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Q: building code in michigan ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: building code in michigan
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: tg39det-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 08 Jun 2002 19:33 PDT
Expires: 15 Jun 2002 19:33 PDT
Question ID: 23898
Michigan building code question...What are the restrictions upon  
home additions 3 foot or closer to side yard property line?
Subject: Re: building code in michigan
Answered By: weisstho-ga on 08 Jun 2002 20:23 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Dear TG,

Thanks for the question!  

The establishment of a “set-back” requirement in Michigan is a
“zoning” issue rather than one covered by our building codes.

“A city's zoning authority is derived from the city and village zoning
enabling act, Mich. Comp. Laws Section 125.581 +.  The statute does
not grant unlimited authority to restrict all activities or objects.
Zoning restrictions must be limited to "buildings" or "structures" and
must bear a reasonable relationship to the city's police powers. 
Bloomfield Hills v. Ziegelman,  Court of Appeals of Michigan,  110
Mich. App. 530; 313 N.W.2d 137 (1981).

Whether you are located in an area where the zoning ordinance is
adopted by a city, a township, or a county, it is the responsibility
of that unit of government to enforce the zoning ordinance. If a
property owner desires to construct a building or structure in a
manner inconsistent with the law, then he/she bears the responsibility
to obtain a variance from the requirement of the ordinance. That
person can appeal the decision from the zoning board to the zoning
board of appeals, and then to the circuit court in the county in which
you are located.

However, “a zoning ordinance is clothed with a presumption of
validity. It is the burden of the party attacking the ordinance to
prove affirmatively that the ordinance is an arbitrary and
unreasonable restriction upon the owner's use of his property. It must
appear that the clause attacked is an arbitrary fiat, a whimsical ipse
dixit, and that there is no room for a legitimate difference of
opinion concerning its reasonableness. An owner must show that if the
ordinance is enforced, the consequent restrictions on his or her
property preclude its use for any purposes to which it is reasonably
adapted.” Bloomfield Hills v. Ziegelman,  Court of Appeals of
Michigan,  110 Mich. App. 530; 313 N.W.2d 137 (1981).

To find the exact set-back requirement, you will have to contact your
unit of government (usually city, village, or township) and ask what
the set-back requirement is. They will have different requirements for
front, side, and back yards. They will also have different
requirements for various residential, multifamily, or commercial
zones. For example, many cities in Michigan use a 10 foot side-yard
requirement for residential, but commercial might be 0 feet.

Once you have the required set-back, you can determine whether
neighbor is in compliance. If not, file a written complaint with the
city/village/township. They should then commence enforcement action.

If they refuse to correct the problem you almost no-doubt have
recourse by asking the court for a writ of mandamus to insist that the
zoning board do their duty. If this is required, the assistance of an
attorney skilled in property law in your city is almost a necessity.

Please indicate for me, through the CLARIFICATION function here on
Google Answers, what village or city you live in. I will then search
and see if their zoning ordinance is accessible over the web. If it
is, we can find out this weekend what the actual requirement is.

If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to also ask for
CLARIFICATION for those questions.

Good luck, and I hope to hear your clarification soon. 



zoning + set-back
writ of mandamus

Clarification of Answer by weisstho-ga on 08 Jun 2002 23:01 PDT
On the off-chance that you live in the city of Detroit (I see the
"det" in your address: I may be slow, but I'm sure   :o), I am
attaching the “Summary District Charts” found in Appendix B of the
City of Detroit Zoning Ordinance:{15D5}&record=dochitfirst&softpage=newTestMainHitnonFrame&submit1=Search

Please note that the setback requirement for zoning classifications
R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-4 indicates that sideyard setbacks are four feet,
minimum, 14 feet combined, which I would interpret as 7 feet average,
but you can borrow from one side and have more on the other, so long
as it is not less than 4 feet on either side.

Quite a few municipalities have their zoning ordinances on the web. If
you don’t live in Detroit, we may still find your community. Please
let me know!


Request for Answer Clarification by tg39det-ga on 09 Jun 2002 05:55 PDT
Ira Twp........  and I already know the side yard
setback.........(10')  but what I need to know is state building code
regarding a home 3' or less.  The building inspector mentioned
something relating to "fire ratings" when building an addition  3' or
closer.   Is there some kind of  state code regarding building
construction, fire rating, and the distance between homes?

Clarification of Answer by weisstho-ga on 09 Jun 2002 07:39 PDT
Let me get on this. I see more clearly now with your latest comments.

Which county are you in?  I see that a number of counties have an Ira
Township, including St. Clair County and Mecosta County.

Request for Answer Clarification by tg39det-ga on 10 Jun 2002 05:17 PDT
St. Clair County...............thanks...look forward to   your answere...Terry

Clarification of Answer by weisstho-ga on 10 Jun 2002 08:58 PDT
Hi Terry,

Here is your initial question:  “What are the restrictions upon home
additions 3 foot or closer to side yard property line?”

The answer is that exterior walls closer than 3 feet to the property
line must have a “one hour fire-resistive rating with exposure from
BOTH sides.”

The answer is found in the Michigan Residential Code, a new state-wide
standard that is the same in all jurisdictions. Michigan adopted the
BOCA code:

Here is the relevant text from Section 302 of the Residential Code:
R302.1 EXTERIOR WALLS.  “Exterior walls with a fire separation
distance less than 3 feet (914mm) [Note:  LESS THAN 3 FEET]  shall
have not less than a one-hour fire-resistive rating with exposure from
both sides. Projections shall not extend beyond the distance
determined by the following two methods, whichever results in the
lesser projections:
1.  A point one-third the distance to the property line from an
assumed vertical plane located where protected openings are required.
2.  More than 12 inches (305mm) into areas where openings are

“Projections extending into the fire separation distance shall have
not less than one-hour fire-resistive construction on the underside.
The above provisions shall not apply to walls which are perpendicular
to the line used to determine the fire separation distance.

“Exception: Tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar structures
exempted from permits by Section R105.2 are not required to provide
wall protection based on location on the lot. Projections beyond the
exterior wall shall not extend over the lot line.”

R302.2 OPENINGS. “Openings shall not be permitted in the exterior wall
of a dwelling or accessory building with a fire separation distance
less than 3 feet (914 mm). This distance shall be measured
perpendicular to the line used to determine the fire separation

1.  Openings shall be permitted in walls that are perpendicular to the
line used to determine the fire separation distance.
2.  Foundation vents installed in compliance with this code are

R.302.3  PENETRATIONS.  [A “penetration” could be a window, or other
“hole in the wall.]  “Penetrations located in the exterior wall of a
dwelling with a fire separation distance less than 3 feet (914mm)
shall be protected in accordance with Section R321.3.

“Exception: Penetrations shall be permitted in walls that are
perpendicular to the line used to determine the fire separation

I spoke with Tim Wiggle, Administrator of the Ira Township Building
Department (586-725-0263). We discussed some of the variables
(garages, additions, sheds) and there can be a number of
interpretations of the standard code. Perhaps a sit-down with Mr.
Wiggle might prove productive. It was Mr. Wiggle’s position that it is
irrelevant as to what is on the other side of the property line – it
could be a vacant lot. If you are less than 3 feet – the wall must be

The Residential Code is NOT on the web – I looked high and low, near
and far, even called the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry
Services – Building Code Division, to confirm. Nope. You have to get a
hard copy, either looking at one locally (at the township hall in your
case) or order one from the State.  I traveled down to the Mt.
Pleasant, MI city hall and borrowed their copy for the above info.

The Michigan Residential Building Code is available for sale from the
Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services in Lansing at a
cost of $60.00.  Here’s the order form:

The administrative provisions pertaining to the Residential Code are
available over the Web:
and then scroll down to Section 408.30501 (about two-thirds through
the document). This code is not the actual building code, but how it
is administered.

Thanks for the interesting question, Terry. Best of luck in being able
to achieve what you’re looking for.


Search terms utilized:


Clarification of Answer by weisstho-ga on 10 Jun 2002 14:13 PDT
Hello again, Terry.

The code above refers to Section 321.3 "Penetrations". I have the text
of that section if you would like it. It is a bit long and therefore I
have elected to hold it.

It basically says that any penetration shall have the same fire rating
as the wall. This includes recessed light fixtures. There are
provisions for steel outlet boxes on opposite sides of the wall as
well as language specifying fire-resistant nonmetallic boxes.

After I wrote the above clarification, I received a call from
"Charlie" in the Michigan Dept. of Consumer & Industry Services -
Bureau of Construction Codes who
confirmed that the Section 302 is the applicable code governing your
issue. You can contact these folks by phone at 517/241-9317 (I don't
think that they're e-mail'ers) - the receptionist will put you into
voice-mail. They called me back within two hours and 'ole Charlie was
most pleasant and helpful.

tg39det-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Great job...... and quick......  email notices would be nice of 
additional coomments........Thanks again

There are no comments at this time.

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