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Why inspect a water barrier on a house?

I read an article by the League of Oregon Cities recently about a decision in Famworth v. Rosetto. The Oregon Court of Appeals determined that the city of Medford had no duty to conduct inspections for compliance with the statewide building codes. It further stated that the state does not require cities to inspect buildings for compliance with the state's building code. So why does the city of Medford require permits to do inspections when it's not required and they're not liable?

— Steve M., Shady Cove

That's a really technical, legal question you have there, Steve.

We checked in with Medford Building Director Sam Barnum, who said this is an issue regarding the weather or rain-barrier installation, often referred to as the vapor barrier.

According to Barnum, section R109 of the Oregon Residential Specialty Code doesn't require an inspection on the rain-barrier installation, which is why the city of Medford had no obligation to conduct one for compliance.

The code establishes the minimum standard the contractor must follow, such as the number of fasteners required for roofing installation.

"Although the city does not inspect the installation, the contractor must meet the minimum standards as outlined in the code," Barnum said.

The city does inspect some items that are required under state building codes, just not the vapor barrier, Steve. 

"We have about 30 inspections on a SFR (single-family residential)," Barnum said. "There's just some things we can't inspect."

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.