Keeping up with Codes

Keeping up with building codes is an important part of any construction project. Building in an earthquake zone such as Sonoma, Calif., adds to the importance of keeping a watchful eye on code compliance.

In California, building codes are constantly changing, says HGTV Dream Home builder Bruce Lee. Wind sheer and seismic issues have a lot to do with the frequency of code changes that make buildings in California more structurally sound.

Code changes don’t just mean changes in how homes are built, Lee explains. They also impact project cost. “There are more structural materials that we have to put into the homes, so that, in fact, creates more cost,” Lee says.

Unfortunately there’s no way of getting around the added costs for code compliance, says Steve Ledson, HGTV Dream Home developer. “The laws are, you have to do it that way. Does it cost more? It does. I think it could be misconstrued about how much it might cost. Yes, you pay a good engineer to engineer it right. You spend a little bit more money, but you'll actually save a little bit in some of the work required in the house because it's actually done right. [Engineers] understand exactly what to use and in which applications. It does cost more money than if I was building in a state where there was no earthquakes,” Ledson says.

But in California, earthquakes are the reality, which means the codes that affect the engineering of home construction such as lateral and up-and-down movement, are more strict than in other states, Ledson says. “I think it's a good thing because we do have earthquakes from time to time in California. I can't think of a building that I've built that had more than a hairline little crack in all the years that we've built. So, I think it pays off for those extra steps that you need to go through.”

Lee takes the extra step of marking code requirements such as nailing specs directly on sheer walls, for example, to prepare for a site visit from the inspector. “Yesterday we just had an inspection of the roof nailing and the sheer wall nailing. And what I did was, I marked on the sheer wall, the plywood, what the requirement for the nailing was, and the straps. So when the inspector comes in, they don't have to open up the plans. They just look right there, and we all know. The person nailing the wall knows. I know, and the inspector knows what's required for that particular wall,” Lee says.

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