Homes built today are constructed according to building codes, a set of rules that specify the standards for construction. As home inspectors we are “generalists”, we are not usually trained in code, so we generally do not use code to backup our statements. In some cases, a particular issue may have been installed “according to code” when the home was built, but that code has changed. There are no legal obligations, for a homeowner to “upgrade” to current code, and instead of citing code, for say a “safety” issue, we may “recommend” upgrading for safety purposes.
After the great fire of Chicago in 1871, building codes started addressing the risks buildings posed to the public and in 1905, the National Board of Fire Underwriters, created the National Building Code. These codes have evolved over time and now there are multiple organizations that write and update code standards. To further complicate things, the local AHJ (Authority having jurisdiction) such as a city or municipality chooses the codes they will follow. This makes it difficult for the home inspector to know every code version and update year a municipality uses.
That brings us back to my description of Home Inspectors as “generalists”, if we are doing our jobs correctly, we stick to plain writing and common-sense explanations. If there is still a question, as your Inspector, we will recommend that the issue is reviewed by the local AHJ or qualified contractor. Another important part of the process is engaging in “conversation” with your inspector, this gives you the opportunity to ask questions and build a foundation for understanding the report. Some parts of the report you will consider during the negotiation process and other parts will help you with caring for the home after you take ownership.