When it comes to understanding Louisiana building codes, most of us would rather leave that to the professionals. And that’s okay. Unless you are building your own house or completing a DIY renovation, your contractor will handle the ins and outs of building codes and the sometimes-confusing permitting process. At MLM Incorporated, though, we know it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of what keeps your home safe. That’s why we put together this guide on the most frequently-asked questions about Louisiana building code requirements. Have more questions? Feel free to contact our team for support.
Who develops Louisiana building codes?
Building codes are not random, nor are they entirely unique to each town or city. Most jurisdictions use or draw from the International Code Council’s (ICC) building codes. There are three separate categories, each updated every three years. These are:
- International Building Code (IBC): Nearly every new building, from convenience stores to new homes, follows this code
- International Residential Code (IRC): The IRC applies exclusively to new one- and two-family homes or townhouses that are three stories or less
- International Existing Building Code (IEBC): Just as it sounds, this is your go-to code for renovations, additions, repairs, or changes to the way you use a building (e.g., from residential to commercial)
Each local jurisdiction decides on whether or not they want to use the ICC’s codes as-is or make changes that better fit their region.
Why are Louisiana building codes important?
Even with the ICC setting the standard for building codes across the globe, it can still be chaotic out there. There is no single federal entity that enforces building codes, and many municipalities have other concerns.
So, why are Louisiana building codes so important? Safety.
Building codes protect the health and safety of your family and community. Louisiana building codes ensure that every structure in your community follows uniform guidelines for safety. Local building codes, even if they follow the ICC in general, also make allowances for different climates and weather in your region. For example, you would not build the same house in the sub-zero temperatures of North Dakota as you would in hurricane-prone New Orleans.
Building codes, including Louisiana residential building codes, ensure that your home is safe and healthy for years to come.
What do building codes regulate?
Louisiana has adopted the ICC’s building codes to protect residents and business owners across the state. These codes cover things like:
- Materials used in construction
- Design of your structure
- Plumbing and mechanical systems
- Fire protection and means of egress (how you get in and out)
Overall, there are 35 sections to the Louisiana building codes, and 13 appendices. The appendices are specific to Louisiana and include things like flood-resistant construction and rodent proofing. Louisiana’s building codes even cover things you might not realize, like that new deck or gardening shed you want in your backyard.
Where can I find Louisiana building code requirements?
Finding your local building codes once meant paging through encyclopedic volumes of small print. These days, everything you need to know can be easily and readily accessed online.
Here are some great sites to get you started:
- Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code Council: The governing body of Louisiana’s building codes maintains this website, with links to building codes, certifications, and complaint reporting
- UpCodes: UpCodes includes specific code breakdowns for things like the Louisiana electrical building code and other specific areas of building
- Building Codes Assistance Project: This site has information on building codes related to energy
There are a variety of good resources out there. These websites give you an outline of the types of areas that building codes cover.
How do Louisiana building codes protect my home from hurricanes and other disasters?
You might think these regulations are more trouble than they are worth—until hurricanes or other natural disasters blow through town.
Following Florida’s lead, Louisiana residential and commercial building codes have changed when it comes to building structures that are designed to better withstand floods, heavy rain, and winds. Some of these amendments include adding glazing to windows to withstand debris and using hurricane strapping or ties that firmly affix roofs to houses.
Louisiana has also amended their codes to include requirements about potential seismic activity. Earthquakes on the bayou may seem like an impossibility, but building codes are focused on helping homeowners stay safe, no matter what Mother Nature sends their way.
When do I need to apply for building permits?
Many people don’t realize that a building permit is required for nearly every type of construction, including:
- New construction
- Detached structures (e.g., garages)
You apply for a building permit through your local parish before the start of your project. At the very least, make sure you have the following information and documents with you when you apply:
- Address of the property
- Name and contact information of the owner
- The names, contact information, and license numbers for any contractors
- Description of the project
- Type of project (change in occupancy, addition, new construction, remodel, etc.)
- Project cost
- Dimensions of proposed structure
You also need copies of your plans as well as a permitting fee and any pre-approvals that your project requires. Depending on the scale of your project, you may need other documents.
The good news? Working with a contractor like MLM Incorporated means they take care of this permitting process.
Are there additional Louisiana historic district requirements?
The Louisiana building code does have additional requirements for work done in a designated historic district. Typically, projects in historic districts will need to get special permissions from that historic district’s regulating body.
For example, in New Orleans, projects located in the Vieux Carré District are regulated by the Vieux Carré Commission. Most other historic districts apply for permission through the Historic Districts Landmarks Commission.
It’s good to work with a contractor who has experience in not only permitting, but also in permitting for projects located in historic districts, as these come with additional requirements and expertise.
What should I know about the Louisiana electrical building code?
Louisiana electrical building codes follow the 2014 National Electric Code (NEC) as adopted in 2017 and in effect by 2018.
This 927-page documents includes the following crucial safety protocols:
- General electrical requirements
- Wiring methods and materials
- Equipment for general use (e.g., switches, receptacles, and control panels)
- Special equipment
- Special conditions
- Communications systems wiring
As with the ICC building codes, the NEC is updated every three years. It’s a dense document of jargon with one purpose: to keep your electrical system operating safely.
Is there financial assistance to make my old building code compliant?
Bringing an old building up to Louisiana building code can be financially challenging. There are several places to find potential financial assistance. These websites are available across the U.S. but may be especially helpful in Louisiana, where hurricanes and flooding occur at regular intervals.
You don’t need to wait for a disaster to access these resources. Additionally, your local housing department or city planning office may have other incentives that can help you with renovation costs.
Who can help me with Louisiana residential building codes?
If you are working with a licensed contractor like MLM, they will be your first stop for any questions you have.
Heading the DIY route? It’s best to get in touch with your local government first. State agencies can help with broad questions, but if your jurisdiction has specific codes for your area, local government is the place to go.
Work with MLM Incorporated
MLM Incorporated is a locally owned and operated business serving homeowners and businesses since 2006. With experience in commercial and residential building, we can help you build your dream home, renovate an existing property, or complete a historical project. We are experts in Louisiana building codes. Whether you are looking for a design-build, a full renovation, or a kitchen or bath update, you bring us your vision, and let MLM Incorporated take care of everything else.Get in touch today to start bringing your project to life!