Thursday, March 26, 2009

The truth and nothing but the truth

Thank you to all who suggested I contact a local inspector. I did just that. Here is our e-mail exchange:

My original e-mail:

I would like to do this in my kitchen: The "open shelf" is mounted at the standard height with a cabinet about that. Essentially, the open shelf serves at the "first shelf" in the kitchen and the rest are enclosed. Recently a contractor informed me this would not be "code", and the cabinets have to be mounted at 54" from the ground. My argument is the open shelf will be at the 54" line and thus is still within "regulation". It would be as if I choose to put all open shelving in my kitchen - just the top shelves have doors. Can you help?

The glorious reply I got was this:

When you say “contractor,” you mean the ikea kitchen designer, I’m not sure where they got that information. There is a requirement above ranges because of the potential for fire due to the heat generated, but not in any other cabinet space. Some municipalities may have a requirement because of issues specific to their jurisdiction, but DC is not one of them. I asked around last night and there isn’t a requirement by the IRC or ICC because I had never heard of this before. I suspect that maybe their design software doesn’t have the option for a shelf.

The level of joy I got from reading this was probably not normal.


Anthony said...

I'm glad you got that response because I have been wracking my brain to think if I have EVER heard of such a requirement for kitchen cabinets. Over the range-that I get, but elsewhere I had NEVER heard that. Happy you got that figured out! Good luck designing!

Ben said...


I think it was a mix-up between "standards" and "rules". I can understand the standard height for a cabinet being 54" from the ground - but no one ever said that was the "rule".


Christopher Busta-Peck said...


I'm almost inclined to sit down and read a copy of the code (or at least an interpretation thereof) to see how much of the stuff that I've been told is actually true.

Jamie said...

I am astounded. Really.

1) A cabinet installer knows or cares about building codes, even if he turns out to be wrong.

Are permits even required to hang cabinets? To put up shelves? How about pictures? Really?

2) That you emailed DCRA and they responded, AND ANSWERED YOUR QUESTION???

My entire world is upside down.

Ben said...


I know. It's nuts.


I don't think you need a permit to hang cabinets (I could be wrong). Not to burst your bubble but I actually e-mailed a local home inspector (not one that works for the city) to get my answer. Which is why I got one so fast!


Anonymous said...

Hey, Ben.

Good news. We had an issue regarding a "landing" at the attic level that we wanted to be a "plant rail" in order to let the maximum of light in. it's complex, but the long and the short of it was that it was one of those borderline issues and what I did was just call the inspector and rap with him. He wasn't going to do the inspection, but he came out and looked and then talked with the guy who was going to do the inspection. Result? No problems.

Right now, I bet the inspectors are a bit dead, so they might love rappin' with a smart and nice home owner.


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