As a contractor, the titular question above might seem like it has an obvious answer, but recent developments involving the North Carolina Department of Insurance (NCDOI) Building Code Council in Raleigh have resulted in a stunning conclusion. As reported by North Carolina Construction News:
“The state’s top building code authority ruled that, indeed, the siding can go on before the inspection — even if this may pose risks in high-wind areas.”
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, contractors are now permitted to install siding on homes before building inspectors have the opportunity to check the frame of the structure. In this article, a Raleigh construction lawyer from Cotney Construction Law will discuss the implications of this decision and provide an opinion on whether or not this practice is a safe gamble for contractors. For assistance with all of your construction-related legal needs, consult an attorney from our Raleigh construction law firm. Our team is dedicated to serving contractors in the Tar Heel State.
Unclear Building Codes
In the North Carolina Building Code, Section 107.1.5 asserts that a contractor is required to have a house’s frame inspected during construction. However, it fails to stipulate whether or not the house’s exterior siding is permitted to be installed prior to the inspection. Adding to the confusion, the code had, at one point, contained an unofficial ordinance suggesting that the inspection should come first. But this was redacted in 2016. This bothered Robert Privott, a consultant and lobbyist for the North Carolina Home Builders Association (NCHBA), who took it upon himself to address the issue. He requested clarification from NCDOI.
As it turns out, without the unofficial ordinance or commentary in Section 107.1.5 of the North Carolina Building Code, there was no legal obligation for contractors to wait until an inspection was performed to install exterior walls. This was confirmed by email records furnished by The North Carolina Department of Justice (NCDOJ), which depicted a conversation between Clifford Isaac, the deputy commissioner for NCDOI’s engineering division, and Privott. Privott called for consistency, as various jurisdictions throughout the state where following different code enforcement policies regarding this particular subject.
Challenging the Decision
After Issac’s decision, Barry Gupton, a member of North Carolina’s Building Code Council, reversed the decision so that frame inspection had to proceed siding installation. Privott then appealed this decision and partnered with the former chairman of the Building Code Council (2003-2017), Dan Tingen, to testify in favor of contractors being allowed to install siding before inspection. Those working against the appeal wanted to be certain that veneer and exterior siding installation wouldn’t interfere with inspection accuracy. Logically, ensuring that building frames meet all relevant codes is vital to the construction of safe buildings, but does siding installation truly affect the inspection process?
When asked whether or not inspectors are affected by siding installation when inspecting framing, Dan Tingen noted that there are many parts of a house that aren’t visible unless the inspector is present at the time they are built. He also noted that other jurisdictions enforcing that inspections must be performed first were “in error for doing so.”
Siding can be blown off the walls of residential and non-residential buildings during periods of strong wind, which means installation is best performed during periods of calm weather where proper installation and application of siding and moisture barriers can be conducted. In other words, there’s a risk associated with installing siding and waiting for a building frame inspection to be completed if strong winds are present on the project site. The last thing you want is to fall behind your deadline because you mismanaged your building schedule. Fortunately, a Raleigh contractor attorney from Cotney Construction Law can assist you with handling disputes that arise as a result of inclement weather.
So, what should contractors in North Carolina do? Technically, you are permitted to install siding before having the building frame inspected, but it might be inadvisable to do so in certain areas prone to high winds. If you want to be safe, simply have the inspection performed first, but if you are confident in the quality of your construction, you can install siding before the inspection. If you are binded by a Raleigh construction bond, your best bet is to take caution and follow your established protocols.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.