May 27, 2024

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They Need Fixing! – Building Code Violations Hiding in Plain Sight

To be very honest, even none of us could imagine that building violations can be hiding in plain sight. Let’s face it, each building deteriorates with time, and it requires a wholesome amount of maintenance. Well, timely maintenance like plastering and painting is a good thing because that improves the home’s value.

Even buildings improve their value in the same way. However, buildings and homes are fundamentally different things so there are differences in their structure and composition.

Older homes and buildings have a charm that no building today has. In fact, each kind of home and building has its own charm. But there is a trade-off of sorts. When a person is living in an old building or is using one, they have to pay extra out of their pocket to make sure it works properly. 

It is like the same with a vintage car, with not many parts available and specialized parts costing a lot; extra money goes out of the pocket to maintain and make sure it runs properly.

Do older buildings and homes have building code violations hiding in plain sight and even disguised? – if so, what are they

Older buildings and homes have charm and history which cannot be matched or paralleled. At their time, they were more robust than today’s buildings. They can be that if they are properly maintained. However, maintaining old homes and buildings is not an easy job. 

Well replacing flooring and installation of new lighting fixtures may not be easy jobs but are doable. In direct proportion, making a mature home as one’s own is a fulfilling task indeed. The experience is indeed fulfilling too.

But as one begins the renovation process on their old home, they must keep an eye out for building code violations hiding in plain sight. A lot would say they don’t see any, but there are many hiding in plain sight. The same thing should be kept in consideration in terms of buildings as well. Here are the common building code violations to look for in each old home, building, and suburb:

Stairwells having low ceilings are a big no

Older structures were built under different standards. Back then regulations were different as compared to today. It is quite common for homes, buildings, and other structures more than 40 years old to have low ceilings present in stairwells (staircases). 

Tall individuals found themselves at an inconvenience, bumping their heads and getting injured because of the low ceilings. Now, both homes and buildings require a minimum height of 7 feet for rooms and 6 feet 8 inches for ceilings of staircases.

Guardrails should be present at all costs

A lot of old homes and buildings are missing the much-needed guardrails. New buildings and homes must have them at key places at least 37 inches tall for any stairs which are more than two steps in height. Also, they should be around any deck higher than 30 inches.

Though some homes may not need them, buildings may need them around balconies and at staircases. A potential buyer’s lending agent might also place a requirement on homeowners and building owners alike to install guardrails before the mortgage can be underwritten. Such is done to make sure the home or building isn’t dangerous for the prospective owner.

Balusters are widely spaced

Balusters are another hallmark of building and home safety. THey are like rods or spindles which should be only four inches apart. Older homes and buildings renovated by building and architecture aces may have not spaced them properly just to maintain the novelty of the old structures. They are a major safety risk as little children can fall between the gaps if they are not up to modern standards.

Adding a basement room without Egress windows

Basements today stand different as compared to basements 20 years ago, and more modern in comparison to vintage basements. Windows are a major issue in past versions. The international residential code of 1997 made Egress windows mandatory for basements.

Today basement rooms must have windows that are 20 inches wide and 24 inches high. This helps them be certified as safe for living and sleeping. The opening should be big enough for adults to crawl out in case there is an emergency, especially a house or building fire.

Failure of installing such windows results in a lack of resale, legal issues, and in new projects, a large case of construction claims.

Usage of asbestos and lead is hazardous

Asbestos is a known hazardous material. No one wants to deal with it under any circumstances. Lead is also like that and was commonly used in homes and buildings before the 1970s. Lead-based paints were banned by the USA in 1978. Even if they were replaced, the lead seeped into the air and dust, as well as the soil, underground water and water lines.

The United States has yet to put a ban on Asbestos. Yet it was one of the first hazardous air pollutants which was deemed that way by the Clean Air Act of 1970. Also, certain applications of asbestos were banned by the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Other than their legal status, both these substances and materials can overturn the chances of any old home or building getting sold. They are a health hazard and are no longer used.

Lack of proper ventilation

Ventilation shafts are commonly known as vents. They are instrumental in helping maintain the air quality and proper moisture levels in both homes and buildings. However, many old homes and buildings lack ventilation shafts. Also, some of them have wrongly routed ventilators. 

Most modern building codes require bathrooms to have a ventilation shaft if they don’t have windows. This allows heat and humidity to escape the home into the air.

Some homes have vents that go to the attic directly as a means of fastening the installation process. However this is also not in line with building codes of today. The bathroom’s steam will be trapped in the attic resulting in water damage, mold and issues with structural integrity.

Badly botched electrical work is hazardous

Electrical work which is badly configured can cause problems in an already well functioning home. Unfortunately, old homes and buildings are hazardous because of their botched electrical works and overloaded messy electrical panels.

This open code violation is either the outcome of GFCIs missing or badly sized circuits being in use. In both cares or either, they are dangerous. In fact, electrical issues are a leading cause of house fires and this is one of the reasons why electrical works should be modernized. Modern electrical works are as necessary as oxygen else the whole structure will end up in flames and ashes.


Dispute avoidance experts often advise clients renovating old homes and buildings to follow all modern guidelines and make sure their vintage and novel properties have modern systems which are in line with modern building codes.

If these building code violations aren’t resolved on time, then they will result in fines, lawsuits, and more claims which will drain contractors, architects, construction industries, and property owners alike of their finances.