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  1. #1
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    Default Interpreting R102.7 Existing Structures

    Are older homes really "grandfathered in" according to the codes existing at the time they were intially constructed?
    [IRC-2006, R102.7 Existing Structures.]
    "The legal occupancy of any structure existing on the date of adoption of this code shall be permitted to continue without change, EXCEPT (CAPS ADDED) as is specifically covered in the code, the Internaltional Property Maintenance Code or the International Fire Code, or is deemed necessary by the building official for the general safety and welfare of the occupants and the public."

    (First off, we'll presume that the local jurisdiction has adopted the IRC without changes to this section.)

    Where does the "EXCEPT...." part come into force? Please answer as broad as possible.

    I always call out repair and safety issues and recommend upgrades, though sometimes with the tag-line, "this requirement may not have existed at the time of construction". But I become confused when some inspectors report on older homes as measured against current code for NEW construction. Some sections of current code just don't make practical or economic sense in old homes. In some older homes, the report could just be a 100 pages long, much of which would have minimal practical revelance.

    How is a buyer supposed to make sense of this kind of report? After all, we are supposed to be providing a practical service to clients, not just fluffing our home inspector egos by showing how many items we can call out.

    As a minor example, a water heater is replaced in a home built in 1954, that has otherwise has had no significant renovation or remodeling (beyond painting or other similar maintenance). Is an earthquake strap and drain pan now required (presuming the local is within seismic zone D1 or D2)?
    (note: I would call out issues of improper venting or lack of combustion air).

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Interpreting R102.7 Existing Structures

    Terry, this part comes with experience, but in general, I call out life and safety issues on any age home.
    This is where being a HI and not a code official is good. If it is important to the well being (bodily or financially) of my client, I report it.
    A municipal code inspector is limited by the code, so he really can't force an issue that is not on the books.
    Of course the down side to being a HI is that we can't FORCE anything.


    Then I look at issues at to the question of function.

    For example, If I inspect a hundred year old house built on bois d'arc post foundation, we know that would not be allowed in current construction, but if it is functioning adequately, since chances are the house and posts will still be doing its job long after I am gone.

    Homes are not required to be upgraded every time the code changes.
    Replacements of equipment and remodels ARE required to be done according to the code in effect at the time the repair is done.
    If the water heater is replaced, it needs to be done according to the current code requirements, a permit should be pulled and the AHJ should inspect to ensure compliance with the current codes.
    The AHJ will NOT inspect the rest of the house, just the issues pertaining to the repair or remodel.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Interpreting R102.7 Existing Structures

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Luttrall View Post
    .
    The AHJ will NOT inspect the rest of the house, just the issues pertaining to the repair or remodel.

    Unless they want too,(see something else.) Once they are on site they are not restricted as to what may or may not be flagged.

    Does it happen often? No. Does it happen? Yes.

    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.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Interpreting R102.7 Existing Structures

    Quote Originally Posted by Terry Beck View Post
    Are older homes really "grandfathered in" according to the codes existing at the time they were intially constructed?
    Yes.

    [IRC-2006, R102.7 Existing Structures.]
    "The legal occupancy of any structure existing on the date of adoption of this code shall be permitted to continue without change, EXCEPT (CAPS ADDED) as is specifically covered in the code, the Internaltional Property Maintenance Code or the International Fire Code, or is deemed necessary by the building official for the general safety and welfare of the occupants and the public."

    (First off, we'll presume that the local jurisdiction has adopted the IRC without changes to this section.)

    Where does the "EXCEPT...." part come into force? Please answer as broad as possible.
    As broad as possible ... An existing structure, built to the code in effect at the time of permit application (assuming it was "built to code", items which were not "built to code" are not covered as those items would not fit within this grandfathering clause) is and will always be allowed to exist under the code in which it was built to.

    Remodeling, additions, repairs, re-roofing, alterations, etc., will be classed as defined in the exiting building code and will be addressed (basically - as broad as possible here) in accordance with the current code in effect at the time of those changes.

    I.e., you have a house built in 1972, it can exist as constructed (assuming it was built to code at that time) without changes, however, when you add a room, that room must meet the code in effect at the time it was permitted.

    Now, there are levels at which you might need to bring the entire structure up to current code, say possibly if you are doing a gut and rebuild, and the cost of repairs exceeds 50% of the value of the house before re-building (I'd have to read the new code regarding this, but the threshold always used to be 50% and then the entire structure would need to meet current code - excepting the structural components which were there originally, i.e., they are not going to make you tear apart a foundation wall or footing to install more steel, heck, might as well knock the entire thing down before doing that).

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

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Interpreting R102.7 Existing Structures

    That question is one each and every local jurisdiction will have a different view on. As far as hazards to occupants, they don't read code books, they only wait to happen, and every last one should be reported. (Boy do I grow tired of saying that over & over)

    Jerry McCarthy
    Building Code/ Construction Consultant

  6. #6
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    Columbus GA
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    Default Re: Interpreting R102.7 Existing Structures

    In regard to "Repairs and Maintenance" of an existing system.
    You are allowed to do repairs and maintenance, and not have to bring the repair up to the current code (with execptions).
    The root word of Maintainance is Maintain. Which means to keep in it's original condition.
    For example:
    #1 You have a cracked 2 wire ungrounded wall outlet.
    You onle need to replace the receptacle with a 2 wire ungrounded outlet, it is not required to run a new 3 wire branch circuit.
    #2 Upgrade a 60 amp ungrounded panel to a newer panel.
    The new panel must be to current standards, but the existing branch circuits can remain unchanged.
    #3 You can do repairs to maintain stairs that do not meet current codes, without being required to bring them to the current code.

    Even if you replace something, it may not be required to meet the current codes. (Actually it does meet the current codes because the codes allow it to be maintained to the older codes)
    If you replace an older window, you are not required to replace it (maintain it) with a window that meets the current codes, the replacement window (or door or whatever) only needs to meet the code that was in effect at the time the building was built (with some execptions).

    " An existing structure, built to the code in effect at the time of permit application (assuming it was "built to code", items which were not "built to code" are not covered as those items would not fit within this grandfathering clause) is and will always be allowed to exist under the code in which it was built to."
    Unless it falls under the Execption rule mentioned.

    Jerry P is correct about the 50% rule. Well mostly . The AHJ wants you to meet current codes if the repairs exceed 50% of the buildings value, but it is not written in the codes that you must meet the current codes
    (not that I know of anyhow). Now, if you don't bring it up to the current code, they (AHJ) may make you , wish you had.
    ( My father inlaw told me: A Judge can't make you do anything, but he (or she) can make sure that you wish you had.)

    The general rule is: repairs can be done to maintain it to the older codes, but if it is replaced it should be (must be, in many cases) be brought to the current codes. The water heater for example, must conform to current code if it is replaced.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Oregon
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    Default Re: Interpreting R102.7 Existing Structures

    The OP raises a good point and its one most of us struggle with at one time or another... Here's one that will make your head spin:

    We all like to pride ourselves on calling out 'safety issues' right?

    Many will argue that every electrical code (and most if not all hvac codes) are written for safety. Therefore, by that logic, we should call out every electrical difference between said house and today's electrical code, right?

    Of course that's not realistic and most of us have found a comfort zone of some type where we hit the big things (GFI's, etc.). My point is really that there is not always a black and white answer in this profession as there is in dealing with building codes.


  8. #8
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    Mar 2007
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    Chicago, IL
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    Default Re: Interpreting R102.7 Existing Structures

    Technology is only going to make this more complicated.

    Since I inspect in an area with lot of older homes, I see a lot of older wiring with fabric jackets and "rubber" insulation.

    Until recently these was not a lot you could suggest doing about this other than rewiring, and unless the wiring is in conduit, that's an impractical suggestion,

    Now, however, we can put dual mode AFCIs ahead of such circuits, and if I lived in a house with such wiring I would want all outlet and lighting circuits behind AFCIs, at a minimum.

    And now that we have the new requirements in the 2008 NEC, I have a bit more moral support if I decide if I want to make this "suggestion" or "recommendation" when I see this sort of older wiring at an inspection.


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