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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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.
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...
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