By Carol Hartzog
On Nov. 1, the newest modifications to the statewide uniform building codes go into effect. Most of the code changes deal with life-safety issues, and some are adjusted due to new and better products.
Fellow home builder Curtis McCarty who owns CA McCarty Construction in Norman serves as the governor-appointee to Oklahoma Uniform Building Code Commission and here are his thoughts on the top six changes, not in any particular order.
For an easy overview of all the changes, his recent PowerPoint presentation is on the OSHBA website (click on members). It includes great photos and graphics and is very easy to understand. Its 60 slides, but well worth the look.
For a more in-depth look, you can view a free copy of the changes here and to view the Oklahoma changes, click here
Carbon monoxide alarms are now required to be hard wired and interconnected on new homes. Previously one could have simply installed a battery operated alarm outside the sleeping rooms. Combination Smoke/CO detectors are allowed in these locations if they are properly listed. They also have to be outside all sleeping areas. If you have a split-bedroom plan, it has to be outside each sleeping room. If two bedrooms in a central hallway, then just one is needed.
Wall anchors traditionally involve a cut or wedge-type nail, but now fasteners have to be from an approved list. Interior load-bearing walls are required to be anchored to the slab. Hand driven cut or concrete nails are not approved for this application.
The door between house and garage. Egress door from garage.
The door between the house and the garage has to have self-closing hinges, i.e. the door has to close behind you. This prevents carbon monoxide getting in the house is in case you leave a car running. And if you have a detached garage, now you have to have side door, so you have another way to get in and out of garage in case of a power outage.
Residential spas and hot tubs
There are now fencing requirements for pools and hot tubs. If you have a swimming pool, you have to have a safety barrier, i.e. four-foot tall with self-closing and self-latching gates, with the latch 54 inches above the ground. The fence cannot have pickets a certain distance apart. Most cities have not had a standard to really enforce swimming pools. If you are on two acres or more, you are exempt.
Storm shelters and safe rooms
If you a build a safe room or shelter in your house, it has to meet ICC NSSA500, i.e. it is being built to a recognized building code standard. “Many people are putting safe rooms under stairs and boarding it up, and doing things that would not withstand a tornado. If you call a safe room, you have to register it in each county with emergency management and it has to abide by code. However, any room or structure may be used as a place of refuge during a severe wind storm event, but shall not be defined as a storm shelter or safe room unless specifically designed to the requirements listed in Section R323. On your building plans, are you designating that area as a concrete closet or are you using the technical terms of “storm shelter” or “safe room”? In this case, verbiage matters.
Wood structural sheathing
The perimeter around the house or on the roof can no longer be installed with staples. You have to use proper nails, due to wind and the overall quality of installation. See the Fastener schedule in the IRC 2015 for a list of proper fasteners.