Editor's note: This is Part 1 of a three-part series. Read Part 2 here and Part 3 here. "When I built my addition, the building inspector made me tear out the bedroom window and put in a bigger one! Personally, I don't think it's any of his (deleted) business how big my bedroom window is!" I hear these kinds of gripes from disgruntled do-it-yourselfers all the time. Not to rub salt in the wound, but in most such cases, a passing acquaintance with the building code -- and even more important, an understanding of its intent -- would have saved these folks an awful lot of frustration. Though it may seem like it at times, building codes weren't formulated to harass do-it-yourselfers. In fact, they arose to protect public health and safety during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time when a population explosion in American cities was leading to ever more squalid and unsafe living conditions. This was an era in which tenement apartments variously lacked heatin...
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