Business work and permits

Are businesses held to a different standard than homes when it comes to getting permits for work?
My company (name withheld to protect my job) does work all the time in their server rooms. While escorting an electrican in a particularly sensitive area I asked him why I never see inspectors or permits. The electrician, a reputable person who's work I trust and who's large company does all kinds of work, said that basically all the work is done off the books. He mentioned that inspectors would poke their noses in where the company wouldn't want it and its doubtful that places like where he was an inspector could actually do his job.
But even in normal offices it seems like a lot of mod work is done without permits and inspections. Is that normal? I'm speaking specifically of electrical work, but plumbing, construction, and what-have-you is done all the time in major corporate office parks. I find it hard to believe that a large contracting company would risk their license doing illegal work.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Eigenvector wrote:

I do commercial work all the time. I usually get permits when electrical and plumbing is being done, or if significant modifications to the structure are being done. If we are just moving some partition walls and a couple of outlets, we often do not get permits. Without a permit, the work can be completed usually in one night. Anything beyond that gets a permit.
Here in Texas, contractors (general) do not have licenses. Specialty contractors do (electrical, plumbing, Hvac, roofing). Many of them would PREFER to do work without permits, but are concious of the perils of doing so. I have had many suggest doing work without permits, while others refuse to do any work without them. I usually evaluate the situation and make my decision based on my own criteria. One is whether I believe that a permit should be pulled, what the customer wants and, whether or not I believe that the job could get busted for no permit. I usually opt for a permit. Whatever I do, I know that the work is done according to code as a minimum standard.
Commercial work is held to a much different standard than residential. It is a completely different ballgame as far as code is involved. Standards are more rigid and higher in some cases. Take drywall for instance. Residential; 1/2" on walls, 5/8" for ceilings and firewalls. Firewalls between garage and home.
In commercial, 5/8" is pretty much standard with some exceptions and draft or fire walls for every so many square feet (with exceptions). This means drywall from floor to ceiling, 2 layers, first layer fire taped and all penetrations are sealed with fire resistant foam. All HVAC duct penetrations must have fire dampers at a fire wall.
In residential wood framed buildings, romex is used for wiring. In commercial, even in wood framed buildings, all wiring must be in conduit.
Just a couple of instances out of thousands of differences.
--
Robert Allison
Rimshot, Inc.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It may vary by local code, but yes, some work can be done without a permit. There are some jobs that I can have our maintenance people do, but if I hire a contractor, they must have certain licenses that my guys don't need. All our gas piping has to be done by a state licensed gas fitter and be inspected.
Most electrical can be done with no permit. Certain work on the service panel must be permitted and inspected. I've also seen the permit issued and inspection done over the phone ! Our electrician won't do anything that is not to code no matter if anyone is looking or not.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

That must be what is happing here. Perhaps the permits are handled in a fashion that doesn't involve inspectors. I've personally overseen the installation of 60,000 Watt UPS system and never heard boo about an inspection. Although I will admit the permit was pasted on the door of the panel. The company I work for is far too publicity conscious to risk illegal work - so perhaps the permits and whatnot is handled off-line.
The Fire Department rousts us from time to time though.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

It's a weird animal, ain't it? I got a call to do some work at Hoover Dam. I said my contractor's license was pending. They said it was on federal property, and no licenses of any type were needed. They said they needed one more bid to satisfy their small business set aside program.
I gave them a bid. A high one. A very high one. Two days later, I got the job. For the first couple of days, I had inspectors buzzing around like flies. For the rest of the two weeks, there was one a day just to check the progress of the work.
I guess an 800# gorilla can sit anywhere he wants to.
Steve
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
In offices where I've worked (as a computer programmer) in both California and Washington, the fire department has come around once a year to do a fire inspection, and they do some electrical checking (and they go everywhere, including sensitive server rooms).
The biggest problem they usually find (at least, from the worker's point of view) is power strips that are plugged into other power strips. They only allow things to either be plugged directly into the wall outlet, or go through one level of extension (extension cord or power strip).
However, the outlets on the back of a UPS count as wall outlets, so it is OK to plug a UPS into the wall, and then plug a power strip into the UPS, and plug things into that power strip. We've got a lot of people using dead UPSes as extension cords!
--
--Tim Smith

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

We have an inspection by our insurance company every year. Every receptacle in the building is grounded, three prong. Yet some idiot will cut the ground off a plug.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
In some districts, an annual permit can be issued for a building or complex which allows all work to be done for the year. Inspections may or may not be required or may not happen.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Generally yes. In most jurisdictions the fire safety code is the only part of the building code homeowners are obliged to comply with when repairing or altering their own home. E.g. homeowners are free to instal doorways narrower than the code requires, wallboard thinner than code, etc.: but paid contractors are obliged (probably by the terms of their commercial licence) to work wholly in compliance with the building code.
--
Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Generally no, at least as a matter of the law. As a practical matter, perhaps generally yes, but only in the sense that a homeowner who fails to pull a permit for a job that requires one is a lot less likely to get caught at it than a contractor is.

Nonsense. Might be true where you are (though I rather doubt it), but it certainly isn't true in "most jurisdictions."

..which would be a fire safety code violation...

.. which would *also* be a fire safety code violation...

In my experience, jurisdictions that require contractors to comply with codes in residential work impose the same requirements on homeowners: fire, plumbing, gas, electrical, HVAC, everything. You can't violate or ignore building codes at a whim simply because it's your own home you're working on.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Doug Miller wrote:
...

Well, you _can_, but you shouldn't... :)
What I've seen as fairly common are provisions that allow homeowners in single-family residences to do work as unlicensed that would take a licensed person to do as contractor. That exception, however, as you note, has never extended to approving substandard work on that basis.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I think that is the point Doug is making. Because you live in the house, makes it easier to do sub standard work, but in the eyes of the building dept having jurisdiction, still doesn't make it legal

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
RBM wrote:

Yes, I was simply reinforcing what he (Doug) said back to the previous responder w/ hopefully some amplification. Pretty much superfluous, but nothing in disagreement and intended to make that point more specific which you seem to think needed even further amplification...
--
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.