A friend invited me to move to California a few years ago. It was a tempting offer. I declined for two reasons; strong community connections here, and burdensome trade licensure there. Perhaps it came down to unease on my part dealing with perfect weather year-round. It seems unnatural.

Here’s an interesting yet often ignored fact: Maine does have building codes. It’s the builder’s or homeowner’s responsibility to comply. What we lack is widespread enforcement. Perhaps an even greater obstacle ensuring structures are code compliant is our lack of code education. In a state like California where every trade is required to be licensed, every trade in turn needs to be code educated to achieve licensure. In the residential construction world I live in, there’s no infrastructure in place to foster code-savvy builders. We’re on our own. There are certain trades that require a license for residential work. Ones that come to mind are electrical, plumbing, and anyone working with propane or refrigerants.

My dream education scenario would include monthly code classes over dinner. I grab any educational opportunity I can. There’s a big difference between an evening looking to educate and one looking to sell a certain product. Among the excellent classes I’ve attended were ones offering information on the introduction of Maine’s Energy Code and ones offered through a local lumberyard featuring the town’s code enforcement officer. Twice I’ve been lucky enough to attend talks presented by the State Fire Marshal’s Office. For my day-to-day questions I turn to the book “Building Code Basics: Residential.” It’s based on the International Residential Code and is written in language easily understood.

If you’re building in a locale with a code enforcement officer, a CEO, they can be great sources of information. Here are two things I learned just the other day during a final inspection. Both make good sense and fall in the realm of health and safety. I didn’t know either was code required. They’re a good example of basics you may not think of until someone points them out. They also show that code compliance is neither onerous nor scary. What I learned is that the junction between a vanity top and wall surface, as well as the junction between the toilet and floor, need to be sealed with an appropriate caulk.