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  1. #1
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    Default A few commercial code questions

    I'm moving my business to a new location. The location I'm moving into is zoned as three store fronts. The current owner of the landlord has also used all three store fronts for the last number of years for one business. He simply opened up the walls separating the three store fronts so customers could move from one side of the store to the other. Now he is going to rent one of the store fronts out to us.

    1) Our shared "interior wall", what kind of finishing does it require? Currently it is framed out and has wood paneling over it. We've been told by a few people it either needs one or two sheets of 5/8" sheet rock for fire protection. I spoke briefly with the building inspector about this and he wouldn't answer any of my questions until I made an appointment. So I have to wait until next week to resolve this problem and it's eating into my time badly.

    2) We planned on installing 3 partition walls. Very basic framed and sheet rocked walls. None of them are load bearing. We were just going to frame it out with 2x4's as per basic code with 16" OC and double framing around openings, ect. Now I walked into town hall the other day and to my surprise I said the word wall and "building permit" and architect were the first words out of their mouth. I was shocked to be honest with you. I would have never guess 3 walls would require such a thing.

    I've spoken to three contractors already. None of them have a clue what the town wants and the building inspector won't answer my questions until next week and even then I have a strong feeling it's going to be a hassle just to know if I have to put some sheet rock on the walls and some 2x4's up. If anyone could let me know where to look or if you have any experience on this matter, it would be great. I've looked in both the state and the town code books and I haven't seen anything where it says commercial property requires an architects drawing.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Ross Moshinsky View Post

    1) Our shared "interior wall", what kind of finishing does it require?

    2) I would have never guess 3 walls would require such a thing.

    I've looked in both the state and the town code books and I haven't seen anything.

    Ross,

    1) What does the locale code say about Fire Wall Separation Requirements?

    2)What does the locale code say about Required Electrical Outlets on interior walls?

    3? What Code are they using?

    You may not like it but if the Contractors you've contacted do not know what the Code Inspector wants,it would be wise to wait.

    There may be a number of issues he will want addressed.

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Heck,go and ask the AHJ (code official for your town) what is needed. They will tell you! Next find a contractor who knows what is required. Then you will know exactly what is required and expected.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  4. #4
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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Several questions come to mind:

    First, what type of business had the landlord/owner had in that storefront?

    Second, what type of business are you going to have in that storefront?

    There is the possibility that you will be changing the occupancy of that storefront, which could change more than you are intending.

    Scott's answer was the best: talk to the Building Official, but, as you've already said, you have to wait for an appointment to do so.

    Given that we know nothing about the construction or occupancies, etc. ...

    You are probably looking at a 2 hour fire rated wall separating your storefront from the landlord's storefront.

    "Of course" ... is the answer to "building permit required".

    All of your electrical will need to be separate from his, and his electrical separate from yours.

    You will need to have ADA compliant restrooms, the ones currently in there are likely *not* ADA compliant and you will be responsible for upgrading them. Most likely, anyway.

    You will need to have ADA compliant accessibility, which may mean making changes on either or both side of the front door (inside and outside).

    You will need to use fire retardant treated wood if you are going to use 2x4 studs, or use 3-5/8" light gage metal studs.

    Depending on how current the building department is, there are *a lot* of things you may need to upgrade and / or replace.

    You will likely need to install more exit signs and emergency lights.

    There are many things which *were okay* when installed, but when changing tenants, especially if the occupancy is to be changed, those very things will *no longer be okay*.

    You might get off with limited work, you also might be in for a real eye-opening and budget shock.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Billy,

    1) From what I could gather, NJ law requires at least 2 sheets of 5/8" sheet rock if not three. I couldn't find it anywhere in our town's codes. We had the fire inspector in on Friday to inspect the space. Really nice guy. Not "a lot" to do in order to get the place to pass a fire inspection. A fire door(landlord's responsiiblity which was supposed to be done Jan 1.), 3 exit lights, and some fire extinguishers. He also didn't like the AC setup which also falls on the land lord. He didn't know or care about the condition of the wall. In his opinion he had no problem with it, but he said it's not really his job to know that code and the building inspector would know. Which is why we drove down to town hall to speak to the building inspector. He just refused to answer any of our questions without having a formal meeting.

    2) I don't know the electrical codes. We have an electrician that is taking care of this part of the job. We had him in the store a couple of days ago and said he does the work we need to do regularly. Permits and inspections should not be an issue.

    3) I don't know the answer to this question.

    My biggest problem is I'm on a tight time crunch. The landlord didn't take care of half of the stuff he was supposed to and it's eating into my time. Now we are doing all of his leg work in order to move in on time. I'm afraid once I walk into the building inspectors office he is going to tell me one thing, we're going to do the work, and then he is going to say it isn't up to code. I want to make sure I do it right the first time.

    Which brings me to Scott's comments where we've contacted a number of contracts. They just don't seem to know the answers. Between the building inspectors not wanting to answer us(which I believe is going to continue even after our meeting) and the contractors not knowing, I'm looking for the right answers anywhere I can get them.

    Jerry,

    The business space was used for a furniture store. We run a trophy/engraving/awards store. We have a CCO which says we are zoned properly so I'm assuming that won't be an issue. I did find some interesting things about the local code. If you are the owner of the building and are doing the work yourself, you can get the permits and don't need a contractor. You can also sub contract that job out as long as it costs less than $500.

    The electrical, water, and gas are already on their own meters. We have our own stuff, he has his own stuff. As far as the restrooms, I don't think that's a major concern. We aren't required to have a bathroom open to the public. As it stands there is a toilet and a sink in the back as a bathroom. Honestly, the bathroom is the least of my concerns but so far anything I've figured to be not such a big deal has become a much bigger deal so I will take your advice and look into the bathroom situation.

    At this point with the land lords negligence and me being slightly naive with the amount of permits required, I'm started to get the picture that this is going to take double if not triple what I expected. I'm really trying to push for this stuff to get done though which is why I'm trying to use all of the sources available to me.

    I thank everyone for their comments.


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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Ross,


    Sounds like Government at it's finest.

    With out the Code inspectors input you're spinning your wheels.

    If the Time Frame is excessive for your Appointment maybe a call to your locale elected official to explain your plight.

    I'm just a business man trying to meet a payroll and make an honest living.

    I want to do whats right (I know those guys are busy) I just want to know what needs to be done.

    I'm not defending the Code Official but in some cases they are very short staffed.

    I went to an a jointing county after reading news paper about a requirement for Fire Sprinklers for all new residences. The county had 2 Inspectors,1 office worker and she told me the first they had heard about it was a call from a neighboring county Fire Chief and had not seen the ordnance.

    Keep us Posted on any new information.

    Wish You Well.

    * PDF For those of Interest.

    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by Billy Stephens; 01-05-2008 at 08:52 PM. Reason: PDF Added
    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Make the appointment with the AHJ and get the info. Get the info in writing if possible (I doubt it). A bottle of single malt might help you out, if NJ is what I hear it is like. Work on whatever else you can in the meantime. Hypothetical questions about your fire separation wall, etc. are just wasting your time, which you said was in short supply.

    Start documenting lease problems, and withhold your next payment unless the landlord starts pulling his weight. Good tenants are hard to find, and setting the tone early about what you are willing to tolerate can help you out in the long run.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  8. #8
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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Ross Moshinsky View Post
    1) He also didn't like the AC setup ...
    A/c duct system was probably converted and re-ducted to serve all three storefronts, and now the storefront you are leasing will need to be on its own duct system.

    I'm afraid once I walk into the building inspectors office he is going to tell me one thing, we're going to do the work, and then he is going to say it isn't up to code. I want to make sure I do it right the first time.
    Which is why you need someone to draw up a plan, with "existing" MEPs shown (mechanical, electrical and plumbing), and with your "proposed changes/modifications" shown.

    Then submit that along with the permit. Your plan will need to go through plan review, and, yes, that will take some time. How much time depends on the amount of staffing and how busy the building department is. Could be days, could be weeks, most places have, for small jobs, a 'walk-through' process in which small plans can be 'walked through' the plan review people (if more than one) and through the Fire Department for their approval.

    Not that getting the plan drawn and reviewed will reduce changes to -0-, but that will reduce changes to a minimal amount.

    They just don't seem to know the answers. Between the building inspectors not wanting to answer us(which I believe is going to continue even after our meeting) and the contractors not knowing, ...
    I'm having a hard time comprehending that local contractor *do not* know what the local building department wants. Unless the building department does not follow code or anything and just gets *what they ask for*, which is completely the wrong way to operate a building department.

    The business space was used for a furniture store. We run a trophy/engraving/awards store.
    Both should fall under Mercantile occupancy group.

    I did find some interesting things about the local code. If you are the owner of the building and are doing the work yourself, you can get the permits and don't need a contractor. You can also sub contract that job out as long as it costs less than $500.
    Check that out carefully, that most likely *only* applies to the owner when doing work on space they are using themselves and not leasing out. Also, that $500 is likely *material and labor*, and there is not much you are going to do which will cost less than $500 material *and* labor - so that pretty much is not going to do you much good.

    We aren't required to have a bathroom open to the public.
    Very few places allow a business which is open to the public to operate without restroom(s) also open to the public. And, when the restroom(s) is open to the public, or even just for employees to use, it will most likely need to meet ADA requirements.

    Honestly, the bathroom is the least of my concerns but so far anything I've figured to be not such a big deal has become a much bigger deal so I will take your advice and look into the bathroom situation.
    I suspect the bathroom will be one of those 'Oh, by the way, we forgot, but ... the bathroom needs to be ADA compliant.' and could come after most everything else is underway or nearly complete.

    I'm started to get the picture that this is going to take double if not triple what I expected.
    Now I think you are on the right track.

    Are there any ADA (Handicapped Accessible) parking spaces? An Accessible Route? Is the door / threshold accessible (less than 1/2" high with a sloping front and back to allow a wheelchair to roll over it? If there is not a level area in front of the door for a wheelchair to maneuver, the door may need to have an automatic assist added to allow the door to be opened with the press of a proper handicapped push button. Many more things too.

    I know a lot of what I stated above 'would fall under the landlord', but ... if your landlord is not addressing what he said he would, then he will resist addressing those things too.

    Not enough information for us to provide real usable information to you.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  9. #9
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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    The building inspector called us this morning asking if we wanted to move our appointment to today so we went over there. Basically even in a formal meeting he wouldn't tell us much. He wanted architectural layouts of the building, what the other tennant has in his building and what we were going to do. We would most likely need handicapped accessible bathroom and 4' walkway for the handicapped. He wouldn't commit to the fire wall though. So we had a call in with a local architect and he agreed to come over to the new space to discuss things with us. Basically he said we'd need to construct a firewall, have a handicapped accessible bathroom, and other cosmetic issues. We discussed how in our contract the landlord would provide us with a clean vanilla box. He stated that is a formal terminology used in the contractors world and meant "move in ready" ie clean walls, fire escape, ceiling, AC/heat, and flooring. As is, it is not close to that and he said figure about $35-45 a sq ft to get it there. End result we were talking about $50k at minimum and all responsible by the landlord.

    So now we told the current landlord the situation and he didn't understand why we'd need all of this as the building has been there for 50 years and why we can't just get a CO. So now he is doing the same leg work we just did the last couple of weeks to find out what we told him (to our fault we are mostly honest people). End result is, there is no way this guy is going to be willing to dump $60k into the building for us to pay $2k a month rent. Good news is he is in default of our contract which gives us leverage. Bad news is we have to go back to our current landlord, hope he hasn't rented the space, and renegotiate a new lease if possible. If we can't get a new lease with our current landlord, we have to fight with the new one to do the right thing mean while we may or may not have a place to do business. Overall, this could be one of the most unpleasant experiences I've had to deal with. Between the landlord's ignorance/unwillingness to find out the right way to do things and our ignorance/naiveness on what was actually required to move in to the new location, it's been a hassle to say the least. The one good thing I can say is, thankfully we found a good person as an architect to review the project with us. We should have called him from the get go, but again our ignorance played a huge role in that.

    Thanks for the help.
    -Ross


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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Ross,

    Sorry to hear it is that bad, but at least it is not as bad as I thought it might end up being.

    Hopefully ... your current landlord will/can re-lease you the current space - think of it this way ... if the new landlord was like this now, think what he would be like during your lease??? Better to find out now than later.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  11. #11
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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Ross,

    Sorry to hear it is that bad, but at least it is not as bad as I thought it might end up being.

    Hopefully ... your current landlord will/can re-lease you the current space - think of it this way ... if the new landlord was like this now, think what he would be like during your lease??? Better to find out now than later.
    Honestly, I don't think the guy is a bad guy, he, just like us was ignorant. It was his job to get enough information to clean up his space so it was rent-able. It was our job to make sure he did this by Jan 1. Neither of us did our job. With this said, in approximately 7 days, we were able to get 3 contractors over, a local architect, and speak with the building inspector. He did none of this and just assumed whatever he did was going to be good enough. Now he has to do the same work we just did to verify what we told him today. You know what they say about assumptions; when you assume you make an ass out of you and me. I'd say it rings pretty true in this situation.

    I'm just really glad at this point I put the term "Clean Vanilla Box" in the contract. Without that phrase I think we'd most likely be responsible for cleaning up the space. It's kind of ironic I used this phrase because I was looking at some space down the road that wasn't great retail space but they promised a "clean vanilla box" and I just carried that phrase over to my contract with this guy. Either way, it's going to be an interesting next couple of weeks. Honestly at this point, I'm looking for a settlement with the new landlord as he defaulted on our contract and hopefully my current landlord will be willing to rent to us again as he will have many of the same issues we are having now if he decided to rent to different tenants.


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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Ross,

    What town are you in?

    FYI; all tenant fit-outs require arch drawings showing lots of information including use groups. For instance, currently a furniture showroom could be S-1 if furniture is also stored there, while your business will be classified as M; different requirements are needed for different use groups.

    Hiring an arch is needed so he can show what is existing and what is intended to change. Stamped drawings are required to be submitted for 'plan review'.

    You can go here http://www.nj.gov/dca/codes/ and look up all the new building codes for New Jersey.

    If you don't understand any requirements or disagree with the the construction official, you can call directly to the DCA and as for clarification or a rulings...609-984-7609. Just call and tell them what part of the sub-code you're inquiring about.

    Darren


  13. #13
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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Thanks Darren for that information.

    Well the "new" landlord didn't understand any of this needed to happen and neither did we. But we do now. His issue is and was the fact he never even put a good foot forward in getting the space up to code. Never contacted the town, an architect, or even a licensed contractor. So we called our lawyer, as I think I said earlier after we spoke to the local architect, and ask him to call the "new" landlord's lawyer. End result is we believe the landlord's lawyer told him how it is as he really didn't do the right thing, didn't make an attempt to do the right thing, and overall could be in a lot of legal problems. So the landlord called today very upset. He didn't understand why we were bringing in architects and such. He didn't understand for us to move in, this is how we HAD to do things. If we tried to go around the town, we would have just been rejected and had to do the stuff anyway. So it was out of our control. I'm pretty sure the guy is at the point where he wishes we never walked into his store. We are at the point where we wish he had just done the right thing. Basically we contacted our current landlord and worked out a pretty good lease where we are getting a lot more than we would have otherwise. We will stay where we are and then have to fight with the ex landlord for our security deposit back and any penalties we choose to fight for in court. We are honestly not interested in much, but the fact is, we invested time, money, and energy into this project and he faulted on the contract so all of that work went to waste and legally we could make the argument that it should be paid at his expense and not ours.

    Anyway to sum up the thread

    -Signed lease with a new landlord.
    -Landlord did not get the space ready to be occupied.
    -We contacted the town, architects, and contractors to find out what was needed to be done.
    -The contractors we spoke to had limited knowledge. The town said talk to an architect.
    -The architect said there would cost about $45 a sq ft to get the space move in ready.
    -We contacted the new landlord and our lawyer. We are going to opt out of the lease as the landlord defaulted on our contract.
    -We are staying in our current location with a better contract than we previously had with the current landlord.

    My suggestion: If you want to do work in a commercial space. Call up a local architect and make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. The architect is the key in this situation where in residential you may rely more on your general contractor.

    Hope this helps someone in the future. Thanks for everyone's help.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Ross Moshinsky View Post
    ---we invested time, money, and energy into this project ...
    Ross,

    It sounds like you got back on track to conduct your business after a hard learned lesson.

    As you may well recoup the monies.

    I wouldn't invest(a lot) of time and energy on trying to collect those.

    Wishing You Well.

    It Might have Choked Artie But it ain't gone'a choke Stymie! Our Gang " The Pooch " (1932)
    Billy J. Stephens HI Service Memphis TN.

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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Ross Moshinsky View Post
    Basically we contacted our current landlord and worked out a pretty good lease where we are getting a lot more than we would have otherwise.

    -We are staying in our current location with a better contract than we previously had with the current landlord.
    Hopefully, enough more to try to make up for some of your time, money, etc. spent on finding out about the other place.

    Also wishing you well.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  16. #16

    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    In each town in NJ Code enforcement varies greatly. Some towns make contractors jump through many hoops to work in their town. An example is OC NJ, simply put they do not want outside contractors so they make it very difficult. Cinnaminson NJ will not allow you to build a dog house without an architect. This means you questions while simple do not have simple answers. Sorry but it is NJ. Unless you want to go behind the town and directly to the state community affairs office (not recommended) you will have to wait. ( I was a contractor for 16 years in NJ)


  17. #17
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    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Zehnder View Post
    In each town in NJ Code enforcement varies greatly. Some towns make contractors jump through many hoops to work in their town. An example is OC NJ, simply put they do not want outside contractors so they make it very difficult. Cinnaminson NJ will not allow you to build a dog house without an architect. This means you questions while simple do not have simple answers. Sorry but it is NJ. Unless you want to go behind the town and directly to the state community affairs office (not recommended) you will have to wait. ( I was a contractor for 16 years in NJ)
    Honestly, these town inspectors are terrible to deal with. We were working on getting some information available to enter litigation. I don't want to say too much, but I wish I had called the DCA like Darren suggested 4 weeks ago. I'll post up more information after we have things more finalized but I'm going to suggest people contact their state department in regards to building codes and find out exactly what you need. Town government was worthless, contracts we spoke to was worthless, and the architect we spoke too was SOOOO ill informed.


  18. #18

    Default Re: A few commercial code questions

    Ross don't forget:

    On a party wall you must have electrical on both side and these should be on seperate meters. The electrical contractor would have to ring this out and install as needed.

    Also dont forget most areas require ADA installation as required.

    I would install insulation in the wall to cut down noise a little.

    Hope this helps

    Rolland Pruner


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