9 Building Code Changes to Know About Before Your Next Home Renovation



IRC 2021-1

Soon, Montgomery County, Maryland will adopt building code changes that were published in the International Remodeling Code (IRC) 2021 Code Book. Some will be costly.

Though homeowners typically don’t track building code requirements or changes directly, it’s more important than ever to work with a professional home remodeling firm that is up-to-date with the latest code changes and their impact on your project.

Our advice? Consider doing major projects sooner rather than later, since renovations are only going to get more expensive.

Here are nine code changes to consider for your next renovation – and their potential impact on your project plans.

#1: Smoke Alarms in Rooms Open to Hallways | Section R3 14.3

Description: When a room open to the hallway has a ceiling that is 24 inches or higher than the hallway, smoke alarms must be installed in the hallway and in the room.

Impact | Low: For homes with open foyers or open upstairs hallways, you will need an additional smoke detector. The code only applies to newer homes for the most part and not all.

#2: Light Fixtures Controlled by Dimmers | Section N1104.2

Description: To reduce energy consumption, all permanently installed interior lighting fixtures must be controlled with a dimmer or motion/occupancy sensor. (The exception is lighting for bathrooms, hallways, and lighting for safety or security.)

Impact | Medium: This means no more just having an inexpensive light switch for lighting. All lights must be controlled with a dimmer or motion/occupancy sensor. The change adds $20 - $100 per switch location.

#3: Hot Water Distribution | Section P2905.3

Description: If the distance between the hot water supply and fixtures exceeds 100 feet, a recirculation pump will likely need to be installed. This change is a water conservation measure, so you will not have to run water for a few minutes to get hot water at your faucet.

Impact | Medium: This will save water but increase your electricity costs. There is also an installation cost for the recirculation pump, ranging somewhere between $800 and $1500+.

#4: Emergency Disconnects | Section E3601.8

Description: An emergency electrical service disconnect is required in a readily accessible outdoor location to turn the power off to your home. This is a great safety feature, so first responders can turn the power off to your home as soon as they arrive.

Impact | Low-Medium: The change also introduces major security concerns. Anyone could come to your home and just shut off power with the flip of a lever. Without backup power, your alarm system, WiFi, or other security measures could be cut off. This will also add cost to your electrical work to have it installed.

#5: Service Panel Surge Protection | Section E3606.5

Description: A surge-protective device is required at the service panel, including for replacement service equipment.

Impact | Low: This is a good thing, and we have been recommending this type of device for years. Our homes are increasingly filled with electronics with sensitive chipboards. Having surge protection for your entire electrical system will help to protect and extend the life of your electronics. For a small investment of around $300, you can have protection for the entire house.

#6: Ground-Fault Interrupter Protection | Section E3902.5

Description: Ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection is required in both unfinished and finished basement areas, as well as all outdoor, crawlspaces, garages, accessory building structures, laundries, kitchens, and bathrooms.

Impact | Low: The biggest change here is that all outlets in a basement must be GFCI-protected because basements are prone to flooding and this will cut off electricity in a flood situation. The easiest way to do this is with a GFCI breaker rather than multiple GFCI receptacles.

#7: Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection | Sections E3902.17 & E3902.18

Description: Arc-fault circuit-interrupter (AFCI) protection is required for all breakers in an electrical panel, regardless of whether it’s a new or old circuit.

Impact | High: This probably has the largest cost impact of all the new code changes. AFCIs are designed to cut off power if there is a short in a circuit, preventing arcing of the lines that could cause a fire.

In theory, this change is a great safety improvement. The issue is that AFCIs are notorious for having nuisance trips when electronics with motors are on the circuit. So, appliances, fans, heaters, etc. can provide a false alarm to an ARC fault device, causing it to trip unnecessarily, which leads to too many trips to an electrical panel to reset it.

A workaround has been to install what are called combination breakers that protect for GFCI and AFCI in one breaker. They are much less likely to have these nuisance trips. However, each one costs about $20 more than AFCI-only breakers. AFCI breakers run around $70, compared to standard breakers with no extra protection that cost about $8 each. This is going to add substantial cost to anyone doing permitted electrical work on a property. Think of it as the cost of added safety for your home.

#8: Smoke Detectors Interconnected | Section R314.4

Description: Where more than one smoke detector is required, the alarm devices shall be interconnected in such a way that when one sounds, they all sound simultaneously. Wireless devices are allowed.

Impact | High: In new construction, an addition, or an area where all the drywall is being removed, it is easiest and most cost-effective to hardwire them all together. In a remodel where the entire home is not opened up, it would be easiest to use wireless smoke detectors. There is a substantial added cost compared with using traditional smoke detectors. However, this is a life safety rule that makes sense.

There are also changes to the energy code on the horizon. Once a summary is released, our team will learn how the changes are going to affect the types and amounts of insulation required. We don’t yet know the exact changes, but they will certainly affect the cost of projects where an exterior wall is built or remodeled.

Questions about these or other building codes and how they could affect your renovation project? Contact our team for recommendations on crafting an inspiring home renovation that is also code-compliant. We’ve been delivering award-winning (and compliant) projects for nearly 20 years—and we’d be honored to transform your home, too. 

Contact Us
Get in Touch
Our commitment to quality, integrity and experience starts from the moment we hear from you. Are you ready to get your dream home remodeling project started? Reach out to us to get the ball rolling. We look forward to connecting soon!
Our Reviews
What Our Clients Say
Kitchen Remodeling Rockville Review. House To Home Solutions was recommended to us by a colleague when we were looking for a kitchen remodeling contractor, and we now understand why. Daniel Carrero, the President and owner, is a meticulous planner and craftsman. He and his team expect nothing less than their best at all times. They were fast (the entire job was completed in less than…
Rockville Client
Kitchen Remodeling Potomac Review. We began our kitchen renovation the day after Thanksgiving – and by the new year it was clear that our contractor was a) not doing a good job and b) likely never going to finish – so we had the House to Home team step in. WOW – what a difference from Day 1! A real “sense of urgency” came over…
Potomac Client
Home Theater Potomac Review. We hired Daniel Carrero to redo our family room that involved a new fireplace and the installation of home theatre set up. The job was finished with highest quality. Daniel also provided additional help when the need arose. He is a perfectionist and a pleasure to work with. I would highly recommend him.
Potomac Client
Condo Remodeling | Arlington, VA. I hired House to Home Solutions under conditions that were far from ideal. The condo I was buying had a closing date that kept changing, all the walls needed to be repainted and all the carpet needed to be ripped up and replaced with wood flooring. Not only did the company deliver on time but the result was stunning. The…
Terry Hedrick
I had used House to Home Solutions when a neighbors 100ft Oak tree well onto my house, smashing my addition. So as you can imagine working with insurance companies is the worst, despite all that Daniel was very professional and supportive in helping me work through it with them. Once we got the green light to start Daniel and his team worked efficiently in building…
Megan M
Reviews Background
Request a Service

Awards and Achievements

Schedule a Consultation
Schedule a Consultation
House to Home Solutions, LLC
15745 Crabbs Branch Way
Rockville, MD 20855
(301) 762-6621
8:00AM - 7:00PM
Monday - Friday