Author Topic: Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions  (Read 511 times)

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Offline IHDiesel73L

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Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions
« on: July 13, 2020, 04:48:06 PM »
We are looking for a lake property in this area, around Otisco/Owasco for those who are familiar. What I'm trying to figure out is what building codes are like as there seem to be two different kinds of places: Actual lake "houses" which are just that-year round places that are fully insulated with full HVAC systems, drilled wells, etc... Naturally they are priced accordingly. We are looking for a more of a "camp" or at most, a 3-season place which is basically just a cabin that we can either pull water from the lake or haul it in (no well), no insulation, little in the way of interior finish, a wood stove for heat for use in late spring or early fall and that's basically it. I do realize that no matter what I'll need to have a septic system since we're looking to be on a lake, which is fine. The "camps" that we do see for sale look as though they have not been updated at all in many years, which leads me to believe that camps probably fly under the radar (many are passed down by families through generations) until they change hands in a real estate transaction or the owner wants to or is forced to (because its falling apart) do major renovations. At that point I'm thinking the building code inspector comes into play demanding a drilled well, sheetrocked/fire rated walls and ceilings (rather than just open studs/rafters) and other items that will increase the overall build cost. We've also thought of buying a teardown or land (there are lots out there) and either having the Amish drop or site build something like these:





Again though, we would want to buy one with the interior relatively unfinished and do it ourselves over time, or in some cases (insulation, sheetrock, trim, etc...) not at all, but not sure how that would be viewed by a local building department. I'm told that in these areas building codes are handled at the town level which probably means some variation from town to town. I have a call/email into the local inspector who serves those areas but I would be very interested to hear from someone who has firsthand knowledge. 

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2020, 07:08:04 PM »
 Virtually all states base their state residential building code on the IRC. New York state has its version of the IRC online  https://up.codes/viewer/new_york/irc-2018   There is also a building code online that is listed as a building code (not residential code) that applies to commercial buildings. Not applicable to 1 or 2 family residences.

The code as adopted by the state applies to all parts of the state although I do believe there may be special relaxed code in some areas or for some special seasonal use cabins. If there are special seasonal use rules a cabin built under them may be strictly limited to only a certain number of days a year. You would have to check on whether or not there are such special exemptions applicable in the area you are looking at.

Enforcement of the state residential code is left to cities, towns, and smaller local jurisdictions. The enforcement can vary from strict to lax. Having lax enforcement does not mean absence of code; it just means lax enforcement at a particular point in time.  That could change.

An existing building as it sits, even though not built to present-day code, is most often grandfathered in when the property is sold to a new owner, although it is not uncommon for some things to be mandated on sale. For example, here in New Mexico, many homes were built in the '80s using polybutylene freshwater supply tubing. PB as it is known had problems and its use was outlawed. For years the fact that the home had PB simply had to be declared prior to sale. Now the home cannot be sold until the PB has been replaced.

Certain types of renovations may trigger an upgrade to the present newer code.

Even with lax enforcement of various portions of the residential code, I believe it is virtually impossible to get around the state sanitation rules.  Sanitation rules (septic tanks and well water) usually are the first thing that needs compliance.

There are zoning rules that are not written into the building codes or residential codes. Zoning rules come from a very local level. They cover things like property line setback, driveway requirements, fence heights. 

So start asking at the local level. The state residential code will tell you what the minimum requirements for construction are, but cannot tell you about enforcement. And FWIW, remember that code is a minimum requirement. Going a step further can be beneficial long term.
Just because something has been done and has not failed, doesn’t mean it is good design.

Offline Don_P

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Re: Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2020, 02:35:31 AM »
Also throw another contact into the mix as you are researching. A good bit of building code comes to us through the insurance industry, limiting losses and liability. If this will be insured make sure they are on board with your plans.

I'll clear up a little bit on the building code MountainDon, the IBC is actually the "master" code, all buildings fall under it. The IRC, the residential code, is a subset of "prescriptive" codes and exceptions for use in 1 and 2 family residential structures. When you step outside of or beyond the IRC's provisions you are going into the IBC.

The Amish... From my experience, which is not major, they have an admirable ethic, however, when we reject the outside world we also miss out on education and advancements. "They don't build them like they used to" I've been a builder for many years and have seen firsthand what they used to do and how they were thinking. Although I do not enjoy dealing with the government one bit, to a large extent I'm happy we have laws against what they were doing now. I have yet to see Amish work done in a manner that would pass building code, not out of bad intent but out of ignorance. As everyone is an individual that will vary. I don't know who built the cabin in your upper photo or if it is one you are thinking of but I see several structural thinking problems in that one shot.

Offline IHDiesel73L

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Re: Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2020, 08:11:41 AM »
Virtually all states base their state residential building code on the IRC. New York state has its version of the IRC online  https://up.codes/viewer/new_york/irc-2018   There is also a building code online that is listed as a building code (not residential code) that applies to commercial buildings. Not applicable to 1 or 2 family residences.
The code as adopted by the state applies to all parts of the state although I do believe there may be special relaxed code in some areas or for some special seasonal use cabins. If there are special seasonal use rules a cabin built under them may be strictly limited to only a certain number of days a year. You would have to check on whether or not there are such special exemptions applicable in the area you are looking at.

I did manage to get ahold of a code enforcement officer in that area.  He did inform me that any new construction, seasonal or not, would need to comply with the codes governing all residential properties.  I too had been made aware of the exemptions you mentioned, but those only apply to cabins located within the jurisdiction of the Adirondack Park Agency, which is well north and east of where I am looking to locate.  Furthermore, they only apply to cabins which are completely "off-grid" and not connected to any public utilities, even communications.  A friend of mine has a similar type of cabin near Rangeley, Maine which is powered by a generator, etc...  In any event, at this point we have two options-either purchase an older camp that has been grandfathered in over the years, or build something new that will need to comply with all applicable codes, including energy, which will mean insulating to current standards. 

Also throw another contact into the mix as you are researching. A good bit of building code comes to us through the insurance industry, limiting losses and liability. If this will be insured make sure they are on board with your plans.  I'll clear up a little bit on the building code MountainDon, the IBC is actually the "master" code, all buildings fall under it. The IRC, the residential code, is a subset of "prescriptive" codes and exceptions for use in 1 and 2 family residential structures. When you step outside of or beyond the IRC's provisions you are going into the IBC.  The Amish... From my experience, which is not major, they have an admirable ethic, however, when we reject the outside world we also miss out on education and advancements. "They don't build them like they used to" I've been a builder for many years and have seen firsthand what they used to do and how they were thinking. Although I do not enjoy dealing with the government one bit, to a large extent I'm happy we have laws against what they were doing now. I have yet to see Amish work done in a manner that would pass building code, not out of bad intent but out of ignorance. As everyone is an individual that will vary. I don't know who built the cabin in your upper photo or if it is one you are thinking of but I see several structural thinking problems in that one shot.

Thanks for your input-the shots I pulled were from Google images and just intended to convey a general sense of what we would want to build.  Now that I've cleared up the codes issue I would very much appreciate some suggestions from both of you and others on plans, layouts, building techniques, low cost material options, etc...based upon our intended use of the cabin, so here goes:

We live about four hours from the Finger Lakes region and would like to build a place to primarily spend long weekends (arrive Friday morning and leave Monday afternoon) as it is hard for me to take off for a full week at a time.  My wife on the other hand is a schoolteacher, so that gives us flexibility on that end.  We have three daughters (8, 5, and 15 months) and two labrador retrievers.  Our goal is to be on the lake with at least a small beach area and a dock and slip for our pontoon boat.  Obviously the point of being on the lake is the lake, and a majority of our time will be spent on the water or otherwise outdoors.  We want a camp that is utilitarian in nature in that it provides a place to eat, sleep, wash up, use the restroom, and wait out bad weather if needed.  We would open it sometime after May 1st (its not uncommon for some ice to still be on the lake at that time) and stay over weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  We would fully winterize and close it up not later than September 30th every year.  The cabin would be "on grid" with regard to electrical power and either broadband or DSL (I will likely have to do some work there unfortunately) but will be served by a septic system.  Apparently hauling in water is acceptable according to the local code guy I spoke with, which would likely be cheaper than drilling a well.
This is a 24' x 48' design (about 1400 SF of living space) that I came up with that could potentially sleep 18.  Even if we brought extended family or friends with us it would still be more room than we need at present, but I'm designing with the future in mind and hope that one day 30-40 years from now my wife and I could have all of our daughters and grandchildren under one roof during summers at the lake:



I'm eager to hear your comments, feedback, criticisms, etc...

Offline Don_P

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Re: Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2020, 06:23:51 PM »
Closets?
It looks like you're using sketchup, go ahead and draw in wall thicknesses and then detail out the rooms, it looks tight. utility/mechanical room?, provide for this becoming more mainstream as time goes on.

Offline IHDiesel73L

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Re: Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2020, 07:58:07 AM »
Closets?

Not really sure on that.  We rent a lake house now some weekends and since we're only there for 4-5 days at a time we just live out of our suitcases.  I was thinking of doing a lot of shelving and throwing a dresser in each room. 

It looks like you're using sketchup, go ahead and draw in wall thicknesses and then detail out the rooms, it looks tight. utility/mechanical room?, provide for this becoming more mainstream as time goes on.

Its very preliminary-really just playing around right now but looking to refine from here.  Mechanical room is a good point-its pretty much going to be an electrical panel, tankless LPG fired DWH, WiFi modem, and whatever I end up with as far as a water system.  The code officials I've spoken to pretty much admitted that this is a grey area.  One code official said that his own lake property draws water from the lake and he's not sure of the County Health Department's stance on such an arrangement, but that from a building code standpoint, all they do is a check of the plumbing inside the house (either way you need a pressure tank, treatment, etc...) and a potability test from the tap.  As far as where the water comes from that's not their department.  I have also encountered properties that utilize military surplus "Water Buffaloes" which are basically large trailer mounted water tanks.  Some bring them back and forth to their camps and some leave the water buffalo there and just run it into town to get it filled whenever they come up.  I'm actually leaning toward that solution as drawing lake water and treating it is fine until you get hit with a Hazardous Algae Bloom (HAB) which seem to become more and more common every year. 

Offline jsahara24

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Re: Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2020, 03:15:12 AM »
I would consider putting the master bedroom on the first floor, I would go down to 2 bathrooms and try to increase your "living/kitchen area" a bit. 

Looks like you have a covered porch off the front?  Not sure what size it is but I'd want room for a table and chairs. 

I also think you'll want at least 2 entrances to the cabin.  Good luck!

Offline MountainDon

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Re: Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2020, 05:17:20 AM »
Looking at the porch. It does seem a bit narrow. Is there enough space to walk by a chair if someone is sitting there?  How is it supported? It might be better  construction to make it a separate thing as porch floors and the beams and joists get wet. You don't want that being drawn under the main cabin floor.

If there are multiple bathtubs or showers like that the water heater needs to be large enough to handle the combined demand. Possibly cut down on the number of showers, maybe make one or two just a half bath, or make people share. When I was a kid the whole family got by with a single bathroom for us all. We had a schedule.

How about a porch down at least one long side? Then a couple of bedrooms could even have their own entrance door.
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Offline IHDiesel73L

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Re: Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2020, 05:46:18 PM »
I refined things a bit:



Looking at the porch. It does seem a bit narrow. Is there enough space to walk by a chair if someone is sitting there?  How is it supported? It might be better  construction to make it a separate thing as porch floors and the beams and joists get wet. You don't want that being drawn under the main cabin floor.

So the whole cabin living space is 24' x 38' built in the "Chalet" style with a high peaked gable roof.  The porch will run the full width of the structure, protrude out 10' covered by a lean-to roof off of the front and be screened in.  I would envision having a long table (3' wide by 10' long) that we would eat most meals at.  The entire cabin would be supported by a pier and beam foundation as would the porch, which would be constructed separately from the cabin floor for the reasons you mentioned.  Utilizing pier and beam construction however, I think it would be a good idea to use pressure treated lumber for the beams, floor joists, rim joists, etc...?

If there are multiple bathtubs or showers like that the water heater needs to be large enough to handle the combined demand. Possibly cut down on the number of showers, maybe make one or two just a half bath, or make people share. When I was a kid the whole family got by with a single bathroom for us all. We had a schedule.

So I played with that a bit-admittedly I had entirely forgotten about laundry in the first iteration, so I swapped one bathroom for a combination laundry/mechanical/half bath.  Basically along with the laundry machines (stackables, to conserve space) there would be a toilet tucked in the corner with a curtain that could be drawn around it (think like something you'd see around a hospital bed)-hand washing could be done in the slop sink next to the laundry machines.  My in-laws actually have this exact setup in their laundry room and it works well in a pinch.  With regard to a schedule, I get it, but the goal here will be that one day multiple families with kids will be all utilizing the house at once and this way when a couple of kids need a bath after a day at the lake and two people have to answer the call of nature at the same time they can.  Also, in addition to the 2-1/2 bathrooms, every camp needs an outdoor shower.  Whenever we stay at a place (in the summer, obviously) that has an outdoor shower I never use the indoor shower.

With regard to the mechanicals, it will be relatively simple.  One space on the wall reserved for the electrical panel and another for a tankless LPG DWH-a wireless modem would be located somewhere in there as well as that would be the only thing that either a telephone/DSL or cable line would be brought in for.  Basically all we need is internet access and will just stream content.  I might try OTA TV as well to try to get local news.  The mechanical room would also contain a Pex distribution box and some potable water filtration, but the pump, pressure tank, etc...may go under the cabin (one of the reasons for pier and beam)-I'm actually thinking about combining rainwater catchment and drawing water from the lake to supply water rather than drilling a well.  The local code inspector I spoke to admitted that potable water sources are a bit of a grey area-he's not sure what the County Health Department's stance is on drawing lake water, but he does it himself at his camp.  As the building inspector he said that all he checks for is potability and all plumbing inside the house.  If it's drinkable, you get a CO.  That said, the large gable roof (I'm planning on going with steel) should collect nearly 2000 gallons with every inch of rainfall, so I'm thinking of locating a 2000 gallon cistern underneath the house and plumbing the gutters into it.  It's a bit more complicated than that as you need to incorporate a "first flush" mechanism into it that discharges the first hundred gallons or so since it will be filled with pollen, dust, bird poop and other crap from your roof.  Once that valve closes the cistern begins to fill, and of course you need an overflow.  From there I'll just do a standard pump and pressure tank gravity fed by the cistern.  For filtration I'll probably utilize a combination of cartridge filters and UV inline as well as an ozone bubbler in the cistern itself.  An undersink reverse osmosis system would probably be a good idea for the line feeding the kitchen sink.  I figure that as a backup I could also have a pump to draw water from the lake as is commonly done in that area for when we arrive at the cabin on a Friday and it hasn't rained all week.  Likewise, hopefully the rainwater would sustain us during hazardous algae blooms when lake water cannot be used. 

With regard to the rooms themselves, which are admittedly tight, the plan would be to build platform beds for each mattress (the bunks are twins and all other beds besides the master are queens) with either room to stash suitcases underneath or actual drawers.  The bunk beds would actually be built-in with storage underneath as well.  I would also plan for a lot of shelving.  I don't see any use for actual closets in a place like this. 

Offline Don_P

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Re: Western NY/Finger Lakes Area Building Code Questions
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2020, 04:32:56 PM »
Quote
The entire cabin would be supported by a pier and beam foundation as would the porch, which would be constructed separately from the cabin floor for the reasons you mentioned.  Utilizing pier and beam construction however, I think it would be a good idea to use pressure treated lumber for the beams, floor joists, rim joists, etc...?

Quote
I did manage to get ahold of a code enforcement officer in that area.  He did inform me that any new construction, seasonal or not, would need to comply with the codes governing all residential properties.

This is the section of the building code that might be a hurdle. Basically your exterior walls are the bracing walls.
R404.1.9.3 Masonry piers supporting braced wall panels shall be designed in accordance with accepted engineering practice.

Which is their way of saying "get an engineer"
Enforcement is local though. Better beforehand but you'll have this conversation at least when you pull the permit.

 

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