Ceiling Height Requirement

The Rule:

FBC = Florida Building Code R305.1 states:

R305.1 Minimum height.

Habitable space, hallways and portions of basements containing these spaces shall have a ceiling height of not less than 7 feet (2134 mm). Bathrooms, toilet rooms and laundry rooms shall have a ceiling height of not less than 6 feet 8 inches (2032 mm).

Correspondence between the parties:

Know Your Opponent and the Rules Which They Think They Are Following

 

Where do the Building Codes come from?

The Florida Building Codes – Preface states:

The base codes for the Florida Building Code, 6th Edition (2017) include: the 2015 editions of the International Building Code (IBC) the International Plumbing Code®; the International Mechanical Code®; the International Fuel Gas Code®; the International Residential Code®; and others.

Some, if not most of the building codes come from the publications of the International Code Council (ICC).

You can view the IBC at their link here:IBC2018 – Digital Codes Library 

Their Vision: Protect the health, safety and welfare of people by creating safe buildings and communities.

Note: Does this sound familiar? See the next section.

Benefits of the IBC:

  • The principles of this model code are based on the “protection of public health, safety, and welfare.

Nowhere will you find any definitions of safety other than mentioned below

Read their claim to fame regarding the “Safety” they indicate it  right here by saying:

  • “Safety – It has a proven track record providing safe and sanitary plumbing installations.”

Is that all the safety they provide…..”safe and sanitary plumbing installations”?? Yes, and they feature it on their website. So this is their main claim to protecting public safety???

What is the Mandate to the Building Dept. from the Florida Statutes and Sarasota Code of Ordinances?

In this case the Building Department is tasked with a mandate indicated with a typical, recurring theme which ostensibly justifies most all of the legislative actions initiated, as in the examples that follows:

  • Florida Statutes (FS) 489.101 Purpose.
  • The Legislature deems it necessary in the interest of the public health, safety, and welfare to regulate the construction industry.
  • Article II of the Florida Building Code, Sec. 22-31 (c) – Findings: states that:
  • “The purpose of the building code is to serve as a comprehensive regulatory document to guide decisions aimed at “protecting the public’s life, health and welfare in the built environment”.

Look up the following Florida Statue areas the government considers covering your “Health and Welfare.” As for the safety aspect, no matter where you search in the Statutes, you won’t find a section dedicated to your “Safety” like it does for Health and Welfare.

  • Sarasota Code of Ordinances
  • Article Vlll Code Enforcement
  • Sec. 2-343. – Intent.
  • It is the intent of this article to promote, “protect, and improve the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Sarasota County by providing for the enforcement of any codes and ordinances in effect in Sarasota County where a pending, intermittent, or repeated violation continues to exist through the imposition of administrative fines and other noncriminal penalties in an equitable, expeditious, effective, and inexpensive method of achieving full compliance.

If you really examine the laws, rules, ordinances closely, IMHO, you will find that this wording, in reality, is pretty much meaningless by and large, but it sounds good in print.

Recall the old saying: The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help. “

 

The Duplicity of Government Laws

However, on the one hand, the government, with a few noble sounding words and promises, falsely lulls you into a feeling of cooperation and finding inexpensive solutions for your situation, as indicated below.

Then on the other hand, with all the profusion of voluminous, legally crafted words, they will reverse their generous sounding promises and in reality impose those punishment fines and penalties with a vengeance should you not obey these rules.

Remember the rule: The big print giveth, and the fine print taketh away.

The Good (the big print giveth)

  • Sarasota Code of Ordinances
  • Article Vlll Code Enforcement
  • Sec. 2-343 Intent

It is the intent of this article to promote, protect, and improve the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Sarasota County by providing for the enforcement of any codes and ordinances in effect in Sarasota County where a pending, intermittent, or repeated violation continues to exist through the imposition of administrative fines and other noncriminal penalties in an equitable, expeditious, effective, and inexpensive method of achieving full compliance.

  • Sec. 2-341 (3) – Findings of Fact.

The Board of County Commissioners of Sarasota County, Florida hereby finds:

  • It is in the best interests of the citizens of Sarasota County to provide for alternate code enforcement methods, through remedial systems that focus on bringing properties into compliance, rather than on punishment.”

Sounds good doesn’t it? White man, government official, speaketh with forked tongue!

The Bad (the fine print taketh away)

Florida Statutes: Title XI
COUNTY ORGANIZATION AND INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS
Chapter 125
COUNTY GOVERNMENT
SECTION 69
Penalties; enforcement by code inspectors.

125.69 Penalties; enforcement by code inspectors.

(Editor’s note: notice how many times “punish” is mentioned in the following code and the use of imprisonment and excessive fines.)

(1) Violations of county ordinances shall be prosecuted in the same manner as misdemeanors are prosecuted. Such violations shall be prosecuted in the name of the state in a court having jurisdiction of misdemeanors by the prosecuting attorney thereof and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $500 or by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed 60 days or by both such fine and imprisonment. However, a county may specify, by ordinance, a violation of a county ordinance which is punishable by a fine in an amount exceeding $500, but not exceeding $2,000 a day, if the county must have authority to punish a violation of that ordinance by a fine in an amount greater than $500 in order for the county to carry out a federally mandated program. A county may also specify, by ordinance, that a violation of any provision of a county ordinance imposing standards of conduct and disclosure requirements as provided in s. 112.326 is punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or a term of imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed 1 year.
 
And, there is more of the same here: Florida Statutes Chapter 162
 
See what is meant about a reasonably educated person being unable to understand what some attorney was obfuscating with legal, double talking, gobbledygook??

The Ugly:

Do You Know the Reasoning for a 7 ft. Minimum?

Fourteenth Amendment

“…. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Mr. Hutchins, building plan examiner’s position is:  “The rule, the whole rule, and nothing but the rule.” (No Exceptions Allowed!!) IMHO, here’s a perfect example of a bureaucratic automaton who can’t think for himself and respond to exercise the “spirit of the law” when dealing with homeowners.

His item #8 of the June 3rd Review Memo incorrectly calls for a minimum of 7′ in the vicinity of the sink which measurement is actually 6′-11″. (Note: the rule allows 6′-8″ in the Laundry Room).

Item #5 insists (NO EXCEPTIONS ALLOWED) that the Lanai and Laundry Room be raised approx. 6″ to match the main house. Doing so would reduce the Laundry Room ceiling height to 6′-5″ or 3″ below a minimum requirement.

Don’t think this can ever happen to you? There is very little you can do with your home that doesn’t require a permit.

Check out when a permit is and is not required. Click here for PDF file.

 

 

Sui’s position is:

  1. Discrimination of rule for people not having to get a permit
  2. For those in violation, there should be some grandfathering , statue of limitations, or variances allowed.
  3. The present building code segment requiring a 7′ ceiling height in all homes was promulgated on the false and fraudulent premise that one size fits all and blanketly protects the safety, health, or welfare of Sui and/or the general public. In reality, it doesn’t, is discriminatory and therefore is not a valid, constitutionally enforceable rule! 
  4. This is an example of a rule that should be a voluntary “standard” and not mandatory. It should be flexible enough to allow for individual situations where exceptions or variances are allowed for people who request it.
  5. The first word of FBC 305.1 is “Habitable Space” implying that the rule only applies to  habitable space. Hutchins chooses to ignore this fact and to realize that the Laundry room is classified as Non-habitable space and therefore the 7′ rule does not apply in this case but rather 6′ 8″. There are no ceiling fans or anything hanging down from the ceiling to cause any safety concerns. Besides, no reasonable person would install a fan that is low enough to walk into and cause injury.
  6. Question: If ceiling heights need to be 7′ for your safety, then why is a standard door height only 6′ 8″???
  7. If the law is in place to protect “tall people”, how can “short people” be guaranteed equal protection of the laws and not denied their personal choices for lower ceilings?
  8. These laws that are passed almost always have the same recurring theme of: “The Government is doing [something] and justifies it with the noble-sounding, sound-bite phrase like they are doing it for your safety, health, and welfare.” In reality, look up the following Florida Statue areas the government considers covering your “Health and Welfare.” As for the safety aspect, no matter where you search in the Statutes, you won’t find a section dedicated to your “Safety” like it does for Health and Welfare.

The “real” reason that the 7′ requirement exists is this:

  • It was just copied from the IBC which is published by the ICC where it is sent to 55 countries and its use justified by the noble-sounding sound-bite phrase that they are protecting your safety, health, and welfare…..well not really so!
  • It became a common unit of measure for reasons outlined in the following website articles. Read these related website articles on the evolution of ceiling heights. Please note that “none of the reasons” in these articles involve the “protection of the safety, health, or welfare” of the homeowner.
    • Chicago Tribune: The Rise and Fall of Ceilings
    • REthority.com: What is the Standard Ceiling Height?
    • Slate – Architecture: How High
    • Bob Vila.com: Solved! The Standard Ceiling Height for Homes.
      • In the last paragraph of this article, it tells the real reason for the 8′ ceilings: “There was a time when eight-foot ceilings were the norm. One reason: Timber typically comes in eight-foot (2.44 meter) lengths, so for houses built with timber-frame construction, eight-foot ceilings make sense. What’s more, houses built in the 1970s and 1980s commonly had eight-foot first-floor flat ceilings due to the energy crisis that gripped the country. (Unrest in the Middle East led to an embargo on oil exports to the United States.) In an effort to stem heating/cooling costs, houses were constructed with less interior space by shortening ceilings.”

So, in conclusion. Ceiling height is not governed by Safety Codes but rather aesthetics and energy efficiency determine the heights. And in the end, the budget controls EVERYTHING!

Individuality is negated by this rule!

The concept of the rule is: One size fits all.

It has been shown above that the rule is not for our safety but otherwise. The essence of it is discrimination and our loss and right of “freedom of choice.

Consider this: I am 5′- 6″ and Sui is 4′ – 10″.  By ruling the ceiling height to be 7′ or whatever, it causes the cabinets in the kitchen, and other places, to have their upper shelves outside of our reach. We, therefore, need to use stools, chairs, ladders, etc. to reach them. 

Being older, I have infirmities that prohibit my climbing abilities. Sui and I have had several accidents of falling off of the climbing facilities and suffering minor cuts and bruises. However, this applies not only to us but other similarly situated class of elderly people where this is definitely a public hazard caused by a so-called rule to protect our safety. Such is an inconsistency of government regulations supposedly acting in our best interest of safety yet causing more harm than good.

This demonstrates that us or anyone else who is either short, elderly, or infirm have no freedom of choice in the ceiling height we would prefer in our habitations. We have to live by the rule of the “Tall People” which is, IMHO, a discriminatory rule that should be challenged and put in line along with the other discrimination laws.

If this isn’t enough to encourage you to join Sui’s protest movement then read on by going to the Raising Floor Height link below.