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Old 05-07-2009, 07:53 AM   #1
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


I have a home that was built in 1928, with basement. I bought the house 2 years ago and the sun room that sits on a slab had 21 Jalosie wood windows that were in horrible condition. The sunroom was added approx 1967 or before according to the local building inspector, roof construction had boards and not plywood. When I bought the house the yard was approx 8" high piled against the sunroom and last year I had it leveled so I could replace all the windows with modern. I discovered that the sill was rotted away and spent the weekend removing all the rotted window, much to the delight of my next door neighbors, and replacing them with 5 windows and a sliding glass door. Someone complained to the building department and an inspector was sent out. He looked it all over and thought all looked fine but asked that I head to city hall for a permit... now the fun begins... The planning manager denied my permit and now wants the 9X14 room to be brought to the new codes! That means a 42" footer around a slab that has been in place and not moved for 40 years. The inspector has been to my house 4 more times just confounded by the planning manages decision and has suggest I try for a varience that he will attend in my be half along with my councilman.
Now my question is how or can a foundation be added to this foundation without destroying the work already done in case I don't get the varience?

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Old 05-07-2009, 08:29 AM   #2
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


A major remodel requires a permit here
If you took jalouise windowsd out & put in new windows then possibly they feel it is being converted from 3 season to 4 season?
What is supporting the room right now?
Where are you located?

If they want a 42" footer/foundation then that means they want ti below the frost line. Anything attached to the house must have this - even my deck. Otherwise the sunroom & house will move differently during thaws/freezes - creating future problems

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Old 05-07-2009, 09:16 AM   #3
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


I would take out the windows and slider that you put in, tear down the sunroom, put in a proper foundation and rebuild the sunroom. It sounds like this was once a 3 season screen porch that was closed in.
I have a similar situation where I want to add a floor above my sunroom. The building inspector wanted me to fill the open cell block foundation with grout but said if I could get a structural engineer to OK it, he would give me a permit as-is. I checked with a structural engineer and even though the rest of the 2-story house has the same foundation, he confirmed that I need to fill the voids in the foundation. I thought about it for a day and then sucked it up and tore it down. That was a fun day.
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Old 05-07-2009, 11:32 AM   #4
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


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Originally Posted by Clutchcargo View Post
I have a similar situation where I want to add a floor above my sunroom. The building inspector wanted me to fill the open cell block foundation with grout but said if I could get a structural engineer to OK it, he would give me a permit as-is. I checked with a structural engineer and even though the rest of the 2-story house has the same foundation, he confirmed that I need to fill the voids in the foundation. I thought about it for a day and then sucked it up and tore it down. That was a fun day.
Just curious, why didn't you grout the walls?
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Old 05-26-2009, 07:13 AM   #5
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


Thanks for all the replies. I'm going for a variance based on the fact that the enclosed porch has been attached to the house for over 40 years and the slab hasn't moved a 1/4 of an inch. I also have the support of the building inspector. At one time there was a hot tub inside this porch along with 21 wood framed jalosie windows and all that together weighed significantly more than the repairs I did.
Has anyone been involved in a variance meeting? I have no idea on what to expect so any advice would be welcomed. Again thanks for all the replies.
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:20 PM   #6
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


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Thanks for all the replies. I'm going for a variance based on the fact that the enclosed porch has been attached to the house for over 40 years and the slab hasn't moved a 1/4 of an inch. I also have the support of the building inspector. At one time there was a hot tub inside this porch along with 21 wood framed jalosie windows and all that together weighed significantly more than the repairs I did.
Has anyone been involved in a variance meeting? I have no idea on what to expect so any advice would be welcomed. Again thanks for all the replies.
Chuck
In NY they have people who you can hire to deal with the Building Dept. and their maze of regulations They're called, Expeditors. They will deal with the buracrates on their own terms. Your situation would be something they do on a regular basis. If you can't get what you want, try looking them up.
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Old 05-26-2009, 06:50 PM   #7
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


I had to go before the building board for my last house
I also had the support of the building Inspector
It was basically a formality since the Inspector had already talked to them

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Old 05-26-2009, 08:14 PM   #8
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


As an inspector stuff like this blows my mind. I have no idea what that department is thinking! What code or ordinance did they cite that gives them the right to make you rebuild a portion of the structure that is unaffected by your current scope of work? That would be my first question at the hearing...You're asking for a variance but a variance from what??? If you were adding a floor then I'd agree with them 100%. If you were increasing its size I'd agree too.

My suggestion is to hire a structural engineer for a couple hundred bucks and have them write you a letter stating that the addition's slab appears to be effectively doing its job. Take that letter to the hearing with you. Your local HBA chapter can assist you with getting an engineer that does small stuff like that for a reasonable fee.

You did right by calling your councilman. Email (don't call...go on the record) the City Manager's office as well. Also glad to hear the inspector is in your corner. If that doesn't work don't give up. When you have a legitimate case and are being treated unfairly you can effectively fight city hall and win.

ENFORCING CURRENT CODES ON OLD STRUCTURES SETS ONE HECK OF A PRECEDENT FOR THE CITY'S BUILDING DEPARTMENT TO LIVE BY. You're not making the situation worse in doing what you're doing. I inspect homes between 1 and 100 years old every day. Many times it is unreasonable to ask people to meet current code with certain things. Headroom, for instance, can't always be achieved in a finished basement...As long as they don't make it lower who am I to tell them they have to raise the house? Wiring is another story...Gotta make it safe if it is part of the scope of work.

The only thing working against you is that the code does more or less give the building official the power to ask for anything he wants, but most reasonable building officials don't take it too far.

Good luck and let me know if we can help!
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Old 05-26-2009, 08:34 PM   #9
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


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Has anyone been involved in a variance meeting? I have no idea on what to expect so any advice would be welcomed.
Chuck like I said you aren't asking for a variance necessarily. A variance is granted on new work when there are certain barriers or hardships regarding the project that cannot be overcome through reasonable efforts and costs (headroom in a basement for instance). Variances can be granted for zoning issues such as wanting to build the house closer to the property line than the code allows. Typically with a variance, the requestor demonstrates an equivalency to what the code requires.

Most cities have a board of code appeals and a zoning board. I imagine you're visiting the board of code appeals. The code gives you the right to the hearing, and it also specifically dictates how the board should be made up and who should be on it. Section R112.3 of the IRC code says that the board shall be made up of people with the training and experience to make decisions on code/construction issues, and that they shall not be employees of the enforcement jurisdiction.

The way I see this, the city should've caught the problem of the addition bearing on a slab years ago when it was built. So more or less you can tell them that you were making repairs to an existing structure...Requirements for the permit are being properly enforced...But you are not adding to or modifying the structure in any way (thereby stressing the existing bearing condition) and do not intend to do so. They should issue the permit for the repairs and stop at that.

Go to the City and borrow their code book (they have to have one for you to look at by law), or go to the library...
Look at these sections, I think they'll help...

R104.10 Modifications
R105.2.2 Repairs (condemns you for initially not having a permit)
R104.1 General
R102.7 Existing structures
R102.7.1 Additions, alterations or repairs (THIS IS THE CASE WINNER AS I SEE IT)
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Old 05-26-2009, 09:06 PM   #10
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


Is this a 3 season sunroom? or insulated & 4 season?
Open to the rest of the house, heated & cooled?
Or can be closed off with doors etc?

Is the roof continous from the main roof?
Or is the sunroom roof lower then the rest of the house?

I can't see how they can make you retrofit a 40+ year old structure unless you are changing it's use
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Old 05-26-2009, 10:24 PM   #11
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


In Massachusetts, a 50 percent or more rebuild by value of a structure typically triggers the need to make the structure comply with current code. In practice, this means that if you have an outbuilding (say a barn or deck) worth $10,000, and you perform $5,000 worth of work on it, you are normally going to have to bring the entire structure up to code, from the footings on up. However, most people get around this by performing say a 25 percent repair, this does not trigger the whole code issue.

In theory, if you did two 25 percent repairs, you might trigger the code compliance issue, however I have not heard about it being a problem. Over the course of 50 years, it is possible to replace damn near everything in a house, yet no one repair would break the 50 percent rule, so typically an older house has all sorts of grandfathered (current) code violations, whether it be inadequate footers, improper wiring, unacceptable plumbing etc.

The only thing I can think of is that, as has previously been suggested, you are changing the use from three season to four season, or someone thinks you are doing a greater than 50 percent repair. As for the footers, I agree with the suggestion to hire a structural engineer to write a letter indicating that the foundation AS IT EXISTS is adequate to support the load of the repaired structure, that should quiet the frothing mob.
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Old 05-27-2009, 07:19 AM   #12
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


Thanks you guys for all the replies, I sure hope this goes well for me, adding a footer is not an option in my mind, I would consider tearing it down just to get this over with, I'm really getting discouraged. The porch is not heated, 1 sliding glass door and a screen door and no closets, I just ran into the wrong guy.

Last edited by Chumad; 05-27-2009 at 01:35 PM.
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Old 07-09-2009, 11:04 AM   #13
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


I received the variance on the footer and all is done. I have a drywall guy coming out to finish up... what an ordeal over nothing.
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Old 07-09-2009, 01:28 PM   #14
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


Good news
Mine was a fuss about nothing too
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Old 07-14-2009, 03:54 PM   #15
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Footer help, ran afoul of local building dept.


I am happy for you and for anyone who reads this let it be a lesson that permits are necessities and what going on your own can result in.

Do I think you were wrong, no. Do I think that the inspector was outside of his jurisdiction, no.

What the code states the code states and ignorance is no exception of the law. Go outside the boundaries and be prepared to pay the piper because saving a few hundred can sometimes cost you 10's of thousands!

When in doubt ask or hire a professional that does know.

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