Building inspector/permit question

milo_brinkerJune 16, 2010


I've used this site as a source for the past year as we've planned our deck and begun construction. But after a visit from the building inspector today, it's now time to make my first inquiry.

We have an existing deck -- house and deck were built in 1996 -- that is built to state building code standards of 60 psf load. It is attached to the house and has one 2-2x8 beam resting on 5 4x4 posts. I've done the load analysis and it meets the 60 psf code. This deck is 6'-10' off the ground (sloping yard.) This deck is not really the issue, but is a comparison.

We are building a mid-level deck between the existing deck and a patio. This deck is free-standing. To meet the 60 psf code, it requires 2-2x10 beams. These numbers come from deck building software and have been confirmed with analysis and tables. The building inspector insisted on 3-2x12 beams. Rather than fight, we capitulated and built 3-2x12 beams. (bugger to move about!) We figure this lower level deck will be able to hold an elephant.

The beams are 14' long. We had 12' lumber. We spliced the beams as 2+12, 6+8, 12+2 -- spreading the splices along the length of the beam. The beams are nailed together every 16", plus have 2 carriage bolts on either side of each splice for a total of 12 carriage bolts per beams. (bolts, splice at 2' on piece 1, bolts; bolts, splice at 6' on piece 2, bolts; bolts, splice at 12' on piece 3, bolts.)

The rub seems to be the splices do not fall exactly above the posts -- they are within 6" of the post, but not directly above. All the framing is complete. The inspector failed us because the splices are not above the posts. To re-do the beams, we would need to start over -- remove joists, rim joists, beams -- not really in the game plan.

Given 2-2x10 beams meet code, having him reject the 3-2x12 beams based is a bit frustrating. We have unspliced 2-2x12's between any and all spans given we spread the 3 splices on the three pieces about.

What do others suggest?

1.) Is this really a flaw? We can't find anything indicating the splice must align with posts.

2.) If it is a flaw, can we remedy without taking the whole frame apart?

3.) If we choose to just ignore the building permit and continue with surfacing, will this bite us in the tush?

Any advice would be appreciated.


P.S. We just finished an addition last fall and had issues with this inspector. He wanted to know if our pool cover met certain safety standards -- we showed him the info on the cover and our receipt for buying that cover -- he said we couldn't be sure that the cover we received was the same cover we paid for, so therefore he would not accept it as a safety cover.

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I vote take the thing down,make up the beams in one section no splices. I am with the Inspector on this one that is a very unsafe framing member. Your Carpenter should have know this.

Those bolts are causing stress points. Build the beams with adhesive,screws after clamping them together run three 3'' screws on 16'' centers in a stagered pattern from both sides. This time the permit store is Right.

John Hyatt

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 7:51AM
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It is a little funny that you would take out a permit for your own property and then argue with the inspector. This guy is just doing his job- one you hired him for! The building department is to protect the consumer from builders doing shoddy work. If you have a professional engineer running load calculations, a professional carpenter building the deck, and a professional code inspector, why are you spending so much of your own time and effort doing all the legwork! It sounds more like you already know everything and probably pissed off the guy when he arrived on the job site. Get this straight: the inspector's interpretation is the code. It doesn't matter what you read in the UBC manual. Those are minimums. The design standards vary by jurisdiction based on the head building official's interpretations. Your only recourse is to argue to the head building official. (But I don't recommend it)

When he failed your pool cover it is because he knows about bait and swap. It happens in construction all the time. The builder just shows the receipt for the specified materials he already returned for the lower quality ones. Unscrupulous contractors do it all the time at the expense of the homeowner, who can't tell the difference.

My advice would be to take a different approach with this inspector. Give him the respect a figure of authority deserves. Don't argue with the cop, like Dad always said. But don't be condescending. You (or rather your professional carpenter) really should have known he would inspect the built-up beam and probably not proceeded with the framing until the beam passed. Also you (or rather your professional engineer) should have known about placing the splices directly above vertical supports so the horizontal member bears structurally.

I always ask the inspector at what phases of the job he wants to inspect and specifically what he wants to see. This keeps rework to a minimum but can delay the project a bit if the department is really busy or understaffed. Communication is key.

Sometimes I get asked: "How hard is it to _________?"

My rhetorical answer is always: "As hard as you want to make it."

Just do what the nice man says.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 6:11PM
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YO Aidan, just tell us what you really think,Dont sugar coat it like that!!! Good to see you again over here Dude come share the load its geting a little much for me by my lonesome.

Milo my Man,you screwed up, or both you and your Carpenter screwed up. Defently do not blame it on the Permit Store think about it you are already paying for this service.....learn from them in advance and do what they tell you to do. This is basic 101 building.

I really like the part where you only had 12' material Ghessssssssssssssssss . J.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 7:19PM
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Milo - I'm interested in the background of your project. Seems to be a question of whether YOU are doing the work or a contractor. Either way, in my town (where, incidentally you get a wink when the building inspector recommends you apply for a permit) you submit very detailed plans which if you follow should lead to an approved deck. Sounds to me like you and/or your jurisdiciton are working backwards. Not that I'm an expert by ANY means.

Regardless, I have nothing to add beyond the previous comments, other than to point you to where the AWC's "PRESCRIPTIVE RESIDENTIAL WOOD DECK CONSTRUCTION GUIDE" tells you to place those splices atop a post. Since you asked.

Don't know your heights or construction, but are you sure you can't take your floor jack and your neighbor's and just prop up your framework a fraction of an inch and throw in a new 14" triple beam? That would be a no-brainer on my deck, albeit a PITA considering all the hurricane straps, etc.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: see bottom of page 5

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 12:55AM
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If you don't want to take it all down then just add a couple of full length boards to the existing beam, now you have a big beefy looking beam.

You are not going to win an arguement with the inspector. He's right, you were wrong so do what he wants, if you don't it sure could come back & bite you in the tush. It's called no C.O.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 4:36PM
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