Keeping Your Home Up to Code: Do You Make the Grade?
Understanding plumbing and electrical codes.
If you're a homeowner, what you don't know can hurt you. For instance, would you be aware if you had a dangerous combination of line- and low-voltage wires in an electrical box? If a plumbing pipe is made of the wrong material, affecting drinking water? If the fire box in your oil burner is full of combustible dirt and debris? Probably not.
Unless you have the expertise of a licensed professional, it's likely you would not be able to spot these problems in your home. Yet any one of them can be potentially costly, hazardous or both.
This is the purpose of codes: they are designed to protect you and your home. When your house is checked by a licensed professional - and judged to be up to code - you can rest assured these hidden dangers and major issues have been spotted and, if necessary, corrected.
Let's learn a bit of background on two of the most important codes for your house: electrical and plumbing.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) is a set of basic standards that ensure safe installation of electrical wiring and equipment in the U.S. It's designed to prevent fires and electric shocks, to keep circuits from overloading, and more.
First developed in 1897, the code continues to be updated every three years. When you think of how electrical appliances have evolved over a century, you can see why codes need to be constantly updated to keep pace!
One key point: the NEC outlines minimum requirements for safety, but local building authorities often fine-tune these rules. That's why you need to check with your city, town, and/or municipal building department to find out exactly what codes apply to your area. For instance, some areas do not allow anyone but a licensed electrician to perform any electrical work.
Plumbing codes are similar. Industry standards like the National Plumbing Code, Uniform Plumbing Code, and others are adopted and amended by local authorities to meet regional needs. They concern the safe installation of pipes, valves, sinks and toilets and more, as well as effective, healthy drainage into sewers or cesspools.
Licensed electricians and plumbers spend years learning all the tools of their trade, and all the fine points of pertinent codes. So, how do you know if your electricity and plumbing is currently up to code? Think back: A trained professional probably assessed things when you bought the house, or if you made changes that required a permit - additions, major renovations, installation of an AC unit, and so on.
Sometimes, the date of the last electrical inspection is noted on the door or cover of your electrical panel, where fuses or circuit breakers are located. BUT if that last inspection was 10 to 40 years ago, you should get a licensed professional to check things now. Another vital point: If your home has plumbing or electrical violations, not only are things possibly dangerous, but insurance might not cover you in the event of a mishap. Those are two good reasons to get your home up to code as quickly as possible!
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