Building Code Blues

When Marlene and I started building our own home back in 1984, we didn’t have plans drawn up by an architect and we didn’t ask any government agency for permission to build. I drew up my own simple plan and we just started building.

The house measured only 16ft by 24ft and was 2 stories high. To save money, I built on a foundation of twelve concrete piers. They measure 1ft square and rest on a 2ft by 2ft by 1ft thick footing that is four feet below the ground.

I decided that I would hand-dig the holes for each pier. I was 26 years old and full of enthusiasm for the project. After digging the first hole I came up with a better idea. I called a fellow down the road who owned a backhoe. He dug the rest of the holes in less time than it took me to dig the one.

Marlene’s dad told me he had an old cast iron cement mixer we might be able to fix up and use. It had been setting outside in a hedge row behind his house for a long time. I hooked an electric motor I bought at an auction to the mixer and it worked just fine. Marlene and I spent many hours shoveling stone and sand and Portland cement into that old mixer. It’s a great memory but the point I want to make is that we did all this, and built the rest of the house, without getting any building permits and without any building codes.

Every other house in our rural township, going all the way back to the 1700s, had also been built without asking the government for permission.

But those days are gone. If I were to attempt to build a home for myself now, without an architect’s plans, without filling out government forms and getting permission from the local authorities, without complying with a code book full of rules and regulations (that are always changing), without paying a fee, without getting regular inspections from the local code enforcement officer, and without getting an official "Certificate of Occupancy" before I moved in, I would be in violation of the law.

I would be taken to court and forced to comply. Or I might even go to jail. And if I did not comply, if I actually built my home without following the rules and laws, it might be torn down by the government. This scenario actually happened several years ago to a man not far from where I live.

Having once enjoyed the freedom to build my own home without government interference, it galls me that I must now ask permission to not only build a home, but to do any significant home improvement.

It is a sad thing to see such freedoms being taken away. Building a home is but one small example of a freedom once enjoyed but now lost to the monster of oppressive government. And, once gone, those freedoms are not easily regained.

One of the protestations of the early American colonists, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, is that the King has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

We ended up fighting a war for independence because, as The Declaration further states, The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

Well, the swarms have returned with a vengence in modern-day America. Absolute tyranny by government is becomming a certain reality right before our eyes.

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All of which brings me to a question for you...

Does anyone reading this live in a place where you still have the freedom to build your own home as you please, without asking permission of the government?

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P.S. I did have to get an electrical inspection of the home by an independent inspector. It was required by the electric company.

18 comments:

tc said...

Herrick,

How did we get to this point? It seems amazing to me that so many little communities have this same problem. When we were building our home, our builder was commenting on all of the permits and fees that were needed. He asked us, "Did your township recently build a new township building?" When we told him, "Yes." He just said, "That's why all the fees and permits, to pay for the building."

Terry

Ethan said...

Saw this quote a few minutes ago regarding the state.

“…the coldest of all cold monsters”

Nietzsche got a few things right.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much accumulated knowledge of building things, repairing things, etc, is being lost with what I call the "gentrification" of skills. Every cotton picking thing in the world now, requires a license, permit, or specialist to run it, or fix it. Cars for example, 30 years ago, it took $30 or less of parts for a tune-up, every ten thousand miles. Now cars go thirty thousand miles before a tune up, and it takes a technician, and $900 dollars to tune up the car. Cars get great gas mileage, and it is all wiped out by one repair. Our ancestors built lovely buildings for the ages, and had little other than manpower and simple tools to build them. Now we build ugly houses with fancy technology, and not only are they ugly, they last 10 years and fall apart. Appliances can't be fixed anymore, you have to buy another one. More waste. Here in the Ozarks, fortunately, you can still build in many places without much permits. But for how long? One day, no one will know how to do anything, unless its on a computer.
Mark

Ozarks Nick said...

All of which brings me to a question for you...

Does anyone reading this live in a place where you still have the freedom to build your own home as you please, without asking permission of the government?

I do. Amazingly enough. The county where our home is in Missourah has no building codes. Neither surprisingly does the county in Kansas we're currently sojourning in.

Now I don't know about the requirements of the utility companies.

Ozarks Nick said...

I should say that there are codes concerning septic systems here.

Grady Phelan "The Progressively Tenacious Fellow" said...

I'm not sure about the laws here in Oklahoma where I live, but I know that I have read an article from Joel Salatin that mentioned that very thing. He said that they must build a house that is 900 sqft or larger. I can't imagine why the government would have a size requirement.

I also wanted to mention that he is coming out with a new book in August titled "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal." I found your website by searching people who share interests with the Salatin and I just wanted to tell you about his new book.

TNfarmgirl said...

Herrick,
Here is our county there is no building code although they are trying to get one enforced again. Last time they tried it it last only a few weeks and those that voted it in quickly lost there country commisioner seats in the next election.
Blessings,
Cheri

Granny Miller said...

I blogged about this very topic last December.
It is one of my hot buttons:-)

The new Pennsylvania building code has been a nightmare for the Amish population who now have to install wiring and “plumbing” in their homes. In fact not too many years ago, an Amish Bishop in Ohio went to jail for refusing to comply with the Building Code.

It doesn’t matter that the wiring or plumbing is never used or functional, it just has to “meet code”.
IMHO the Building Code is little more than a "shake down" scheme run by special big interests & big business.

The new PA building code has turned everyday people & the
"do-it-yourself" crowd into outlaws.
There is a small movement in PA to have the Code repealed.

The Skelly Family said...

Herrick,

We just left Itasca County in northern Minnesota where they require a building permit and electrical inspections. They also do not 'allow' anyone with fewer than five acres to have ANY livestock (chickens are livestock). We are now preparing to build in Wilkinsin County, GA where there are NO building codes or permits required. I do not know about the utility company requirements, but we will be checking that out very soon.

Stephanie S.

Randall Gerard said...

Herrick,

In Laramie County Wyoming, we built a strawbale house and bought two permits. One for the septic system and one for the electrical work. I forget what they cost, but it wasn't much.

That was 10 years ago. The county has adopted a building code since then, so I probably couldn't build with bales today. People are just plain stupid, I swear. In our county, we actually voted to impose a building code and an expanded building department on ourselves! An unholy alliance of government, contractors, material suppliers and other 'progressive' types conspired to get that done.

Alaska's lookin' better and better all the time...

Doug said...

Greetings Herrick,

In Webster County MO there are no inspections or permits. If someone else does my septic, they must be licensed. But if I want to drive the backhoe myself, no problem.

Doug Peterson

Marci said...

Wow, it is great to read that there are still little pockets in this land, that allow such things. I keep thinking about the Boston Tea Party... hmmmmm. Not really, but we do need to stand up somehow. We just need to figure out how to be heard.

Anonymous said...

I'm a libertarian independent with no affiliation with govt code inspectors, etc.... but I think the primary reason for such things is so that firemen who come to put out the flames in your house (should it burn) will have some sense that it won't come crashing down on their heads upon entry. Codes also have nothing really to do with the current occupant, but are to "protect" the buyer/ occupant after you.

I could be entirely wrong.

jim said...

entirely wrong......codes are because government usually only deals with the STUPID people in society...so they think we are all stupid and they have to take care of us....cuz they are so smart!! It also is a good way to get money from us for the things they want to do!!

Anonymous said...

I just baught a little over 1 acre. It is agraculture/residental.

I planed on placing my RV on this land. So I was getting ready to set up and the nabor came over to see if I had gotten the permit(he was triing to be helpful not a butt) I am like permit and he said yea and showed me a fine he got. OMG I cant place my RV on my own land without a permit I get every 2 years. I contacted the county (I live in mohave county, Arizona) and they said I have to have a septic system, and get the permit every two years. I said I wont be living there and that did not matter. So I asked if I built a house could I park my rv there without the permit and that was fine as long as I had a house. (OK So tell me how this makes sence).

I kinda told theme what I thought about there laws before I got off the phone.

Well I already had a perk test done so I turned in the blue prints for the septic tank. THEY WONTED $600 for the permit.

So I understand your problems. I will be putting more into this land then the land has cost me. I have a self contained unit and I still have problems.

The nabore built his home after the fine he got and they didn't have to have a building permit last year. So they did it without a septic tank and uses a composting toilet. It cost them less to build then it would have to just park an RV. They live in there RV without the permit becouse they have a house and that makes it OK according to the state.

I have been all over the world and still feel we have more freedoms then most, however; we are getting worse and worse. We are loosing our freedoms every day.

The area now requires building permits for houses so I can no longer get away from it like my nabor did. However he suggested getting a permit for a barn (no septic needed. Then just park my RV in the barn. What a good idea wink wink.

I am sorry for the pore spelling and long winded post. My spell checker is down.

Oh yea if I build a barn I will leave it open then add rooms ones they have finished there inspections. I will not give the government the money, and information they wont. I am an AMERICAN and my ancessters died for my rights, its too bad they are now being taken away.

LizardTail said...

I was asking many people about this building slavery that is imposed on us in both canada and usa, and i found few interesting details.

First of all i know a guy who built 5 straw bale cabins with rock foundation without ever getting a building permit and without being fined, he simply put together a document stating that he is taking a full responsibility in case buildings collapse on his head and somehow got away with it, now he can't sell his land but that's another story. He lives in semi rural area in BC, Canada.

Another dude in canada built a massive 2000 sq ft greenhouse with concrete footing and never got a permit for it and got away with it, he built it in Slocan, BC, Canada

Then i talked to a realtor from northern WA, USA. According to him half of rural houses in northern Okanogan country do not have building permits and no one red tags them, and htat he never seen anyone being fined.

So my conclusion is this:

To build without a building permit one must own land in rural area, at least 15 miles away from a small town and have a parcel that is at least 5-8 acres.

Another interesting thing is that Amish people seem to get away building whatever the heck they want without a permit most of the time even within semi-urban areas, so if one pretends to be a religious person and stands for his/her religious freedom which part of the sonstitution it is possible to build without permit!


Most people who do it however live up on the mountains on forested parcels where neighbours don't even see each other and inspectors don't wanna bother going up the slopes.

I know i will not pay a cent for inspection and build a proper rock house the way my grandpa did.

Felix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I was frustrated as well with the building code problem. What did I do? I went ahead and dedicated some time to write a book about where you can still find places in the U.S. to build with no building codes adopted.

It's worth a look if you are looking for the ideal place. You can find the ebook (downloadable and readable on your computer) at http://nobuildingcodes.com and only costs 19.95.

Sorry if this may sound like an advertisement, but it CAN help those out there who want to build with no building codes to worry about.

Good luck, all!

Terry