Building To Code Isn’t Enough

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Is Building To Code Enough? Not If You Want To Be The Best.

We’ve all heard it too many times to count. Customers are always complaining about how expensive it is to build to code. Or they comment that the other quote was to “build to code” and you’re quote is more expensive. The reality is “building to code” isn’t good enough and it sets you up to be just another contractor getting by instead of the premiere go to contractor.

Build to Code - Floor Framing

It’s time to start educating your customers and explaining what the code really means. It’s time to start explaining that the code is really the bare minimum that we should build to in order to be safe. You could frame the floor shown above with 2×8’s and likely meet minimum code. But is that really the end product you want to be known for?

Check out my recent editorial over on my site and read how even the building inspector knew that just building to code would result in subpar quality.

All builders need to build to a higher code. They need to be proud of the expertise they bring to the customer. We need to brag about our good work, our quality work, and our insistence on building better than the code.

Click here to join the discussion on this topic in the Pro Forum.

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Todd Fratzel is the editor of Tool Box Buzz and president of Front Steps Media, LLC, a web-based media company focused on the home improvement and construction industries. He’s also... Read more

16 comments on “Building To Code Isn’t Enough

  1. Joe Sainz

    Couldn’t have said it better myself Todd! So many people don’t think about how “Building to code” actually means “Building to the bare minimum”.

    That floor you show above would have an awful lot of “bounce” if it was built to “code” in certain areas. Enough that you could knock a lamp over on a table sitting in the middle of a floor I bet.

  2. Marcus

    While it’s true what most everyone here is saying, you can’t blame the client for thinking they are asking for more by asking that code gets followed. So many in the trade take shortcuts.

  3. Rich

    new homes are stapled together I will never ever hire a builder again 2x 2 new homes built like crap poor construction, I will hire and do the firing on my next home, walls will be straight, and levels and squares along with plums and lazer along with some other goodies, they will not cut corners or down the road and in with someone who will listen instead of being in hurry, the builders are hurting themselves by letting this go on, listen to your boss who is the buyer of that home!!! NOT the builder!

  4. Rich

    I would not buy whats in that picture! I would of made u tear it out and re do it or fired ya..y? because if plywood would of been used it would be stronger and sprayed with a termacide and water proof u have basement below it- moisture would get in there overtime-sorry but I have got burned 2x and that’s the last for me or I just would not buy it…

  5. William

    Good start Todd;
    The article seems short, but also is framed more as a question and not an indepth study. I have always been taught by our code officials that the “code” is not the pinnacle, but the floor to start from. Our biggest problem is with lowest bidder construction. We lose alot of work to those who bid cheap and build with even less than their work scope indicated. Not sure what pictures Rich is refering to, or where he would use plywood.

    1. Todd Fratzel Post author

      William – The article wasn’t intended to be a full discussion, but rather a point of conversation. You are spot on about low bid construction. The economy has only made it even more difficult with regard to the bidding atmosphere. I’ve been trying very hard to stay away from bidding and focus on customers that are still seeking quality over price. It’s certainly MUCH harder to do right now but there still are a few customers out there that understand you get what you pay for. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Todd Fratzel Post author

    @Rich – Not sure where you’re coming from on your comments. Sure some people prefer solid lumber framing but the reality is engineered lumber is far stronger, straighter and consistent. The floor won’t bounce as much, the joists won’t shrink, twist and sag.

    In today’s modern framing era engineered lumber is the preferred (and frankly more costly) approach.

    I’m sorry you’ve had bad luck with builders before. This article points out one of the very issues at hand, the difference between builders who build to a minimum code and builders who build to a higher standard.

  7. Robert Robillard


    Engineered lumber does everything solid lumber can do but better.

    An engineered I-joist, is designed to eliminate problems that occur with conventional wood joists. [deflection, longer spans, bow, crown, twist, cup, check or split, etc] The I-joist is also dimensionally sound and will have little to no shrinkage which helps eliminate squeaky floors.

    Bottom line: It’s a stronger, lighter, straighter, and more stable system.

    The issue of a moist basement is moot and best resolved with proper froundation drainage, water proofing walls and grading.

    Sorry my man but you need to stay current with the times.

  8. Kurt

    It is amazing that in our area where all contractors must be licensed, how few actually know the code. Those that just do framing are some of the worst because they do not have to be licensed. We believe that we offer a premium product that exceeds “code” in most ways but regulary run into buyers that are only woried about lowest cost and not value. Home owners do not understand the quality is free on the long run as a better built home as you will have fewer repairs and better durability.

  9. John S

    this is really helpful. people like me definitely assume that asking the pros to do things to code would sound like we know what we are talking about 🙂 but you know what you do when you assume….

  10. Rich

    i hear ya guys. on the solid i sure wish all would think so, to me a strong straight safeway is the best way . sorry if i offened anyone, didn’t wanna!! was comenting on the picture above thats all

    1. Todd Fratzel Post author

      Rich – Which picture? There’s only one…it’s a picture of a new home being framed with engineered lumber. Oversized TJI’s, and structural paralam beams. Is that the picture you commented on?

  11. jason

    Houses should be built with Cinder blocks foundations,2×6 studded walls,spray foam insultion,and bricked just like in the 20’s-80’s. Stop this cheap vinyl silding I never build a house with this stuff. People will pay more for a home if they understand what is behind those walls.

  12. Jeff

    our company overbuilds in almost every aspect of the job. be it the rebar detail in the icf. installing squash blocks under every stud in floor system below bearing walls so were not simply relying on the crush resistance of the joists. double jacks under 4′ r.os with 3ply headers or lvl headers. installing a 3 tier flashing system on windows and doors. and the list goes on. these are things that the new construction production guys arent doing here.

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