Pennsylvania Building Code Rules

Pennsylvania has rules governing building construction which apply throughout the state. The Uniform Construction Code, or UCC, has been enforced in all counties and municipalities from 2004, although the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry can only enforce the code in municipalities that do not have their own agency or employees to enforce the code themselves. The UCC has adopted International Code Council building codes, but some exceptions, including those regulating stairways, are contained in Pennsylvania's UCC. The UCC also contains rules concerning licensing of contractors and issuing permits.

Licensed Contractors

Since 1 July 2009, home improvement contractors have to be registered with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office as a requirement of the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. According to this act, which is enforced by the Bureau of Consumer Protection, contractors must have insurance cover to protect consumers. Most other contractors do not need to be licensed in Pennsylvania, nor are there certification or licensing requirements for contractor employees, although individual municipalities may have their own certification requirements for contractors. In addition, statewide, crane operators must be licensed, and crane operator licensing is administered by the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

Residential Building Permit Requirements

UCC sub-chapters 403.61 and 403.62 outline the need for permits when work is carried out on residential properties. Most residential building work needs a permit, including new construction and the enlargement of existing properties. Electrical and plumbing installations also need permits. You can make emergency repairs without getting a permit in advance, provided that you apply for a permit within three business days of doing the work. You do not need a permit to build a fence less than six feet high, or to build sidewalks and driveways less than 30 inches above the land to each side, or above a basement.

Residential Stairway Treads and Risers

Section 403.21(a)(6) lists the regulations applying to stairway treads and risers. Treads are the flat, horizontal parts of a stairway, and risers are the vertical parts of the stairway that link the treads. In a stairway, risers must not be greater than 8 3/4 inches in height, and must not vary by more than 3/8 inch in height. The depth of a tread, meaning the distance from the front of the tread to the back, cannot be more than 9 inches, and once again, there must not be a variance of more than 3/8 inch between the greatest depth and the smallest depth of a stair tread. Stairway headroom must be at least 6 feet 8 inches, and although handrails can project from both sides of the stairway, the handrails must not project more than 3 1/2 inches into the stairway.

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