Knowing the Codes

Working in the trades we find that issues related to codes can come up on a daily basis. I recently heard about a contractor that was doing a large commercial job involving several thousand dollars in equipment and material. The job was shut down for two reasons. One, code violations. The other was improper licensing.

In another case a pool company failed to get final approval for an electrical installation because of a code violation. The reason cited was improper grounding. However, a discussion about the code pertaining to grounding requirements revealed that the inspector did not know of a change to the code, and the issue was resolved. I have also heard of issues regarding heating equipment venting and proper piping.

For those of you who may not be so familiar with codes, I suggest going on the internet to find what I call a trade-related job review and help page. There you can review several great installations—and some that I would call not so good. These jobs are often reviewed by some of the industry’s best installers. I have seen the words, “NOT TO CODE” written often. This comment has often been followed by helpful advice.

I have wondered how some of these jobs passed a final inspection, if there ever was one.  The real reason may be because there was never a permit issued to a licensed professional. In such cases codes might be circumvented—until there is an incident requiring an investigation.

I always believed in acquiring a permit for every job. There are sound reasons to do so. The customer knows that the job will be done correctly. If something is not quite right it must be addressed by the contractor and signed by the official.

When companies diversify into other lines of business there are times when applicable codes or proper licensing will be unintentionally overlooked. My suggestion: Call your local licensing division or go on line and see what licenses are required.

There are a couple of versions of many codes. There are local city or town codes, for example, and the codes written by the National Fire Protection Association. Local inspectors have authority over any code requirements. Often the local codes are created by adopting a part or all of an NFPA code. I would recommend that every contractor acquire a current issue of the NFPA code related to their trade. For example, if you’re an oil burner service and equipment installing company, NFPA 31 applies. If you’re in the LP gas business, both NFPA 58 and 54 apply.

Also keep in mind that there are times when the codes will be reviewed and amended. If you go to a particular section and find a paragraph underlined, this is generally an amendment.

To that end, following the codes and proper licensing will help you avoid what could turn out to be a very unhappy and expensive experience.

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