Nine Common Myths About The Minnesota State Building Code

Myth: The owner
occupant doesn’t need to pull permits – permits are only for contractors.

Truth: If you’re the owner occupant, you have the…ahem,  privilege of pulling a permit without having to be a licensed contractor.  It doesn’t mean you can skip pulling a

Myth: Kitchen
remodels don’t need permits because the code specifically says that cabinets,
countertops, and floor coverings don’t require permits.

Truth: While cabinets, countertops, and flooring don’t
require permits, just about any plumbing or electrical work does.  Most kitchen remodels will include both.

Myth: Decks that are
less than thirty inches high don’t need a permit.

Truth: A permit is not required if the deck is less than
thirty inches high, not attached to the house, AND it’s not part of an
accessible route. (MN Rules 1300.0120, subp. 4, A

Myth: Building permit
fees are just another way for the government to get more taxes.

Truth: Building permit fees are supposed to cover the
administrative costs involved with enforcement of the code – these fees should not
support other government functions.  I’d
like to say they don’t, but I can’t
prove that.  Fees established by the
municipality must be by legal means and must be fair, reasonable, and
proportionate to the actual cost of the service for which the fee is imposed.

(MN Rules 1300.0160,
subp 2)

Myth: Building officials
don’t have any liability. 

Truth: They’re not liable as long as they are “acting for
the jurisdiction in good faith and without malice in the discharge of the
duties required by the code.”  (MN Rules 1300.0110, subp. 9)  This
doesn’t mean they’re untouchable.

Myth: Carbon monoxide
alarms are required just like smoke detectors are.

Truth:  The requirement for smoke detectors is a Minnesota Statute (299F.362),
and is enforced by Minnesota Statute 326B.106 (subp. 4
(b)).  CO alarms are required by
Minnesota Statute (299F.51),
but there is no requirement for the building inspections department to enforce
them.  Nevertheless, I’ve heard that most
do.  One could certainly challenge a building official on this requirement, but why?  They're life safety devices.  

Myth: Double cylinder
(aka – double keyed) deadbolts are not allowed by code.

Truth: They’re not allowed on new construction, but they can
be used on existing buildings.  That
means you can legally install a double cylinder deadbolt lock on your home
after you have your certificate of occupancy. 
No provision of
the code or appendix chapter of the code may prohibit double cylinder dead bolt
locks in existing single-family homes, townhouses, and first floor duplexes
used exclusively as a residential dwelling.” 
(MN Statute 326B.106
(g)).  Keyword – existing.

Myth: That room in
the basement with a low ceiling can be finished off and made in to a bedroom.

Truth: The Minnesota State Building Code defines that room
as a crawl space.  “CRAWL SPACE. Areas or
rooms with less than 7 feet ceiling height measured to the finished floor or
grade below.” (MN Rules 1309.0202)

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - Email - Minnesota Home Inspector

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Written By

Reuben is a second-generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben grew up thinking he was going to be a school teacher because he enjoyed teaching others so much. In a sense, that’s a lot of what home inspections are about, so Reuben truly does what he loves. Sharlene has worked with Structure Tech since 2000 and Reuben has been contributing to her blog since 2008.

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