Sunday, August 19, 2007

Inspection fun

We had a fire inspector and a city inspector out this past week, and I'm starting to get a little disheartened about everything we need to do.. I understand conceptually why they want us to do things now - once the foundation work is done, there isn't anything else we'll need to go through the planning office for. If they want us to change out the ugly windows or bring the back deck up to modern code, the only leverage they have is this one big permit we're trying to get for the foundation. We have every intention of getting rid of the ugly windows (that no one but us can see anyway because they're in the back of the house!), and I would love to someday build a new, pretty deck like we built at our old house.. but they have no way of knowing that. And, dealing with the public at large, I imagine that the "just trust us, we'll do it right" line could only end badly.
But still.. we're just trying to fix up our house to make it a nice, safe place and trying to do it the correct, legal way is frustratingly difficult.

So, back to the inspectors..

The fire inspector came and looked and said he was fine with it as-is. No problem, he says. Then the city inspector arrived.

It's too close to the property line.
Which we knew was one of the big issues. Modern codes call for a much bigger setback than what we have. Because the back deck is the entire width of the house, and the house itself is too close to the property line, we expected this to be a discussion point. We were hoping that the deck was built early enough, and would be subject to the codes in effect at the time of its construction, that we wouldn't have to cut it back by 6 feet.
What I didn't know, was that it was a fire issue. So we were given a choice: Either cut it back 6' or build a one hour firewall on the outside edge. (I'll mention here in the most respectful way possible that the fire inspector didn't seem to mind.. and that the entire house which is sided with wood goes right up to the property line.. but the inspector didn't seem to care, so now it just seems like whining)
So, we don't have all the specifics of the firewall (how tall it needs to be, how far it needs to come out, what possible materials other than sheetrock would be acceptable..), that will all be in the inspector's official writeup. Which we haven't gotten yet. But the inspector seemed confused by why we didn't want to just cut it back. "Because we thought it was part of the house when we bought it. It's a nice, sunny place to sit. And we like it," apparently wasn't a convincing reason.

The rise of the stairs varies by more than the acceptable limit
The biggest problem here is that the concrete footing, which is formed into the first stair is WAY too high now that we've pulled out all the weeds and trash from the yard. The plan was to have that repoured with the main foundation, which it's attached to. But if we need to bring the stairs entirely up to code before we can do the foundation, then we'll have to pour all that separately (ask me how much I love mixing concrete.. go on, ask me!) and then have the foundation tied to it. Possible, sure.. but definitely less efficient and more difficult than just doing the foundation first and pouring all the concrete at once.

At this point in the discussion, the point were I was explaining how we definitely were going to repour the footing when we did the foundation, the inspector got all distracted by the crumbling foundation underneath the rotting sillplate and said "wow, you guys need to redo that foundation."

I almost screamed.

Instead, I said "Yes. I know. That's what we're trying to do. That's how this whole discussion of the back porch came up.. we're trying to get the permits to do the foundation, but now it seems that we need to bring this deck up to modern code before that will be possible. Which is frustrating"
To which he replied "hmm.. well, you'll need to get a permit before you can start the work on the porch."

The handrails have issues.
This was the other thing we knew we'd probably have to deal with. The ballisters under the handrail are too far apart, . We need to close up the gaps between them. Also, the height of the handrail varies substantially from the top, where it's taller than the minimum 36" it needs to be, to the bottom, where it's about 3" too short.

Everything else was pretty good. The railing around the porch was fine, except the bottom board needs to be raised by about an inch. The gap between the bottom two is just slightly more than is ok, and the bottom one is sitting right on the deck, which would trap water.. that'll be an hour or two of work, so it's not a big deal.
And all the framing was fine. Each joist has adequate support, and the sizing and spacing was fine.

So now we wait for the official report. Which I still hope (because my annoying optimism apparently has no bounds) will say something to the effect of: The deck was built early enough that the only thing you need to worry about are correcting the rise of those bottom 2 steps.


Kevy said...

While you're pouring the foundation you should add that inspector to the mix!
OMG! I would have screamed.

Ayse said...

By the by, we have a concrete mixer you guys can borrow if you need it. Makes mixing concrete a lot less painful.

The runaround with the city about the deck is ridiculous. Given the distance from other structures, they really should just grandfather it in and stop giving you grief about it. So odd that they haven't been pains in the butt with us about the extremely stupid conditions at our place.

(We've been away for weeks or I would have posted this earlier.)