It always pays to stay in compliance with all of your local building codes when you’re installing a new furnace. You don’t have to pull a permit for certain types of small projects, but making assumptions can be a costly mistake. Even if you reviewed all of the building codes closely when you built or bought your home, new laws and ordinances get passed all the time. Here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions about building codes and how they apply to your furnace.
What Are Building Codes?
In short, building codes are the laws and regulations that govern new construction and remodeling projects. The majority of local building codes are based on the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ (IAPMO) Uniform Mechanical Code. IAPMO updates the code every three years to reflect the current industry trends and best practices. Many states, counties and cities also have additional regulations in place.
You should be able to find most information online without making a trip to your local building department. The contractors performing the work should know the local codes, and they can help you locate the information if you wish to review it personally. Be sure to also review your local HOA covenant, if applicable.
Why Are Building Codes Important?
Failure to comply with local building codes can lead to delays, cost overruns, fines and sometimes even lawsuits. There can also be maintenance and upkeep rules and regulations in place that can further confound your problems if you’re caught and cited. Your contractor has the responsibility to pull the permits before the installation and stakes his or her license and reputation on meeting the regulations and building codes. You owe it to yourself as a homeowner to have a “trust, but verify” policy with contractors to ensure that they’re in compliance. All reputable contractors will happily show you any documentation that you ask for and answer as many questions as you have. As the homeowner, you don’t have a license at stake, but you can still get fined or wind up in court for unauthorized improvements. Any judge will also tell you that ignorance of the law is no excuse to break the law.
Pulling permits and scheduling inspections are a little inconvenient, but the consequences of skipping them can be disastrous. Furnaces and HVAC systems have an operational life expectancy of at least 15-20 years, and many furnaces can safely operate for many years past their anticipated lifespan. But they can also be extremely dangerous if they’re not properly installed. Furnaces and gas lines can blow up or leak carbon monoxide and other chemicals. Gas furnace installation is never a DIY project, no matter how handy the homeowner might happen to be. Your inspection ensures that the furnace is installed properly and safely. It will also help you avoid many of the expensive repairs that can result from a botched furnace installation.
Will I Need to Pull a Permit?
Your permit is your official permission from the local government to alter, move, or add to structures on your property. Before the work can begin, contractors must obtain, or “pull,” a permit. Each community and neighborhood will have its own restrictions and requirements, and local contractors should be familiar with the procedures to pull the permits so that they can proceed with the installation. You might not need a permit for a new stove if it doesn’t require you to move or otherwise disturb your gas lines, but you’ll typically need to pull a permit to install or remove a furnace or air conditioner.
What if I Own a Historic Home?
Even if your home isn’t historically protected, your existing furnace or HVAC system will usually be grandfathered into the codes or covenants that were in place at the time that you purchased the home. You should have a record of the home inspection in the paperwork you signed at closing, but you won’t have to monitor any new laws or make any other upgrades to remain in compliance. Your insurer might deny coverage or insist on repairs, and you might have to make repairs if you plan on selling your house. Be sure to also review all restrictions and covenants in place if your home is in a historically protected neighborhood or district.
What Happens During an Inspection?
Your permit fee will cover the expense of a third-party inspection. The inspection serves to ensure that the work meets the manufacturer’s specifications and is in compliance with all local and state building codes. During the inspection, the inspector might note or report other conditions that are obviously unsafe at the home or business but is only there to focus on the furnace installation. The inspector will normally be a seasoned professional who knows how to locate common installation mistakes. Some of the things that the inspector looks for include improperly sized ductwork, insufficient ventilation and any other obstructions that can hinder airflow or system performance.
Some jobs might require more than one inspection. If you’re building a new house or doing major remodeling, you’ll want to pull a two-trip permit. This will cover both a “rough” and a final inspection. During the initial inspection, the inspector will take a look at what’s behind the walls before it gets covered up. If there are any problems that need to be addressed, it’s much easier to deal with them before the walls are finished out. Once any issues that need to be addressed are resolved, the inspector will return for a final inspection after the drywall gets hung and the registers go on. If any problems are noted at the final inspection, additional inspections might be required at the homeowner’s expense. The timelines for small projects such as furnace installations aren’t as rigid as they are for other types of building permits. Once your contractor obtains the permit, you’ll usually have a year to have the work inspected.
What Are the Benefits of Professional Furnace Installation and Service?
Furnaces should only be installed by a properly licensed contractor. Their licensure requires them to complete continuing education and to be insured and bonded. The insurance and the bond are there for your protection as the homeowner. If contractors fail to pull the right permits, botch up the installation or cause any property damage, their license is on the line. Unlicensed contractors don’t have the ability to pull permits, and operating without the proper license is against the law.
The real benefit of working with licensed professionals is the knowledge that they are fully committed to meeting the standards for every job. This includes undergoing continuing education to maintain licensure and often also maintaining an ongoing membership in a professional network or trade union.
Our licensed and bonded technicians are always a phone call away when you need quality HVAC, plumbing or electrical services. Contact Express Home Services today if you have any questions or if you would like to schedule a service appointment near Bountiful, UT, or Las Vegas, NV.