Is My House Up to Code?

Real Estate Agent with Thompson Real Estate

Even though it is possible to sell a home with code violations, a house with no violations can land better offers, avoid penalties, and rule out bad reviews after home inspections. It is also possible to scare buyers away due to improper maintenance. Knowing about code violations and how you can avoid them is your best bet if you plan on selling your house. Keep reading to find out how you can avoid them!

What Does Being Up to Code Mean?

Building codes and violations vary from region to region. Most local housing codes are based on IBC (International Building Code) guidelines. IBC guidelines cover the International Fuel Gas Code, International Plumbing Code, and International Fire Code. A home that is up to code should meet safety requirements:

  • Does your home have fire escapes or exits?
  • Are plumbing lines intact and working?
  • Is the construction of your home robust and safe?
  • Is your home well-lit?
  • Is your home properly ventilated?
  • Is the HVAC system or heating/cooling system working efficiently?
  • Are construction materials fireproof?

5 Code Violations to Avoid

Now that you know what up to code means, it is time to look at major code violations you can avoid:

Acquire a Permit

Obtaining a contractor's license for home improvements is necessary, and you should also obtain permits for any remodeling work. This ensures:

  • Inspectors will not penalize the home
  • Construction is safe and reliable
  • Construction complies with water conservation policies
  • Construction complies with the latest energy-saving rules
  • It makes house maintenance less costly
  • It makes the property easily marketable

Any violations may need to be fixed, causing an extra financial burden before you sell your home. Buyers can also sue homeowners if any code violations are noticed later on or if any fixes are not up to mark. Consult local building authorities to see if your home needs permits, what construction materials to use, and whether an inspection is required.

Test for Hazardous Materials

Asbestos and lead are two construction materials often found in older buildings. Since their disposal is strictly regulated in most regions, it is best to test construction materials for presence before disposing of them or making use of any. Safe disposal is necessary to protect human health, especially for those that work in landfills and construction sites. Asbestos is commonly found in houses built before 1970. Common infrastructures include:

  • Vermiculite attic insulation
  • Drywall joint compound
  • Popcorn ceiling texture
  • Vinyl tile
  • Hot-water pipe
  • Duct insulation
  • Cement shingle siding

You can also pay a small amount to a testing facility to check for presence. It is a good idea to contact local building authorities or your region's Occupational Safety and Health Administration department if you suspect asbestos presence. They will then guide you on the proper removal and tests required.

Lead paint was banned in 1978. Laws disapprove the use of and working with construction materials containing lead. You may be charged a hefty fine if your home is found to have any lead traces. Scraping, painting, sanding, or cutting materials with lead is also hazardous to residents. You can buy a DIY lead testing kit to check for presence.

Poor Bathroom Ventilation

Poor ventilation in a new or old bathroom is a major code violation, especially if the vents do not lead to the air outside the house. Some people might easily lead the vents to an attic, but this allows humidity to cause rot and mold in the area.

  • Building codes state that any ventilation fan inside the home must lead air outside via a four-inch diameter pipe.
  • If you use inexpensive fans with three-inch diameter fittings, buy a converter pipe to avoid breaking the rules.

Messy Electrical Work

Poor electrical wiring is not only difficult to maintain, but it can also be life-threatening.

  • Do not splice wires without a junction box
  • Do not connect several wires
  • Do not use electrical tape to make poor connections; solder them instead
  • Refrigerators are an exception and can be run on a 15-ampere circuit
  • Avoid using incorrectly sized circuits. Do not splice it into a lighting circuit if you wish to add a receptacle. Opt for extending to a 20-ampere circuit instead
  • Junction boxes must be easily accessible and visible
  • Use a GFCI for circuits in wet areas like outdoors, laundry, kitchens, bathrooms, and garages

Take Note of Fencing Height

Fencing heights can easily cause fights between neighbors. You may come under fire from building and local departments for not following fixed requirements. They may also tear down your fence if you are in violation. Your fences should not be too tall or short. An ideal dense should be around 6 feet tall around the house with a height between 42 and 48 inches at the front.


Knowing about code violations can help you avoid them. Avoiding them will prevent penalties, bad inspection reviews, and difficulty selling your house.

Comments (2)

Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker
Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great day.
Sep 23, 2022 04:10 AM
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Melissa, this is a difficult part working with relocation buyers.  In Denver, if a home was built in the 70's or 80's, it doesn't need to conform to today's guidelines, unless they do remodeling.

Sep 23, 2022 07:37 AM