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How to keep your old house up to date with current building codes

March 2, 2012

Gilman Garrison House scaffoldingWhen embarking on a large renovation or restoration of a historic home it is likely you will not escape a visit from the local building inspector, whose first instinct may not be focused on preserving the historic integrity of your home. If you are concerned about preserving its historic features, the challenge to do so while meeting modern building codes (especially as they grow increasingly stringent) may seem daunting. The first step is to talk to your local official. No matter the state or town you live in, it is vital to develop an open, honest relationship and keep communication flowing. The second step is to delve into your state’s current building code to see what avenues are available for negotiation and compromise.

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Alt codes for historic resources

Posted by david garner on March 12, 2012
There are several alternate codes worth consideration:
•The Uniform Code for Existing Buildings and the Guidelines for the Rehabilitation of Existing Buildings, 2000 (merged with International Code Council in 2000);
•The International Existing Building Code, 2003;
•The Provisions (Chapter 15) of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 5000: Building Construction and Safety Code, 2003;
•NFPA 914: Code for Fire Protection of Historic Structures (has extensive information both prescriptive and performance based, but it contains over 2,000 pages);
•Draft Code for Historic Buildings, 2000;
•Chapter 34 of The International Building Code, 2000 (is for existing buildings and may not work very well for historic buildings. And, a newer edition may exist? As the newer editions removed Chapter 34.);
•The Life Safety Code in NFPA 101 – 2009 contains minimum requirements for existing buildings life safety and Chapter 5 has a performance based evaluation section;

Building Codes

Posted by Caitlin Corkins on March 12, 2012
David, thank you for your comment. You make a good point. Certainly considering other codes is good background. My only caution is that a building inspector will be working with the current version for his/her community. For example, Chapter 34 is no longer in force in Massachusetts. Therefore, it is important to find out what building codes are active in your community.

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How to keep your old house up to date with current building codes