written by:
illustrated by:
September 29, 2011

Muculus Grigsby runs afoul of the permits department, costing him a chunk of change and loads of time.

building codes 101 andy rementer  21

When planning a detached two-car garage for the matching PT Cruisers he bought with his lottery winnings, Muculus Grigsby assumed he didn’t need a building permit. This assumption was confirmed by his brother-in-law, Kenny, who agreed over a few cold ones to build the garage for “cost plus a dime top-nut,” which was Kenny-speak for “construction cost plus ten percent.”

A week after their fateful agreement (solidified though a spirited beer bump), Kenny got a $5,000 deposit from Muculus and started digging the grade beam that would define the perimeter of the garage. His construction documents consisted of a series of shakily drawn lines on a piece of plywood, with the words “two cars + mower” written in the middle. The next morning he called in his order for concrete, which he referred to as “hot sauce.” Kenny and his ragtag crew did a passable job of forming the grade beam and finishing the slab on grade—the final five minutes of which were observed by a scowling man wearing a “Building Inspector” hat, who seem­ed to have materialized out of thin air. Pointing at the wet concrete with a rolled-up Termite Infestation Probability Map, the inspector asked to see Kenny’s building permit. Kenny looked quizzically at him and replied that no permit was needed for hot sauce. The meeting went south, as did the meeting be­­tween Kenny and Muculus later that evening, resulting in Kenny getting the boot.

building codes 101 andy rementer  1
Because the structure that he want­ed was already delayed, Muculus approached a contractor who specialized in garages. Strangely, he was also named Kenny, and Muculus took to calling him “Other Kenny” to avoid confusion. Over a couple of weeks, Other Kenny developed the proper construction documents, which showed the proposed garage in relation to Muculus’s property lines and house. He met with the building official, who issued a building permit after con­firming that the garage adhered to the requirements of both the building code and the zoning ordinance.

The foundation built by the original Kenny had to be replaced and the site regraded, which set Muculus back $5,000 on top of the cost of the garage. Other Kenny worked quickly, called in the building inspector at all the proper times, and passed the final inspection a month after he broke ground. That night, certificate of occupancy in hand (but $5,000 poorer than planned), Muculus backed his one PT Cruiser into the garage, having had to sell the other to pay for the garage.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

A renovated brick house with metal standing-seam roof in Arlington, Virginia
With a new skeleton, a brick house on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., gets an eco-friendly upgrade—without losing its local charm.
May 05, 2016
simpler times australian vacation home vertical wood cladding
Robust materials and a flexible floor plan help the owners of an Australian vacation home reap maximum rewards.
May 05, 2016
sweet virginia vacation smart home facade granite stucco mahogany siding
This vacation home fosters connectivity in every sense of the word.
May 05, 2016
monkey see monkey do japan living dining room custom kitchen island stove vent eames chairs
And views of the wildlife aren't bad either.
May 05, 2016
Martis Camp 141 in Truckee California
Martis Camp 141 celebrates it mountainous surroundings with local materials.
May 05, 2016
havart 170
Updating standard pieces, designer Gaëtan Havart turns a misused space into a vibrant kitchen.
May 04, 2016
tech support stillwater dwellings prefab exterior napa
In Napa, a custom menu of apps helps a frequent traveler keep track of security—and his garden—from afar.
May 04, 2016
home for good renovation montreal family rear facade steel cladding footbridge garden
This family opens up an old structure and imagines a long-term house.
May 04, 2016
BKLYN DESIGNS 2016 location
From panel discussions to virtual reality demonstrations and more, this weekend will bring out the designer in everyone during BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few activities and installations to check out.
May 04, 2016
cbill timmerman photography jarson residence l7c4109 0
After a successful kick-off program in San Diego, we’re now making our way to Scottsdale, Arizona for the second stop on our Dwell Home Tours series. As the only desert locale on our agenda, we’re giving visitors the chance to explore exquisite modern residences that are fully immersed in the city’s arid landscape.
May 04, 2016
Modern winery in Central California
An updated California winery captures a prestigious architecture award.
May 03, 2016
back to the garden rhode island cottage small space facade landscaping
Outside Providence, Rhode Island, a little retreat takes up no more space than a standard two-car garage.
May 03, 2016
White staircase with skylight and under-stair storage
With clever storage and a retractable skylight, a London apartment feels larger than its 576 square feet.
May 03, 2016
Off-the-grid prefab in pristine Tasmanian landscape by Misho+Associates.
In Tasmania, an eco-conscious architect builds a vacation home that can stand up to an untamed island.
May 03, 2016
30degree pendants by wrong.london
The Danish design brand never disappoints.
May 02, 2016
practical magic brooklyn renocation kitchen caesarstone countertop stainless steel ikea cabinetes green vola faucet
A creative couple flips the script on their family home, a former workman’s cottage on the northern edge of Brooklyn.
May 02, 2016
history lesson kansas city outdoor backyard facade porch saarinen round table emeco navy chairs
An architect pushes the vernacular architecture of Missouri into the modern realm.
May 02, 2016
mission possible san francisco renovation facade exterior french doors cedar
A dilapidated lot in San Francisco gets a second chance.
May 02, 2016
Eames Demetrios of Kcymaerxthaere
The Eames scion and "geographer-at-large" traverses the globe on behalf of Kcymaerxthaere, a network of markers and monuments that tells fictional tales about real-life communities.
May 02, 2016
marcel breuer architect letter office kansas city snower house
See a glimpse into the office of a master architect.
May 01, 2016
Santa Monica living room with an Yves Klein coffee table
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's May 2016 issue.
May 01, 2016
house that sottsass built maui hawaii memphis group home renovation ettore facade colored volumes
In Maui, of all places.
May 01, 2016
two of a kind padua italy matching family homes facade green roof doors color
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to dream homes , we visited homes from Haiti to Italy. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
April 30, 2016
houseofweek
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
April 30, 2016
W House living room
Our best reader reactions this week.
April 29, 2016
Vineyard house illuminated at night
Rammed-earth construction fuses this Portuguese house to the environment.
April 29, 2016
vintage Scandinavian furniture Kathryn Tyler
In southwest England, interior designer Kathryn Tyler built her home around her ever-expanding furniture collection.
April 29, 2016
steel facade home Seattle
On the sandy shores of Fauntleroy Cove in Seattle, renowned firm Olson Kundig Architects crafts a subtle home with striking steel accents.
April 29, 2016
seperate piece renovated guesthouse eames storage unit cork floor tiles living room
An architect and an interior designer put the tools to the test for this impressive renovation.
April 29, 2016
Ceramics by WrenLab
Manhattan doesn’t get to have all the fun during NYCxDesign. Brooklyn is set for the return of BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few exhibitors we are excited to see this year.
April 29, 2016