Is Your Home Up to Code?

A small wooden house on a blueprint.
  • Intermediate

Do you really know how safe your home is? It may always feel safe when you're at home—until something happens and your walls catch on fire because of old wiring! That may be an extreme example, but it's common for homeowners to learn that their plumbing, electricity, or other systems are not up to code and pose a real danger. The trouble is, homeowners end up learning the hard way after something goes wrong. But you can do your own work and a bit of research to find out if your home's systems are up-to-code or badly in need of some updating.

What About Your Codes?

Systems that aren't up to code are potentially dangerous. They're more prone to breaking down and becoming a hazard. There are steps you can take to see that your home is up to code and everything is operating within safety guidelines.

Step 1 - Check Your Paperwork

When was the last time your home was checked by an inspector? This is often done as part of the conditions of a sale, so this information is probably tucked away with your other housing paperwork. A building inspection date and information about that inspection may be included here, and this will give you an idea of how long it's been since your house was known to be up-to-date on building codes.

Step 2 - Consult Your Local Building Codes

Building codes vary from state to state, and counties and cities may add their own laws to state mandates. This is why you'll want to call the building inspection office closest to you. They know all the recent code changes and updates, and they'll be able to answer your questions and provide you with the newest code information.

Do you really know how safe your home is? It may always feel safe when you're at

Step 3 - Consult a Building Inspector

Even if you aren't selling your home, you can still get a building inspector to take a look at it and see if you're up to date on your codes.

Step 4 - Do a Visual Check

Take a look around your home and take photos of the stuff you can see. Look at the insulation in your attic, check to be sure exposed cables are still secured instead of hanging loose, take a peek at all your exposed piping, and open the fuse box to see what's happening in there. If you notice anything that looks like it might be off, then you're probably right. Anything you see that's wrong that you can fix, fix. But if you can't DIY it, don't worry—there are ways to bring your home up to code anyway.

What Can You Do About It?

If you live in an older home, there are lots of little things you can do to help bring it up to code and make it much more efficient.

Step 5 - Check Your Bathroom Vent

You might be surprised by how many bathroom vents aren't up to code. Go into your attic and see where the bathroom vent goes. If it simply ends in the attic and pours the air out there, you're in trouble. The vent should go all the way outside through a 4-inch pipe, usually through a soffit vent.

A bathroom ceiling vent.

Step 6- Look at Your Windows

The glass in the windows near your stairs and in the bathrooms should be safety-glazed or tempered. Many states require this of new homes already, so replacing glass here will lead you in the right direction.

Step 7 - Check Your Smoke Detectors

There should be a smoke detector no more than three feet away from every bedroom. Check all your smoke detectors, and make sure you have enough of them to meet this fire safety requirement. Check on the date stamped on your smoke detectors as they should be taken off service after 10 years making sure they're not expired.

A smoke detector on a wood ceiling.

Step 8 - Get everything Up to Code

If you’re wondering about your home being up to code, that probably means it’s time to bring some stuff up to date. Do your own research and do your own check to see if your home is up to code, and then do your own DIY stuff around the house to update the things you can. The sooner you get your home up to code, the safer you and your family are going to be.