Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Building In The South With Too Many Inspections
by James Glaser
July 16, 2010
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You would think that building a house or like me, a workshop, would be the same in the South as it is in the North, but it isn't. At least that is true for Florida, and I guess in any state down here that worries about hurricanes.

Here in North Florida there are codes for everything. There are codes up North, but where I lived in rural Northern Minnesota, code enforcement is a bit relaxed when a homeowner is building a garage or workshop for their personal use. I guess they figure everyone is going to build their building strong enough to withstand a heavy snow load. About the only thing they are really fussy about is the electrical, and you have to get a state inspection before they let you hook up to the power pole.

I just went outside and took down my building permit, that must be displayed on the job site. That permit cost me $599.02 plus a $10,00 filing fee. The last permit I bought up North, was $30.00.

Back to the building inspections down here in the South. Reading from the building permit , here are the inspections that concern my building. Footings, 1st Flr. Columns and Beams, Roof Sheathing, Wall Sheathing, Truss/Joist, Framing, Door and Window Installation, Wall Insulation, Ceiling Insulation, Landscaping, Electrical, and Termite protection. When you are all done, there is a final inspection of everything.

Now not all of these inspections require a special trip out as several can be done at the same time, but many do. Let's say it is a Friday and you want to work through the weekend. Well, if you need an inspection for the framing, you can't start installing the insulation or wiring until you get that inspection checked off. If Friday comes around and the inspector can't make it out there because of his work load, you are going to have to stop work until he can get there that next week. The hard part there is you lose time and you might have had the perfect weekend weather-wise to work, and there is nothing you can do about it. All of these inspections and the time waiting for them costs you money. They guys working for you get paid while you wait for that inspector to show up.

Another thing that makes buildings cost more down here are all the metal connectors you have to use throughout the building. They figure if a big wind comes along, those connectors will hold your house together. However the county and state building compliance people admit that if you are hit by a tornado or real high winds in a hurricane, your house will be gone. Come on, you and I know that one day a while back, somebody in the building metal connector business with a really good lobbyist got their product put into the building code and made millions, probably billions by now.

The amazing thing about these building codes is the fact that there are still millions of Florida houses standing that were built before any of these codes came into effect. Think about that.

Along with the metal connectors, windows come into play. Down here you have to buy windows that meet Florida wind codes. Yes, they cost way more than regular windows. Some lobbyist got that into the building code, too.

I'll tell you where you will save though. You save on labor. Carpenters will work for the same wages we made in Minnesota back in the 1980's. These are experienced carpenters, who work every minute you employ them. It does help if you feed them chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies often though. Personally, I don't know how they can handle the heat, but then they grew up here.

Somehow it seems wrong to me that the government can come to your property and tell you how to build a garage, a workshop, or even a house. It is your land and your business. Now the real reason I think these permits and inspections are required is that the county makes money from the permit fee, and the bank is protected from loaning money for what could be substandard construction.

However, I am self-financing my workshop. It is my workshop and my money, so if the place falls down, it is my loss. Even if you do everything by the book and have all the inspections and buy that building permit, there is no law that an insurance company has to insure your building. My insurance man just came out and took pictures of my building in progress and he said that the company probably would not insure it until it was totally finished, and I put hand rails on the steps. So the insurance company has their inspection, too.

Here is what it boils down to for me. In the North, at least in Northern Minnesota, you have way more freedom than you do in the South. In the South, people let the government rule over their lives. In the North, where I lived, many people just blow off the county and build what ever they want, any way they want. In Northern Minnesota, townships, really neighborhoods, decide what regulations are right for them. If a person doesn't get a building permit, and the Township board doesn't want to push it, nothing happens.

I don't know what happens down here if you skip the permit process, but from talking to people in the building trades, you don't want to do that.

I like it down here, and I like the people, but I miss the freedom I had up North. And you know what? When you have the freedom to do what you want, you save a whole bunch of money.

Post Script:

I just called back up to Minnesota to see what the cost of a permit would be today, and sure enough it has gone up. It is now $60.00.

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