9 Surprising DIY Building Code Violations

Taking on home renovations by yourself is a daunting but rewarding task. Not only do you get the satisfaction of completing a job with your two hands, but you also save money that would have gone to contractors. The only catch in DIY building projects is following building codes and avoiding penalties down the road. Here are a few surprising building code violations to help you avoid making similar mistakes.

1. Bathroom Vents

A common mistake is venting the bathroom to a place inside the home. Avoid this building code violation by venting all the bathrooms to the outdoors. You can accomplish this through the roof or the side of the house—just make sure it doesn’t go into the attic. The moist air can cause mildew and mold and rot roof frames. Venting outside might take an extra step, but it will definitely pay huge dividends in the future.

2. Missing Handrail Returns

A staircase in a white space with a handrail.

The handrails inside and out of your home should have returns on both ends. This means that the end of the railing should turn towards the wall. Returns are a safety measure that helps prevent items from getting caught on the ends of the rail. Also, the railings should be at a height of 34 to 38 inches.

3. Deck Flashing

Flashing should be placed between the house and the ledger board on the deck. The ledger should also be fully secured to the house as these boards are known to pull loose after extended use. If this happens, you run the risk of the deck collapsing under load, which can cause serious injury, not to mention the cost of building a new deck.

4. Smoke Alarm Placement

A smoke alarm being installed on the ceiling.

There needs to be a smoke alarm on all levels of the home and one outside of every bedroom. For new construction, an alarm should be placed in every room, feature a battery backup, and be connected in series with the other alarms. Each alarm needs to have a 4-inch clearance from the walls. Smoke alarms installed on the wall should have a 12-inch clearing from the ceiling.

5. Missing Permits

Not having the proper permits is an easy mistake that might cost you some fairly hefty fines. Not having the right permits also means you miss out on meeting with a building inspector, who knows all the ins and outs to the building codes in your area. Ultimately, failing to get the right permits is unsafe for you and anyone else living in the home.

6. Junction Box Problems

A junction box on a wall with wires.

Splitting electrical wires without the use of a junction box is a major building code violation. These handy boxes help secure the connections and prevent accidental fires. You should have easy access to these boxes and the wires need to be clamped to the box to avoid movement.

7. Wrong Circuit Breakers

The law now requires that all kitchen, bathroom, outdoor, and garage circuits be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters. These circuits help prevent fire and electrocution in areas of high usage and moisture by cutting off the power in the event of a current change. You can test your outlets with a simple meter to make sure they are not in violation of any codes.

8. Fence Height

A white vinyl fence.

It’s easy to forget about building code violations when working on outdoor projects. If you are constructing a new fence, the law limits the height in which you can build. In most areas, a privacy fence cannot be higher than 6 feet in the back and should be between 42 and 48 inches in the front.

9. Ditching the Egress Window

When adding a window to your basement, building codes dictate that there should be an egress window in rooms that are slept in. The window should be large enough for an adult to crawl through in the event of an emergency. These types of windows will run you a lot of money, but they are definitely worth it in the long run.