US Home Building Regulations
Building your home in the United States can present you with a number of unique regulatory and zoning hurdles that can be difficult to navigate through. When you don't know where to look, it can become very difficult to know what you're getting yourself into. While there are many things for all home builders to keep in mind, the truth is that it's not impossible to navigate these waters if you have the right type of help. In truth, trying to gain a proper understanding of general US home building regulations is much easier when you start out with the right type of information.
Special Certifications for Contractors
The first thing that you should learn about will be the certification and licensing requirements. For many projects in certain states, you won't need to worry about licensing or certification guidelines. Some states have few if any guidelines of this nature. However, most states have some form of contractor certification and licensing requirement that they rely on. The requirements will generally circle around training and insurance standards, meaning the state is ensuring that only reasonably-qualified contractors are populating the market. However, there are some contractors who will need specialized certifications beyond a simple license.
This is especially apparent with contractors who work with home wiring and other major electrical projects. It's almost universally agreed that contractors who work with home wiring need to go through a more stringent amount of certifications. This means that you should only work with electricians who have the proper certifications. If you work with an electrician who is not properly certified to work in your state, then you are opening yourself up to the potential for massive fire damage and other serious issues.
Zoning Regulations Vary State to State
All state and local governments have zoning regulations that you need to abide by if you're going to be building anything on your property that is permanent. It's important to recognize that the vast majority of these regulations will only apply to permanent additions to your property. Permanent additions can be a new shed or any other type of out building on your property. These additions can even be pools or other non-structural changes to the property that impact municipal resource use and public easement boundaries. In some cases, you will be required to get a zoning permit for a garden in the front of your home. Certain municipal governments have zoning regulations that prohibit front-lawn gardens and these laws are enforced on a regular basis.
Habitability Laws are Important to Understand
Habitability laws are designed to protect people from living in environments that are considered squalid or otherwise unfit for human habitability. In many cases, people don't recognize the dangers that associated with certain habitability issues in their home. The problem is that these dangers extend beyond the person who owns the home and into the public sphere as well. Due to the public health risk that uninhabitable homes cause, you may have to have your building inspected before you're even allowed to live in it. This is something that varies wildly from one state or municipality to another. Not all states engage in these types of very strict habitability concerns, but it is something that comes up from time to time. Be sure you work with a qualified contractor who understands these habitability issues and can guide you through the process of eliminating them. This is the best way to ensure you won't have to worry about running afoul of any of these important laws.
When you're building in a city, suburb or other area that uses the public grid, you'll need to gain permits to connect your home to water and electricity lines. The permitting process can be a very long one, so it's important to get the process started well in advance of your home being finished. In some cases, the local government will require you to bring out a government-employed utility worker to make the connection. In states with deregulated utilities, the utility company would send someone out to do the hook up. In either case, it's smart to get started on the permitting process sooner rather than later.
Some homeowners' associations or local governments ban the use of window air conditioners because they protrude outside of the building and can be considered unsightly. Find out if this is the case in your area, and if so consider whole-house central cooling and heating, or a through the wall conditioner as an alternative.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind when you're planning on building a home. While many regulations may seem like they're intrusive or overbearing, the truth is that they are truly designed to be in the public good. Poorly-installed home wiring is not just a danger to the person living in the house. It's a danger to everyone in the area. To keep up with the regulations in your area surrounding contractors and building, take some time to visit your local city hall. The best information you'll get on building regulations can be found through your local zoning board.