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City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.

 
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:54 PM   #21
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


I don't care if you put a wall, a door or a closet. You are allowed a clean recreation room, study laundry... Whatever. You will not get realestate credit for a bedroom without an egress window but that's irrelevant.
Existing homes fall under rehab codes. Ceiling hieght is technically infeasable.
Board of appeals would not object.
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Old 11-06-2014, 11:04 PM   #22
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


One thing that they do care about before you close is fire blocking the rim joist, maybe that's the issue.
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Old 11-07-2014, 08:10 AM   #23
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


I agree with Tom, fire blocking is in the code, and it should cover the void between sill plate to the top plate.
When I do basements I put fire block before we erect exterior walls.

Now you also have to do a vertical fire block 10' OC

Here is an example
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Old 11-07-2014, 12:25 PM   #24
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by CarpenterSFO View Post
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.


You can't look at "that part of the building code" only, and make a determination on whether a particular installation is compliant or not. You must take the code as a whole, and the project must comply with all parts of the code that are applicable to it. That's why we have plan reviewers at the permit office, so they can assure that all this is done.

So, lets take this project from the beginning:

I don't know where the OP is from other than the Midwest, so this is based on what I use here, the 2009 IRC. I also don't have a floor plan, so going by his description only, we have a project in an existing single-family dwelling to add interior walls to a previously unfinished basement. Then we go to the code book:

R101.2 Scope. The provisions of the International Residential Code for One- and Two-family Dwellings shall apply to the construction, alteration, movement, enlargement, replacement, repair, equipment, use and occupancy, location, removal and demolition of detached one- and two-family dwellings and townhouses not more than three stories above grade plane in height with a separate means of egress and their accessory structures.
Exception: Live/work units complying with the requirements of Section 419 of the International Building Code shall be permitted to be built as one- and two-family dwellings or townhouses. Fire suppression required by Section 419.5 of the International Building Code when constructed under the International Residential Code for One- and Two-family Dwellings shall conform to Section 903.3.1.3 of the International Building Code.



So that tells us, since this is a single-family dwelling and he is altering the structure, this code is the one we apply. Reading further, we come to:


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 as is specifically covered in this code, the International Property Maintenance Code or the International Fire Code, or as is deemed necessary by the building official for the general safety and welfare of the occupants and the public.

R102.7.1 Additions, alterations or repairs. Additions, alterations or repairs to any structure shall conform to the requirements for a new structure without requiring the existing structure to comply with all of the requirements of this code, unless otherwise stated. Additions, alterations or repairs shall not cause an existing structure to become unsafe or adversely affect the performance of the building.



This says that the existing structure and occupancy can remain as they are, but that the new work being completed must meet all the requirements of the code.

So then, we now know that the IRC is the code we're going to follow, and that all the new work that we're doing is going to have to be code-compliant. Forgetting the "Habitable Space" argument entirely, lets just read through the rest of the book and see what it wants us to do:

Reading through Ch. 3, we find requirements we must follow pertaining to opening protectives, fireblocking, flame spreads, draftstopping, etc. We read on and find light, ventilation, and heating requirements for our room(s) that we're building. Then we read Section 305, which gives us our ceiling heights:



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).

Exception: Beams, girders, ducts or other obstructions may project to within 6 feet 4 inches (1931 mm) of the finished floor.



If the ceilings in the project are 7' 7-3/4" as the OP describes, then we're fine here and we move on. We can pass over Sec's. 306, 307, 308, and 309 because we (assumed) don't have any sanitation, bathroom, glazing, or garage/carport considerations on the project. We read on into Section 310:


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. Where emergency escape and rescue openings are provided they shall have a sill height of not more than 44 inches (1118 mm) above the floor. Where a door opening having a threshold below the adjacent ground elevation serves as an emergency escape and rescue opening and is provided with a bulkhead enclosure, the bulkhead enclosure shall comply with Section R310.3. The net clear opening dimensions required by this section shall be obtained by the normal operation of the emergency escape and rescue opening from the inside. Emergency escape and rescue openings with a finished sill height below the adjacent ground elevation shall be provided with a window well in accordance with Section R310.2. 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).



Since this project involves an alteration of the basement, and since we know from what we read in 102.7 that if we're altering the structure that the alteration has to fall within the requirements of the code, we now know from 310.1 that if our basement is bigger than 200 sf that we have to install an EERO in our basement (and my guess is this is why the Inspector says the walls have to come out - lack of an EERO is a definite violation).

And then we read through the rest of the code book, and apply the sections that are applicable. Sec. 311 requires Means of Egress from the basement (which is the stairs - and if you've altered the basement, that means your stairs out of the basement now have to be compliant), which you build in accordance with Sec. 311.7 and Sec. 312. Sec 315 tells us we have to have a CO alarm in the basement if there are fuel-fired appliances down there. If the wall the OP built where the chimney was is load bearing, we'll look at Chapter 4 to see what kind of foundation has to be under that wall, and Ch. 6 to tell us how that wall is built. We'll look at Ch. 11 for our Energy requirements, Ch. 12 - 25 for mechanical and fuel-gas requirements, Ch. 25 - 33 for plumbing, and then Ch. 34 - 43 for electrical and appliance reqs. As we're looking through these, they'll tell us which sections apply to our project (for example: 314.3.1 tells us that whenever ANY permit is pulled for any kind of work inside the structure, and there is a ceiling and/or wall open, we have to install interconnected smoke alarms throughout the dwelling) and which don't (ex: 1202.1 tells us that if we add a new duct to our HVAC system, that only that duct and NOT the whole HVAC system must meet the requirements of the code), just as the part we discussed above does.


You have to take the code as a whole. You can't pick and choose which parts of it you want to use for your projects, just like WE can't pick and choose which parts of it we want to enforce. It's a complete document, and it references even more documents, and we all have to use the whole thing.

If the OP's jurisdiction has adopted the Existing Building Code, he may have options through it to comply. But based solely on the IRC, his installation of walls in the basement without providing an EERO fails, and that's why his inspector told him to tear it out, and to fix the stairs.
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Old 11-07-2014, 05:55 PM   #25
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


If I was aware of what was allowed, I would have done only that. My main objective is to make it look neat, I don't care about any of the rooms, so I would be happy with just the outside walls studded and insulated. I walled one section off originally to keep my tools and electrical box safe as someone broke in and swiped my copper. At this point, I'm thinking it will be easiest to lower the floor and put in an egress. There is only an inch or two of concrete, and sand underneath.

I don't have time to read everything above at the moment, but the ceilings are 6' 7 3/4" I also live in Michigan.

One thing he mentioned is that stairs can be 8 1/4" high, and 9 inches deep. This was adopted in Michigan only (I think) and if I had known I may have been able to eliminate one step and make it legal. I guess I will be tearing it apart, not a simple job given the landing and other set of stairs.

Last edited by abacab; 11-07-2014 at 06:22 PM.
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Old 11-07-2014, 07:20 PM   #26
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


'Alteration of the space" leaves alot to the imagination.

Alteration to an object or building element is entirely different. You change those stairs then yes they need to meet egress standards, If you put in a window then yes it needs to meet light,ventilation and egress requirement if the space lacks that criteria.
But putting up drywall does not alter the space, it finishes it.

The only violation I would see is removal or alteration of load bering elements, lack of or uninspected fireblocking pre drywall and electrical concerns. And of course if you further a non compliance by closing up windows or boxing rooms with them.

The code does allow the construction offical to make discretionary calls but not on assumptions. If a code offical saw a bed in a room while there for something else then he could red sticker it.

No disrespect XJCraver if this is how you enforce it but this is why there is a board of appeals.
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Old 11-07-2014, 11:14 PM   #27
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


I believe XJCraver's post to be broadly wrong. Anyone caring about these questions should read the code.
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Last edited by CarpenterSFO; 11-08-2014 at 01:43 AM.
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Old 11-08-2014, 12:38 AM   #28
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by XJCraver View Post
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.

Even if it's not stamped it's every AHJ's (Authority Having Jurisdiction) policy, upheld by law, that they are not responsible for any errors, omissions, oversights, etc..
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Old 11-08-2014, 07:36 AM   #29
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by CarpenterSFO View Post
I believe XJCraver's post to be broadly wrong. Anyone caring about these questions should read the code.
I agree. Which is why I posted what I did in first reply.

Not interested in a p*ssing contest - confirmed my statements beforehand with 2 local CEs - one where we (city) are currently reviewing code enforcement broadly, and the other who has been a frenemy/neighbor for 30 some years.

I also do not want to sidetrack into non-relevant esoteric areas.

abacab has enough on his plate, and Tom M sums it up nicely.
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Old 11-10-2014, 09:57 AM   #30
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Meh. I have no interest in a p!ssing contest either, and I hope it didn't come across that way. I was just giving my interpretation of the OP's project. If he can get his Appeals Board to see it differently than his Inspector (and myself) did, then that will be fantastic and I'll be happy for him.

I've been wrong before, and I'll be wrong again. This kind of project and these kinds of questions are why the appeals process is there, and I'm glad it is.
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Old 11-10-2014, 02:58 PM   #31
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


If I take what XJCarver says as gospel truth, I only have to lower the floor of one room, if I want a compliant bedroom down there, all my other walls are around laundry rooms, hallway, and furnace room. If they really stick to the letter of the law, I can shave 1/4" off the underside of my joists.

The fireplace was along the outside of the house, before the addition was put in, they cut out twelve foot of the basement wall, leaving the fireplace about in the middle. Once I took the fireplace out, those beams were floating out in space. I built a wall under the old foundation footing where the old concrete wall used to be. I will try and get some prints up.
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Old 11-10-2014, 05:07 PM   #32
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


After all the meaningless details, excuses and so-called legal opinions, it still smells like a job that was trying to be slipped by by a contractor that was not as smart as an inspector that sees the final desired result after the home is dumped on someone else in a few years to finish it and finally get an approved structure, despite excessive costs due to short-cuts.
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Old 11-10-2014, 10:31 PM   #33
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom M View Post
One thing that they do care about before you close is fire blocking the rim joist, maybe that's the issue.
Everything is properly fireblocked, he even complimented me on it. I think number 2 of the code is my saving grace:

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.

I have a hallway, laundry room, and study/recreation area. All I have to do is rent a heavy duty planner and shave 1/4 inch off the bottoms of these joists, and make the stairs compliant.

I'm taking the month of January off, so I can spend my time reading up on the code.

I have the basement print attached.
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Old 11-10-2014, 10:34 PM   #34
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Took it down, has my name and phone number on it. Will put it up later without.

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Old 11-10-2014, 11:54 PM   #35
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by abacab View Post
Everything is properly fireblocked, he even complimented me on it. I think number 2 of the code is my saving grace:

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.

I have a hallway, laundry room, and study/recreation area. All I have to do is rent a heavy duty planner and shave 1/4 inch off the bottoms of these joists, and make the stairs compliant.

I'm taking the month of January off, so I can spend my time reading up on the code.

I have the basement print attached.
Hopefully he doesn't see you smalled the joists
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Old 11-11-2014, 11:17 AM   #36
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
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Took it down, has my name and phone number on it. Will put it up later without.
If I were an AHJ, I'd red-tag you for that "print" - not legible. Homeowners can get away with that mebbe, not peeps charging for their services.

Oh, and shaving/planning/shrinking those joists - good way to get a permanent re-tag there as well.

You really, really need to get back to Step 1.

Step 1 is a written description of work to be done/submitted.

Here, I'll start:

Step 1: Install 2x4 16" oc load bearing wall to provide support removed by previous owner.(See structural detail A).

Step 2: Insulate perimeter walls using 2x4 16" oc studs. Fill cavities with R13 fiberglass batts and drywall/paint to finish (See Section Detail BB).

Step 3:

Look, by and large, AHJs will give you a workable path going forward.
But you have to make a competent effort to describe the work, and meet code.

When that is done, they "may" choose to approve (with provisions noted). Spend the 5 minutes or so needed to go over it with the Building Official - you may be surprised how much can be gained that way. Usually, no need to even seek an appeals process.

and BTW, even though that room with the electrical panel isn't labeled as one, it has a window, and sure looks like a bedroom.

OK, out of "hints" or whatever, carry on...
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Old 11-11-2014, 06:02 PM   #37
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


I am the homeowner. I spend about 3 hours a week on this house if I'm lucky. I'm just glad I didn't have to spend more time on it. It also looks worse when scanned for some reason. (I didn't even notice how bad it is until I looked at it scanned). I've been building for 25 years, I haven't ever had a problem, but I've never had a ceiling below 6' 8"

I would not shave joists down without permission. In the big room, I'd probably have to double up the joists.

At this point I'd rather be able to advertise the house for 4 bedrooms, 2 baths. It's worth the few thousand to make it right.
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Old 11-11-2014, 06:09 PM   #38
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
Originally Posted by concretemasonry View Post
After all the meaningless details, excuses and so-called legal opinions, it still smells like a job that was trying to be slipped by by a contractor that was not as smart as an inspector that sees the final desired result after the home is dumped on someone else in a few years to finish it and finally get an approved structure, despite excessive costs due to short-cuts.
If I was trying to do something against the codes, I would have waited until everything else was done and approved. What someone else does is on them. My one regret is that I did not put ceiling heights on the print, I thought that writing in the unfinished ceilings was sufficient and cancelled the need for a minimum ceiling height.
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Old 11-11-2014, 06:20 PM   #39
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Quote:
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If I was trying to do something against the codes, I would have waited until everything else was done and approved. What someone else does is on them. My one regret is that I did not put ceiling heights on the print, I thought that writing in the unfinished ceilings was sufficient and cancelled the need for a minimum ceiling height.
'bout time you said that!
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Old 11-12-2014, 01:22 PM   #40
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Re: City Making Me Tear Basement Walls Out.


Today I went down and got a permit for a basement remodel (a different project) with 6' 10" ceiling heights and I had no problems. The guy who inspected my house was not there, but the inspector who was even looked it up in the code book. If I interpret what was said above, my basement has to follow the codes for new construction, not remodeling code. It is however an existing building (?!). The new remodeling project I have already has one bedroom in the basement and a living room, so that means that I'm not changing the use of the basement so it only has to follow the remodeling code (?).

I also rechecked my floor joists, and discovered they are all 6' 8" next to the foundation wall, but as you go out to the center of the room, it bowes down up to 1/2 inch.

I don't have to get this basement taken care of immediately, as he's already agreed to let me finish 150 sq ft on the main floor and live in it.

Anybody know the codes for exterior basement walls? I'd love to be able to have something in the code that would allow me to at least keep these and insulate them (if for some reason they still refuse to let me have walls in the basement).

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