-art building technologies, it will be safer and more efficient.
Your Builder Will Thank You
Working with bad or unrealistic plans can be a nightmare for a home builder or contractor. By offering a plan that adheres to IRC standards, you’re taking a lot of those risks out of the equation for your general contractor, builder, or developer.
Some of the elements that go into an IRC property plan include
• Safety measures that have a proven track record for safe and sanitary plumbing installations.
• Easy-to-use plans that offer the same format used in all I-Codes.
• Preference on using state-of-the-art technologies while also protecting the health and safety of the public.
• Open and honest code development resulting from the consensus of hundreds of plumbing, building, and safety experts across North America.
Purchasing a house plan with bood bones (designed to comply with the IRC) is an important first step in ensuring that you will have a sturdy, safe house and your builder will few problems relating to the home design during construction (Photo credit: Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay).
Limitations of the IRC
On a granular, or local, level, building codes are ultimately largely regulated by states, counties, towns, municipalities, and boroughs. While the IRC represents a high standard for development, it won’t be the “end all, be all” for your next home build. The granting of your permits and the process of construction will be determined by your local laws.
The IRC is adopted or in partial use by all states (and the District of Columbia, Peurto Rico and the US Virgin Island) except Wisonsin (colored gray in map). Even so, states and local muncipalities may add to or replace certain aspects of the code, and it is your/your builders responsibility to comply with all local rules and regulations (courtesy of International Code Council).
Unfortunately, however, local building codes are a bit of a moving target. Here at The Plan Collection we do our best to keep our standards high so you won’t have any surprises come time to apply for building permits from your local building department, but building codes are constantly changing and vary considerably by region.
While some states have adopted the IRC, states like Michigan, New York, Florida, and California, for example, have their own sets of laws and regulations. And these laws can be updated as quickly as every three years, so it’s important to evaluate them just before you plan to begin construction on your new home.
How to Check Your Local Building Codes
Once you’ve acquired your plans, spoken to a builder, and are ready to apply for permits – check your local laws to see how your plans measure up against the requirements of your state or county. You can start by contacting your local building inspection department, the office of planning and zoning, and/or the department of permits. The names of these offices may vary as well.
These offices should provide you with the information you need to either begin the application process for building permits or alter your plans to adapt to your local laws. They can also let you know if any state or federal requirements apply to your property. For example, this could come into play if the property you plan to build on is part of protected wetlands.
You may also ask about any modifications that have been made to the regulations due to any local jurisdiction. Sometimes area boards or councils will adopt specific standards not found in the local codes.
Local boards and councils governing residential building may adopt standards that are not recognized in many other parts of the country. If you want to build this 4-bedroom, 4-bath Beachfront style vacation home on a coastal beach, for example, local authorities may have special regulations for coping with wind loads, foundations (use of pilings for example), flooding (requiring the home to be elevated for instance), and more that will not be addressed by the IRC (Plan #196-1061).
Where to Look Online
If you’d rather not wait in line at one of your local offices to start the information-gathering process, there’s a tremendous amount of information online.
Visit your state or county government pages to pull up local building codes and information about obtaining the proper licenses you need to get started with your home construction. State websites can be found using the following format: www.state.(yourstateabbreviation).us, or www.(yourstate).gov
To drill down further from the state level, it doesn’t hurt to check out the requirements issued by your county, as you will be held to those standards during your project.
Find a Local Consultant
If the idea of all this research and filing of paperwork has your head spinning, there is always the easier option of finding a reputable engineer or architect in your area to vet your plans. (You will probably need to do this at some point in the process anyway to satisfy local building officials.) Any professional in this field local to your area will be well aware of all the rules and regulations that come with building a home in your town or city.
Part of their job, or that of your contractor, will be to file the correct paperwork and obtain the proper permits needed to begin construction. If your plans don’t quite fit a unique regulation set by your county or state, an architect or engineer could alter or make notes to your plans to ensure that you would have no problem obtaining the right permits to get started on construction.
Although most home plans are drawn digitally these days by the use of computer-aided design (CAD) programs, hard copies and printouts that need to be filed can be (and often need to be) annotated and/or modified by local engineers and architects to meet local building code requirements (Photo credit: Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay).
At The Plan Collection we firmly believe that it’s our responsibility to provide you with plans that will offer you an efficient and safe home and make the construction process a rewarding one. While we can’t factor in the details of every city or county and their unique requirements, we can do our best to hold our plans to the highest general standard possible, and thats the IRC.
With an investment in a vetted plan like the ones offered by The Plan Collection – and a bit of due diligence on the part of you and/or your local engineer/architect – we have no doubt that the building of your dream home will be a satisfying, fulfilling, and productive experience for you and your contractor. We can’t wait to see your finished project! Click here to let us know how it goes and to send us photographs.