Building Codes – Minimum Standards

Residential Remodel

October 5 recently completed a residential remodeling project that was located directly under the “takeoff pattern” for the local airport.  One afternoon, a young couple had just toured the nearly completed project and was standing outside when an airplane took off.  The wife turned and said, “I didn’t know we are under the flight path.”  Interestingly, two planes had taken off while we were inside the house – a subtle testimony to construction techniques, insulation and attention to detail.

We routinely see missed opportunities to improve the efficiency, quality and durability of new and existing homes.  It’s easy to forget that building codes establish minimum standards and requirements for construction, when really it doesn’t take much effort to exceed these standards and build a quality custom home.  Build it once, build it right, and make it last a lifetime . . . or more!

Sure stubborn attitudes exist for doing things the way they’ve always been done, and the sad reality is that sometimes, the only way to get builders with new programs is through governmental regulations and advancements in building codes.

For this residential remodel, after understanding the house’s proximity to the airport, we made several recommendations during the design phase to mitigate the airport noise that were readily accepted.  First, beef up the wall and ceiling insulation.  This had negligible impact on the budget as labor rates are rarely affected by R-values of insulation being installed.  In addition, after insulating, the interior walls were lined with an air film and the seams taped.

Second, because we are in earthquake country, shear-paneling is required within four feet of certain corners. Many contractors will add ½” furring strips to the face of the remaining wall studs to keep the drywall aligned, when it’s just as easy to shear the entire wall with minimum added expense.  This not only added to the structural integrity of the home, but added to the sound dampening and insulating quality.  Again, the cost was negligible.  No worries about hanging a heavy picture on these walls!

Next, instead of 1/2” drywall, 5/8” was installed with all upper and lower edges sealed in caulk.  This eliminated any small air holes or voids that could allow sound transmission.  In addition, all interior walls were insulated; this had the added benefit of increased privacy for the bedrooms and bathrooms.  Solid core doors were chosen along with dual glazed windows, which were flashed and sealed with silicon caulking.  The additional details required minimal effort with little additional costs, but resulted in amazing results.

When we mentioned to the wife that two planes had flown over while we were inside the house, she politely smiled in disbelief.