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City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.

 
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Old 11-05-2014, 06:23 PM   #1
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City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas. I have always understood that basement walls can be put in if the ceiling height is less than 7' if the ceiling is not drywalled. My ceilings in the basement are 7' 7 3/4". I put the walls up around the laundry area and around an addition on the back, up against the basement walls (to code). I never tried to hide what I was doing, because I had it drawn on my blue-print I submitted to the city. When I got my rough-in inspection done, I was informed that all the walls would have to be torn out.

Just some thoughts, and ways I could avoid tearing everything out. What if I wanted (and I do) insulate the exterior walls from heat loss? Also, what about wall built under structural beams? This is helping give the house more stability, and I took the fireplace out, which was supporting an outside wall that is now an inside wall due to an addition put on in 1928 (my house was built in 1915)

Also, a closet, hallway, and laundry room are not considered habitable space, even if the walls and ceiling are finished, so what is the problem? There is no habited space there no matter what the walls look like. I was planning on using the one room for the dogs, there is no closet in it.

The building inspector won't allow walls because "some future person might see that and think they can make a bedroom out of it." Someone will use the basement for a bedroom even if their are no walls (I see it all the time, and no window), I don't have any control over what some future person might do with the space. I also prefer the walls over the ugly foundation, which is stepped in places.

Thanks in advance for your input.
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Old 11-05-2014, 06:32 PM   #2
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Rooms with doors make habitable spaces.

Not walls.

Not ceilings.

Not 7', x" heights.

etc, etc

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Habitable rooms are living, sleeping, eating and cooking rooms. Common terms for these rooms include living rooms, family rooms, dens, bedrooms, breakfast rooms, dining rooms and kitchens. These rooms can occur anywhere in the home including basements and attics. Bathrooms, laundry rooms, closets, storage rooms, equipment rooms and hallways are not habitable rooms.

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Old 11-05-2014, 06:58 PM   #3
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


That's BS, you have to right to appeal and appeal you should.
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Old 11-05-2014, 07:06 PM   #4
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


I was once told that for a room to be classified as habitable it had to have a window above a certain size. I was also told this same thing by a realtor who come to value my house as he said none of the rooms in my basement can be advertised as bedrooms, living rooms etc etc because the windows were too small. He also said that the bedrooms had to have a min size closet too for them to be classed as a bedroom.
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Old 11-05-2014, 07:45 PM   #5
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


I finished our basement with similar height ceilings and got a lot of resistance for a bedroom we intended to put down there. This was adjacent to the boiler, water heater, etc. They kept telling me don't do it, and I kept asking but how CAN I do it? Answer: egress window + firewall + sufficient combustion air obtained from hallway (and not directly from the bedroom). So I now have a corridor behind the bedroom for the utilities.
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Old 11-05-2014, 07:49 PM   #6
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Every bit of what makes a space habitable vs occupied, including min sq footage, egress, etc is spelled out in the rules adopted by the municipality.

Something like 90% now use one of the IRC revisions, the rest IBC.

Either way, they are described in plain language, and every licensed contractor should already know how to find and interpret these codes. Being at the mercy of some shirt saying "because I said so", is crazy.

And yes, the OP needs to appeal this one.
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Old 11-05-2014, 08:41 PM   #7
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Be calm and professional for the inspector. Let him understand that you are going to ask the Building Official or at least someone who has greater authority.

You said you submitted prints to the city, I assume then that those were approved.
This should trump any **** the inspector says.

Andy.
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Old 11-05-2014, 08:45 PM   #8
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Usually a situation with an inspector is not an issue like this where there are such different interpretations of the applicable code.

Interesting to see how this plays out....

Why does Contractor think he is right?

Why does inspector think he is right?

Good luck...
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Old 11-05-2014, 09:07 PM   #9
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


I don't necessarily think I'm right, other than I'm not making this into inhabited space, and my primary defence is based on what other people have told me in the past. I'm just looking for something on the books that would support my case.

The old inspector let me get away with 6' 8", but that was for a drywall ceiling and "inhabited" space. By the reason of the first poster, i could remove all doors, and widen the door opening to the a-joining walls.

We frequently puts rooms in basements without a large window, and we don't put a closet in them so it isn't considered a bedroom. I always thought the loophole for low ceilings was not drywalling the ceiling. I should legally have the right to insulate my exterior walls, and have my hot water heater and furnace in a closet.

He also didn't like my stairs. There used to be no headroom, you had to duck to get downstairs. I opened up as far as I could so that an average size human can walk down them and not bump their head.

I understand the need for codes for new buildings, just think that there should be an exception for pre-existing conditions.
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Old 11-06-2014, 04:21 PM   #10
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by abacab View Post
I don't necessarily think I'm right, other than I'm not making this into inhabited space, and my primary defence is based on what other people have told me in the past. I'm just looking for something on the books that would support my case.

The old inspector let me get away with 6' 8", but that was for a drywall ceiling and "inhabited" space. By the reason of the first poster, i could remove all doors, and widen the door opening to the a-joining walls.

We frequently puts rooms in basements without a large window, and we don't put a closet in them so it isn't considered a bedroom. I always thought the loophole for low ceilings was not drywalling the ceiling. I should legally have the right to insulate my exterior walls, and have my hot water heater and furnace in a closet.
Yup, that is the gist of it.

Remember the old saw "if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc"

The moment you create a room using a door, and it is NOT a furnace, equipment room, etc, it's now a HABITABLE space.

And the moment it becomes HABITABLE, all other current code will be brought to bear.

That's called change of use.

You by rights should be able to stud out perimeter walls and insulate.

Quote:
He also didn't like my stairs. There used to be no headroom, you had to duck to get downstairs. I opened up as far as I could so that an average size human can walk down them and not bump their head.

I understand the need for codes for new buildings, just think that there should be an exception for pre-existing conditions.
You cannot "grandfather in" new work over existing.

Stairs are fine as were, until a change of use - as when OCCUPIED becomes HABITABLE.

If your entire scope of work is only studding perimeter walls and insulating, and even if you wall off and put a door on the furnace/water heater area, you have not created new, non-conforming HABITABLE space.

The BI would still have every right to demand DW on furnace room and provide make-up air.

- stairs could stay the same, no change of use.
- ceiling could remain the same, no change of use.

Like in the 2nd part of what I quoted (right from IRC 2009), the minute you create a space with a door that does not fall under the description of utilitarian functions listed, you now have a HABITABLE space.

Suddenly, ALL of it matters:
- stair treads and headroom
- ceiling height
- sq footage of room
- closet
- ceiling height
- window(s) and egress requirements
- smoke detectors
- make-up air

- etc - probably some I missed.

Me, even if I had on review "inadvertently" crossed the line, I'd rip out the offending bits, and keep the insulated walls.

And file an appeal.

And then I'd confirm which code book the community is using NOW, bone up on them and submit a highlighted copy of the relevant parts with my appeal.

And no, this is not speculation on my part: In the mid/late-2000s, we were offering insulated basement walls on our completed new builds. Stud walls, R17, 1/2" board, cut batts to bonds above the DW.

BI initially claimed we were created a new HABITABLE space, which required separate permitting/review, AND DW on ceiling AND egress.

He claimed exactly the same as you: those new DW walls "might" be used for living space some day. Well, yes they "might", but then there would be doors, egress, ceiling DW, etc. But not our problem TODAY now, is it?

The errors of his ways pointed out, we proceeded as planned.

I would wish you good luck, but you don't need it. Just be clear on what you are doing, and it'll fly.


Oh, and I realize nothing I've said matters a Tinker's D*mn in California, but neither of us plan on visiting that foreign land - do we?
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Old 11-06-2014, 04:40 PM   #11
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Here in Denver I can appeal the inspectors decision to the building department board of code appeals. I had to write out a explanation of the situation and also cite any and all codes that applied to my situation.
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Old 11-06-2014, 04:53 PM   #12
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


He has to give you a reason why he wants the walls down.

There is a portion of the code that deals with modifications done to existing structures which is less strict.

If you read the code:

404.3 Minimum ceiling heights. Habitable spaces, hallways, corridors, laundry areas, bathrooms, toilet rooms and habitable basement areas shall have a clear ceiling height of not less than 7 feet (2134 mm).

Exceptions:

1. In one- and two-family dwellings, beams or girders spaced not less than 4 feet (1219 mm) on center and projecting not more than 6 inches (152 mm) below the required ceiling height.
2. Basement rooms in one- and two-family dwellings occupied exclusively for laundry, study or recreation purposes, having a ceiling height of not less than 6 feet 8 inches (2033 mm) with not less than 6 feet 4 inches (1932 mm) of clear height under beams, girders, ducts and similar obstructions.
3. Rooms occupied exclusively for sleeping, study or similar purposes and having a sloped ceiling over all or part of the room, with a clear ceiling height of at least 7 feet (2134 mm) over not less than one-third of the required minimum floor area. In calculating the floor area of such rooms, only those portions of the floor area with a clear ceiling height of 5 feet (1524 mm) or more shall be included.
4. Manufactured housing regulated in the Residential Code of New York State shall be permitted to retain ceiling heights provided at time of manufacture.
5. Spaces legally in existence before January 1, 2003, and spaces for which a variance has been legally granted shall be allowed to be occupied.
6. Ceiling heights reduced by necessary repairs shall be no lower than 6 feet 8 inches.

You should be OK per what you have and as the code goes, unless there is something more to it.
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Old 11-06-2014, 05:57 PM   #13
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


The Building Inspector is right.


2009 IRC:

R310.1 Emergency escape and rescue required. Basements, habitable attics and every sleeping room shall have at least one operable emergency escape and rescue opening. Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, emergency egress and rescue openings shall be required in each sleeping room. <snip> Emergency escape and rescue openings shall open directly into a public way, or to a yard or court that opens to a public way.
Exception: Basements used only to house mechanical equipment and not exceeding total floor area of 200 square feet (18.58 m2).

R305.1 Minimum height. Habitable space, hallways, bathrooms, toilet rooms, laundry rooms and portions of basements containing these spaces shall have a ceiling height of not less than 7 feet (2134 mm).

R305.1.1 Basements. Portions of basements that do not contain habitable space, hallways, bathrooms, toilet rooms and laundry rooms shall have a ceiling height of not less than 6 feet 8 inches (2032 mm).


If your basement is bigger than 200sf, it's habitable space. It doesn't matter if you call it that or not - it's a room someone could and would be likely to lay down in and go to sleep. Once you pulled the permit to build the walls, you subjected that portion of the structure to the same requirements as a new one. You either put in an egress window and have 7' ceilings, or you tear the walls out.

I think these BS definitions of "bedroom" come from RE agents, and what has to constitute a bedroom for them to list it as one. The IRC doesn't even define a "bedroom", and it makes no difference to the code whether a room has a closet or not. If it's not a bath, closet, or hallway, it's habitable space. And habitable spaces require a means of egress and a 7' ceiling.

You do have a right to appeal, but I wouldn't hold my breath for a happy ending on that... I'd probably raise holy **** with whoever reviewed your plans and issued your permit though, because this should've been caught before the permit went out.
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Old 11-06-2014, 06:54 PM   #14
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


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... I'd probably raise holy **** with whoever reviewed your plans and issued your permit though, because this should've been caught before the permit went out....
Yea, good luck with that.....

What about that big red stamp that says they are not responsible for errors and/or omissions...
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Old 11-06-2014, 07:24 PM   #15
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


or the op could have omitted something in the plans that is not seen by the codes official...regardless pissing on the inspector or the reviewer will not get you anywhere.

State your case, ask what adjustments would need to be made so that you can leave the basement be as is.
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Old 11-06-2014, 07:25 PM   #16
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Thanks everyone. I will try to get it approved with exterior walls insulated, and walls under beamed areas such as where I took the fireplace out which used to hold up the center of the 10x10 bottom plate before the 1928 addition was put in. I currently have a door and locks on the room that has the electrical panel because someone already swiped my copper wire once. It's a catch 22 on the project, I can't move in because of codes, and I can't get insurance or a loan because it's not inhabited. I've done everything out of pocket, hoping it doesn't get vandalized before I can get a legal temporary occupancy permit.

Last edited by abacab; 11-06-2014 at 07:32 PM. Reason: last paragraph added.
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Old 11-06-2014, 07:55 PM   #17
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by griz View Post
Yea, good luck with that.....

What about that big red stamp that says they are not responsible for errors and/or omissions...
We don't stamp that nonsense here on Residential plans. It either gets an ''Approved'' stamp, or I hand it back to you and tell you what needs fixed.

Regardless, I still believe the OP should explain the situation to the Building Official (but maybe not raise h***). If the permit office is turning permits out on bad plans, that's bad for everyone.

Last edited by XJCraver; 11-06-2014 at 07:57 PM.
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Old 11-06-2014, 08:01 PM   #18
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by abacab View Post
Thanks everyone. I will try to get it approved with exterior walls insulated, and walls under beamed areas such as where I took the fireplace out which used to hold up the center of the 10x10 bottom plate before the 1928 addition was put in. I currently have a door and locks on the room that has the electrical panel because someone already swiped my copper wire once. It's a catch 22 on the project, I can't move in because of codes, and I can't get insurance or a loan because it's not inhabited. I've done everything out of pocket, hoping it doesn't get vandalized before I can get a legal temporary occupancy permit.

Can you post a floor plan?
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Old 11-06-2014, 08:57 PM   #19
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


XJCraver:

I read the code differently, and my experience is different.

There's nothing in that part of the building code that says that a separate room in a basement is a sleeping room, nor does the code say that a basement larger than 200 square feet is habitable.

My experience is that you can put separate rooms in a basement, and as long as there is no evidence that the rooms are being used as bedrooms (no adjoining kitchen and bath, no bedroom furniture, etc.), building and housing departments have no problem with it.

I would appeal the decision.
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:25 PM   #20
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Very often, a code official is smarter than the person trying to sneak something by is the cheating scheme.

When you see a basement with walls, openings that is trying to get permitted, it cries out to tell many people it is just to sneak by with a minimal job and get an inspection for some sort of approval. - After that, it is a complete finishing job on the sly later to avoid a real inspection (and taxes) for a habitable/living space. Then, it could slip by later unless the inspection for a future buyer caught the sham scheme and then the sale could fall through.

It is always tempting to get a quick minimal improvement permit to avoid the problems that come later if the final finishing created a legally unusable space. - Not too much different than the foundation contractor that carries some short lengths of rebar to stick into the concrete being poured IF the inspector shows you. Unfortunately, inspectors can be wise, especially if the contractor does have enough steel on site to finish the rest of the strip footings for the foundation.

There seems to be no end to the schemes that some people go to in order to "play" with the inspectors at the expense of future owners.

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