What You Should Know About Load Codes for Your Home Project

Anyone who has built, designed or remodeled a home has heard the term “built to code” and people saying, “The code requires it to be like that.” And when we hear things like this, we tend to think we’re getting a house designed and built to the highest standard.

But that’s not necessarily so. What the building codes do is establish an absolute minimum standard. This minimum may not be what you need in your home. You could, in fact, easily have needs that require the design and construction of your home to exceed code.

Load Codes 1: Wanda Ely Architect Inc, original photo on Houzz

This is especially the case when it comes to structural items. While the code mandates that structural systems be designed to support certain minimum loads, and to do so within certain tolerances, these minimums and tolerances may not be what you actually need. Who wants to live in a house where the floors are so bouncy that you feel like you’re walking on a trampoline? And what happens when you decide to move a water bed into the bedroom next to that stack of heavy books you cherish? Will you need to have your floor joists doubled up under that big soaking tub you are planning?

It’s wise to think about particular situations like this and look at the code mandates as a starting place, not the finish.

Load Codes 2: Bud Dietrich AIA, original photo on Houzz

Weight Loads

Building codes establish many project requirements, not the least of which is the project’s structure. This holds true no matter what material the house will be built of. And a key to designing a structural system is to determine what loads, or weights, will be imposed.

So we first have to look at what the house will be made of (wood, concrete, steel, masonry etc.) to determine the dead load — the weight of materials used in the permanent construction of the house. Note that it doesn’t include items like furniture, people, toys, books, television sets etc. and will vary only a little bit over the lifetime of the house.

Next we use the governing building code to determine what the minimum live load — the impact of movable objects such as furniture and people — will be. For example, per code, the main living areas of a house have to be able to accommodate a uniform live load of 40 pounds per square foot. Bedrooms have a code requirement of 30 pounds per square foot, and roof structures have a varying live load, depending on climate (more snow equals more weight) and roof pitch (steeper roofs will shed snow faster).

Load Codes 3: Bud Dietrich AIA, original photo on Houzz

But the code-mandated uniform loading may not accommodate all of your furniture and books, that large cast iron soaking tub, your water bed etc. So you’ll want to identify any items that this code-mandated requirement won’t accommodate and design the structure accordingly. Otherwise, the extra weight of these items can cause the structure to fail.

When we say a structure has failed, we don’t necessarily mean the house has collapsed. Failure can simply mean a part of the structure has failed so there’s too much deflection. This will result in uneven floors, gaps between walls and floors, and so on.

Load Codes 4: Bud Dietrich AIA, original photo on Houzz

Deflection

Deflection is the distance that a structural member (say, a floor joist) will bend when a load is placed on it. The greater the distance, the more the deflection and the less level the floor.

In addition to holding up a certain load, a structure has to stay rigid and keep its shape. But that’s nearly impossible, as any structure will start to deflect the moment any load is placed on it.

The code requires that this deflection be limited to L/360, where L is the length of the unsupported span. This means that for a floor structure that spans 18 feet (not uncommon in newer homes with open floor plans), the maximum allowable deflection is 0.6 inches.

In other words, a floor can sag more than a half inch and still be deemed OK. So some architects and engineers will use L/480 to calculate the allowable deflection. For an 18-foot span, using L/480 would limit the amount of deflection to 0.45 inches.

While the difference between 0.6 and 0.45 inches may seem insignificant, it really isn’t when it comes to a floor structure that gets walked on all the time.

Load Codes 5: LDa Architecture & Interiors, original photo on Houzz

If you’re designing or remodeling a house, have a conversation with your architect and builder about what you plan to put into your home and how the structure will accommodate it.

By Bud Dietrich AIA, Houzz

The post What You Should Know About Load Codes for Your Home Project appeared first on Fort Collins Real Estate | Fort Collins Homes for Sale & Property Search.

A Home Addition: What to Consider Before Starting to Build

Adding on to your current home may be your best bet if you’re short on space, but you don’t want to move or can’t find another house in the area with all the qualities you’re seeking. It’s also an attractive option if the house you have is lacking just one significant element (a family room, another bedroom, a larger kitchen, a separate apartment, etc.).

On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.

Define your needs

To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.

If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”

If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.

Types of additions

Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one or more walls to make a first floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.

First floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sun room. But this approach can also take away yard space.

Dormer addition—For homes with steep roof-lines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.

Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.

Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.

Permits required

You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.

Requirements for a legal apartment

While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:

  • Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it, or zone-approval requirements.
  • Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
  • ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.

In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.

Average costs

The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square foot if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area, or about $100 per foot in a lower-priced market.

You might be wondering how much of that money might the project return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details; but the average “recoup” rate for a family-room addition is typically more than 80 percent.

The bottom line

While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.

The post A Home Addition: What to Consider Before Starting to Build appeared first on Best Real Estate Agents in Northern Colorado.

Indoor Air Quality Basics

Most of us tend to think of air pollution as something that occurs outdoors where car exhaust and factory fumes proliferate, but there’s such a thing as indoor air pollution, too.  Since the 1950s, the number of synthetic chemicals used in products for the home has increased drastically, while at the same time, homes have become much tighter and better insulated. As a result, the EPA estimates that indoor pollutants today are anywhere from five to 70 times higher than pollutants in outside air.

Luckily, there are many ways to reduce indoor air pollution. We all know that buying organic and natural home materials and cleaning supplies can improve the air quality in our homes, but there are several other measures you can take as well.

How pollutants get into our homes

Potentially toxic ingredients are found in many materials throughout the home, and they leach out into the air as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. If you open a can of paint, you can probably smell those VOCs. The “new car smell” is another example of this. The smell seems to dissipate after a while, but VOCs can actually “off-gas” for a long time, even after a noticeable smell is gone.

We all know to use paint and glue in a well-ventilated room, but there are many other materials that don’t come with that warning. For instance, there are chemicals, such as formaldehyde, in the resin used to make most cabinets and plywood particle board. It’s also in wall paneling and closet shelves, and in certain wood finishes used on cabinets and furniture. The problems aren’t just with wood, either. Fabrics—everything from draperies to upholstery, bedding, and carpets—are a potent source of VOCs.

The good news about VOCs is that they do dissipate with time. For that reason, the highest levels of VOCs are usually found in new homes or remodels. If you are concerned about VOCs, there are several products you can buy that are either low- or no-VOC. You can also have your home professionally tested.

How to reduce VOCs in your home

Make smart choices in building materials.

  • For floors, use tile or solid wood—hardwood, bamboo, or cork – instead of composites.
  • Instead of using pressed particle board or indoor plywood, choose solid wood or outdoor-quality plywood that uses a less toxic form of formaldehyde.
  • Choose low-VOC or VOC-free paints and finishes.

Purify the air that’s there.

  • Make sure your rooms have adequate ventilation, and air out newly renovated or refurnished areas for at least a week, if possible.
  • Clean ductwork and furnace filters regularly.
  • Install air cleaners if needed.
  • Use only environmentally responsible cleaning chemicals.
  • Plants can help clean the air: good nonpoisonous options include bamboo palm, lady palm, parlor palm, and moth orchids.
  • Air out freshly dry-cleaned clothes or choose a “green” cleaner.

Fight the carpet demons.

  • Choose “Green Label” carpeting or a natural fiber such as wool or sisal.
  • Use nails instead of glue to secure carpet.
  • Install carpet LAST after completing painting, wall coverings and other high-VOC processes.
  • Air out newly carpeted areas before using.
  • Use a HEPA vacuum or a central vac system that vents outdoors.

Prevent Mold.

  • Clean up water leaks fast.
  • Use dehumidifiers, if necessary, to keep humidity below 60 percent.
  • Don’t carpet rooms that stay damp.
  • Insulate pipes, crawl spaces, and windows to eliminate condensation.
  • Kill mold before it gets a grip with one-half cup of bleach per gallon of water.

We hope this information is helpful. If you would like to learn more about VOCs and indoor air quality, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/iaq/.

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