Thank you to everyone for an amazing first week – more than 6,500 views and over 60 comments. And we’re already seeing people share recommendations for contractors, tips for code compliant window bars, constructive criticism and kudos. One issue we wanted to fix as quickly as possible was to pull out more detail from the codes and provide property owners with more information on what we’re looking for. So tonight we just updated the CHECKLIST and now you have specifics on ceiling height, outlets required in bedrooms and bathrooms, minimum square footage for living rooms and bedrooms, and other details on requirements. We hope this new list is useful.
To answer the question many of you have asked, the minimum ceiling height for basement apartments – and all habitable rooms actually – is 7 feet. Many people have emailed, tweeted and commented about this requirement and if it is higher than what was required in the past. It’s not. The 1930 DC Building Code actually required 8 feet on every story. As did the 1933 Building Code and all building codes through 1991 when it was changed to 7 feet as it stands today. We will post a more details soon and cover some of the exceptions and variables, but none of the exceptions currently included approval of units with rooms where people are “living, eating, sleeping, or cooking” with a ceiling height lower than 7 feet. The DC codes are identical, in nearly every case, to the codes adopted by most U.S. states, counties and cities.
Another question people have asked is in what zones are basement apartments allowed. As a basic rule, Residential-4 and Residential-5 allow basement rentals. And, they can also be allowed in most of the Commercial Zones. You can check what zone your property or a property your planning to buy is with the Office of Zoning’s interactive map.
Our idea for the site, again, was to create an easy to find resource to share information, answer questions, and allow for a open discussion among property owners, contractors, inspectors, plan reviewers and tenants to discuss these important issues. It is our first week and we’ve tried to answer as many questions as possible and hope it’s been helpful. Our plan is to post as regularly as possible – most likely once every week or two – and will feature information on sections of the code that seem to cause the most frustration. We also hope to bring in our own experts and outside inspectors to discuss ways to come into compliance for properties with unique spaces and challenges. If you have ideas you would like to see covered – some are very clear including ceiling height, fire alarms, window bars, door locks and are already planning on making those among the first topics to cover – please let us know. Thank you again as we build the site and hopefully, eventually create an excellent resource for all.
- Mike Rupert, DCRA