DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum (http://www.diychatroom.com/)
-   Remodeling (http://www.diychatroom.com/f15/)
-   -   Basement finished with Low Ceilings and no permit (http://www.diychatroom.com/f15/basement-finished-low-ceilings-no-permit-35891/)

missy22 01-14-2009 02:40 PM

Basement finished with Low Ceilings and no permit
 
My Husband had the basement finished and did not obtain a permit. Now we are thinking of selling. The Ceilings are not compliant with the code of 7'. The Ceilings are at 6'10" and under the duct work is exactly 6'.

Is it hard to get a permit with a variance after the fact? Also, what is the worst case scenario. Could I really have to remove the work in order to sell my home?

ponch37300 01-14-2009 03:14 PM

good luck. inspectors do not like it when you try to get away with something and then ask them to approve it after the fact. If you ask for a varience now then i am going to assume that yes you will be removing the ceiling and drywall on the walls to have the electrical/framing/insulation inspected. This is case and point why you shouldn't try to cut corners and do things right-get a permit.

Leah Frances 01-14-2009 04:10 PM

Call your city/town office and find out who you need to talk to about building permits. Call the permit office/inspection office ASAP, you don't have to give them your name (a prepaid cell phone will help insure your anonimity:wink:).

Ask a hypothetical question: how does a homeowner deal with it when they neglected/forgot/refused to/overlooked getting their work permitted?

Write down the name of the person you talked to and take notes about what they say. Remember to Breathe and ask lots of questions. Don't freak out.

Bottom line - not a single person on this forum can tell you what your local municipality will do. The only way to know is to rip off the bandaid and ask. Sorry.

Best case scenario: you won't be able to note the finished basement as living space in any real estate listing since it is not up to code with or without permits.

Worst case scenario: I'm not going there. Others will. Call the governing body and let us know what they say.

Aggie67 01-14-2009 05:16 PM

Having been involved with this scenario, I can say that you've given buyers an extremely powerful negotiating tool. And now that you know about it, it has to be disclosed.

But, in my town, I have had our inspectors over several times to check the work of prior owners. Here, it's a relatively painless process. I called and said, "look, I want to live in a house that's up to code, and I know some things aren't. So I'd like to fill a permit out for it and schedule inspections, and I'd like the town to tell me what's deficient, and I'd ultimately like to make corrections and have the town approve the work and close out the permit." And that's exactly how the process worked.

The right thing to do is to call the town and explain the situation.

alyuka 01-15-2009 08:15 PM

missy -

would you mind posting some pictures of your finished basement. My basement has fairly low ceilings (7'3" for the majority and 6'6" under the beams/air ducts) and I'm curious to how it's going to look when I finish it.

Thanks

harleysilo 01-22-2009 01:16 PM

If you don't like the answer they give you call back until you reach a different inspector. You'd be surprised what some honesty will get you too.

Termite 01-22-2009 04:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by harleysilo (Post 217292)
If you don't like the answer they give you call back until you reach a different inspector. You'd be surprised what some honesty will get you too.

There's some strange (bad) advice. I like the contradictory statement about honesty too. :whistling2: Going around peoples' backs shopping for the answer you want doesn't usually end well....Most people learn that as children.

Better yet, contact the main building official, not an inspector. That way you're getting the decision from the person that will ultimately make the decision anyhow. As stated, honesty is probably the best policy, but keep your anonymity and just introduce yourself by first name until you've felt them out a little. Some municipalities won't care at all, some will want a permit and will arrange to inspect the work somehow, and some will totally drop the hammer on you.

Leah Frances is right about nobody being able to predict how this will go.
Aggie67 is also right that future owners now have a strong negotiation tool.

In my professional opinion, your ceiling being 2" too low is something a lot of cities will work with you on, but the 6' ductwork is waaaay too low to be permitted. By granting a variance, the City assumes quite a bit of liability for relaxing the code. Variances aren't handed out willy-nilly...The owner/builder must demonstrate major hardship in meeting the code and usually must demonstrate an equivalent level of safety. You can't do that as long as anybody 6' tall will hit their head on your ducts.

Asking for forgiveness sometimes works with me in these circumstances, but people in that position are not in any position to ask for any sort of leniency (such as a variance). In this circumstance I would require that the ceiling be removed. Some basements are just not conducive to finishing. A good option for people that want to finish that sort of basement is often painting the floor joists and ductwork black or green like they do at a lot of restaurants. That way you're not violating the code by modifying the existing ceiling height.

harleysilo 01-29-2009 10:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by thekctermite (Post 217372)
There's some strange (bad) advice. I like the contradictory statement about honesty too. :whistling2: Going around peoples' backs shopping for the answer you want doesn't usually end well....Most people learn that as children.

Better yet, contact the main building official, not an inspector. That way you're getting the decision from the person that will ultimately make the decision anyhow. As stated, honesty is probably the best policy, but keep your anonymity and just introduce yourself by first name until you've felt them out a little. Some municipalities won't care at all, some will want a permit and will arrange to inspect the work somehow, and some will totally drop the hammer on you.

Leah Frances is right about nobody being able to predict how this will go.
Aggie67 is also right that future owners now have a strong negotiation tool.

In my professional opinion, your ceiling being 2" too low is something a lot of cities will work with you on, but the 6' ductwork is waaaay too low to be permitted. By granting a variance, the City assumes quite a bit of liability for relaxing the code. Variances aren't handed out willy-nilly...The owner/builder must demonstrate major hardship in meeting the code and usually must demonstrate an equivalent level of safety. You can't do that as long as anybody 6' tall will hit their head on your ducts.

Asking for forgiveness sometimes works with me in these circumstances, but people in that position are not in any position to ask for any sort of leniency (such as a variance). In this circumstance I would require that the ceiling be removed. Some basements are just not conducive to finishing. A good option for people that want to finish that sort of basement is often painting the floor joists and ductwork black or green like they do at a lot of restaurants. That way you're not violating the code by modifying the existing ceiling height.

The point I was trying to make is that different inspectors interpret things differently. You would be surprised what one inspector will allow while another from the same office would condemn. So now it's the homeowners fault he got the inspector that condemns? No get another one out there and get approved!

Regarding a painted basement ceiling qualifying as finished space is still up to debate in many places. Here, north of Atlanta people from the very same appraisal company will come to a different conclusion as the whether it qualifies.

jpsmith 01-29-2009 11:24 AM

Add me to the list of folks suggesting to contact your town's building inspector to find out what's required of a finished basement, and if they're OK with things such as ceiling height not being fully up to code. You might not need a permit for the variance. Before I started my basement finishing, I did just that and got some answers that pleasantly surprised me. My ceiling situation is the same as yours. I emailed my inspector with some questions. Here they are, along with his answers:

Quote:

1. The IRC Residential Codes state that the finished ceiling height can be no less than 7 feet. The unfinished height is 7'1/2" from the concrete floor to the bottom of the ceiling joists in the area that I would finish. If I were to install a floating laminate floor and ceiling tiles in a low-profile track, the finished height would be about 6'10". Would this be OK?
YES

2. The space I plan to finish will serve only as a recreation room. It will not be a bedroom. In that case, does it need to have an egress window? The area currently does not have a window.
NO

3. The basement currently has plumbing for a toilet. I would like to build a half-bath around this plumbing with a toilet and lavatory. Unfortunately, the duct work runs directly over this area, so the ceiling would be at about 6'6" in the half-bath. Would that be allowable?
YES
Additionally, he replied with an attached PDF that fully outlines my township's guidelines for finished basements. At the very beginning of the document was this:

Quote:

As per Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code, building permits are not required for non-structural based alterations. It is the owner’s and contractor’s responsibility to assure code compliance of a nonstructural based alteration.

Finished basements must be constructed in strict conformance with these details and the 2006 International Residential Code (IRC). For requirements, details and information not contained herein, you must consult the IRC.

Scuba_Dave 01-29-2009 12:09 PM

Missy hasn't been back to the site since the 14th :(

Question, what about dormers with knee walls?
I was under the impression that a certain % must be at "x" height
Of course that doesn't matter if the entire ceiling is too low

jpsmith 01-29-2009 12:18 PM

She may be lurking, plus I figured it would be good to post my experience for posterity. I mean, I found this site by web-searching similar questions.

I've heard the "certain percentage" rule for ceiling height, too, but it's not mentioned in my township's basement details PDF. It simply says, "Basement ceiling heights shall not be less than 7'-0". Structural members spaced at 4'-0" or more may project a maximum of 6" below the required ceiling height."

gbwillner 01-30-2009 07:20 PM

I have a similar question and problem as the original poster. I want to finish my basement, where I have sloped floors (the house was built in 1903). Near the center of the room, the floor-joist height is about 7'3". However, near the exterior walls, it is more like 6'6". Do I call the ceiling height, which must be 7', an average of each living space? Do I just use the minimum height, which is really only in a small area?
Furthermore, if I do get a variance (I want to build another bedroom since I have a secondary door to the yard), what do I have to do to call this "living space" when I sell the house?

Thanks!


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:14 AM.