Building Safety


The following is a summary list of the most commonly violated city and state regulations.  It is not intended to be all inclusive.  It is a reference tool for property owners and managers of rental properties.  Most of the regulations also apply to one- and two-family owner occupied dwelling units.


ADDRESS NUMBERS – Must be clearly readable from the street, or alleyway if applicable, both day and night. Numbers shall contrast with their background.  Address numbers shall be Arabic numerals or alphabet letters.  Chap. 104-273

ROOF – Must be tight, without leaks and have no missing or severely deteriorated shingles.   Chap. 104-277

EXTERIOR SIDING/MASONRY – All vinyl siding, brick veneer, stucco or any other natural or manufactured products used in a “siding” application to provide permanent exterior protection shall be maintained in a sound condition and good repair to protect the building framing and interior in a weather resistant and watertight condition.    Chap. 104-272

EXTERIOR WALLS/PAINT – Exterior surfaces requiring surface protection must be painted or protected with non-lead-based products. Lead safe work practices are required by law. For more information regarding lead requirements and lead-safe work practices you can obtain EPA rules on their website at or you can contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-5323.  Chap. 104-272

STAIRS/PORCHES/DECKS – Must be maintained in sound condition and good repair. New or substantial replacement must comply with requirements as defined in the State Building Codes.   Handouts & diagrams are available at the Building Inspection Office on the second floor of the Government Center or by clicking here.  The Building Inspection division phone number is 715-395-7288.  Chap. 104-12 & 13

RAILS – Graspable handrails and protective handrails/guardrails are required on stairs having more than three risers for one- and two-family dwellings and between a floor and the floor or grade below of 30 inches or greater for multi-family dwelling units.  Handrails must be maintained in good condition.   Chap. 104-282

GUARDS – Existing guardrails must be legally installed in accordance with a previous building code and be maintained in good repair. New guardrails on stairs, porches, balconies or similar raised floor areas shall be installed in accord with the applicable building code.  Check with the building inspector for the requirements of your particular installation.  Required guardrails shall have intermediate rails or ornamental closures that do not allow a four inch (4”) diameter sphere to pass through. The triangular openings formed by the riser, tread and bottom rail of a guardrail shall not permit a six inch (6”) sphere to pass through.

One & Two Family Exception:  New guardrails shall not be less than thirty-six inches (36”) in height.  Chap. 104-282

DOORS – All exterior doors, door assemblies and hardware shall be maintained in sound condition.  Locks at all entrances to dwelling units, rooming units and guestrooms shall tightly secure the door.   Within multi-family dwelling units, all means of egress doors shall be readily openable from the side from which egress is to be made without the need for keys, special knowledge or effort, except where the door hardware conforms to that permitted by the International Building Code.  Chap. 104-285 & 593

WINDOWS – Must be in sound condition, have no broken glass, be weathertight, be double glazed or be equipped with storm windows.  (Locks are required on every window within 8 feet of grade, including second story windows or windows accessible by fire escape, stairs, etc.)  Windows can be equipped with bars for security if they are not required “egress windows”.  Windows shall have hardware to hold in the “open” position and shall be equipped with screens where required for ventilation.  Chap. 104-283

EGRESS WINDOWS   (Multi-family existing windows) – One window from each sleeping room must be easily openable from the inside. Emergency escape and rescue openings shall open directly onto a public way. Security grates and bars must have mechanisms that open easily from the inside.  Existing egress windows shall be legally installed in accordance with building code at the time of installation.   Egress windows shall be maintained in good repair.  Area wells must meet the minimum size requirement of the building code at the time of construction.   Chap. 104-12 & 13, Chap. 104-283

EGRESS WINDOWS   (This requirement is for new window installations within multi-family units:)  These windows must have a minimum net clear openable area of five point seven (5.7) square feet.  Minimum net clear opening height shall be twenty-four inches (24”). Minimum net clear opening width shall be twenty inches (20”), and a sill height of no more than forty-four inches (44”) above the floor.  Area wells shall meet minimum sizes.  (Requirements for new window installations within one- & two-family dwelling units:)  The nominal size of the net clear window opening shall be at least 20 inches by 24 inches irrespective of height or width.  The lowest point of the clear opening shall not exceed 46 inches above the floor unless provided with a permanent step.  Area wells shall meet minimum sizes.  Chap. 104-12 & 13, Chap. 104-283

GARBAGE CONTAINERS – Owners are required to provide sufficient and approved containers with lids and regular garbage pick-up. Tenants are required to dispose of rubbish or garbage in the provided containers. Containers must be removed to private property area promptly after pickup.  Chap. 58-1 to 20, Chap. 104-321 to 324

****CONSTRUCTION NOTE **** All exterior repairs and/or maintenance must be made with exterior grade materials.



WALLS/FLOORS/CEILINGS/PAINT – Must be maintained clean, painted and in a professional state of repair. Lead safe work practices are required by law. For more information regarding lead requirements and lead-safe work practices you can obtain EPA rules on their website at or you can contact the National Lead Information center at 1-800-424-5323.  Chap. 104-303

STAIRS/RAILS – Same specifications as exterior stairs except construction materials need not be of exterior grade.   Chap. 104-305

EXTERMINATION – All structures shall be kept free from insect and rodent infestation.

Owner.  The owner of any structure shall be responsible for extermination within the structure prior to renting or leasing the structure.  Chap. 104-332

Single occupant.  The occupant of a one-family dwelling or of a single-tenant nonresidential structure shall be responsible for extermination on the premises. Chap.104-333

Multiple occupancies:  The owner of a structure containing two or more dwelling units, multiple occupancy, rooming house or a nonresidential structure shall be responsible for extermination in the public or shared areas of the structure and exterior property. If infestation is caused by failure of an occupant to prevent such infestation in the area occupied, the occupant shall be responsible for extermination.  Chap. 104-331

Occupant.  The occupant of any structure shall be responsible for the continued rodent and pest-free condition of the structure.  Chap. 104-335

Exception:  Where the infestations are caused by defects in the structure, the owner shall be responsible for extermination.

OCCUPANY SEPARATION – Rated fire walls and doors are required between separate dwelling units, commercial/residential space or attached or tuck under garage/residential space as defined in the state one- and two-family dwelling code and the state commercial codes.


COMBUSTIBLE STORAGE/FURNACE ROOM – No combustible storage is allowed in any room containing furnace, heating, mechanical, or electrical equipment.

FURNACE/HEATING PLANT – Must be capable of providing heat at 68̊ (degrees) Fahrenheit in all habitable rooms, bathrooms and toilet rooms.   Required temperatures shall be measured at approximately two (2) feet above the floor and at least two (2) feet inward from an exterior wall. Installation or alteration of heating equipment must be done by a qualified contractor or service company upon obtaining a heating permit from the Building Inspection Office. A separate plumbing permit maybe required for gas piping. Cooking appliances shall not be used to provide heat.  Chap. 104-502 & 503

PLUMBING/SEWER – Kitchen sinks, hand sinks, bathtubs, showers, toilets or urinals must be supplied with running water, adequate hot water where applicable and must be connected to the sewer and water system in accordance with all provisions of the Wisconsin State Plumbing Code.  Chap. 104-431 to 433 and 104-441 to 443

WATER HEATER – Must be capable of supplying adequate hot water at a minimum temperature of 120̊ (degrees) Fahrenheit at every kitchen sink, tub, shower, and laundry facility. All repairs or alterations must be made under permit from the Building Inspection Office by a licensed contractor in accordance with the Plumbing Code.  Chap. 104-444

GAS CONNECTIONS – Flexible connectors on stoves or dryers must be AGA (American Gas Association) approved.  Stainless steel flexible connectors are recommended.  Existing single walled connectors that are kinked, damaged, or corroded must be replaced. Illegal gas shut-off valves or valves with broken handles must be replaced with AGA approved valves.  Chap 34-108

ELECTRICAL – Service must be adequate to serve needs of occupants and maintained in accordance with the State Electrical Code. Every habitable room shall have at least two separate and remote receptacle outlets.   Any new receptacle installed in the kitchen, bathroom or exterior must be Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protected (GFCI).  Every public hall, stairway, water closet, bathroom, laundry, or boiler/furnace room must contain at least one electric lighting fixture.  The laundry room outlet must be grounded and within six feet (6’) of the laundry appliance. Any new outlet in the bathroom must be G.F.C.I. protected.  It is strongly recommended that existing outlets in bathroom be converted to a G.F.C.I. It is strongly recommended that all metallic fixtures within five feet (5’) horizontally or eight feet (8’) vertically of grounded surfaces shall be grounded.  Chap. 104-541 to 553

ALL FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT – All required and supplied equipment and all building spaces and parts must be constructed and maintained to properly and safely perform their intended function.  Chap 104-242 & 244 & 302

FLAMMABLE LIQUID STORAGE – No gasoline or other flammable liquid can be stored in a residential building unless stored in a one-hour, fire-rated room or approved fire-rated cabinet. Flammable liquids can never be stored in a room with a source of ignition, such as a furnace, water heater, etc.  NFPA Chap.101

CONDEMNATION/UNFIT – Equipment, a dwelling unit or entire building may be condemned when it is determine to be a hazard to the safety or welfare of the tenant(s)  Chap. 104-131 to 136


SMOKE ALARMS – An operable smoke alarm shall be provided and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions in each sleeping room, in the area providing access to the sleeping areas, on each story and in the basement.  The preferred location is the ceiling.   Alarm placement must not be farther than twelve inches (12”) from the ceiling if placed on the wall. Specific smoke alarm installation instructions and approved alarm types are found in Chapter 54-31 to 37.

CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS – State Statue requires an operable carbon monoxide alarm(s) be provided and maintained in one- and two-family dwellings, multi-family residential buildings, and other buildings providing sleeping accomodations.   When required, one- and two-family dwelling units shall have a CO dectector installed on each floor level but not required within the bedrooms.   For specific installation directions for multi-family residential buildings or other CO detector questions, contact the building inspection office or the Superior Fire Department.

FLOORS/WALLS/PAINT/CABINETS/WOODWORK – Shall be in sound condition and good repair.  Any peeling or flaking paint must be safely removed and repainted. Lead safe work practices are required by law. For more inforation regarding lead requirements and lead-safe work practices you can obtain EPA rules on their website at or you can contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-5323.  Chap. 104-303

WINDOW LOCKS – All windows must be equipped with secure locks when they are within 8 feet (8’) of grade or a walking surface.   Chap. 104-283

SPACE HEATERS – Subject to all requirements of servicing/cleaning (see Furnace/Heating Plant). Space heaters shall be serviced by a qualified individuals  . All regulations of the International Mechanical Code, National Fuel Gas Code and/or the

SPS 323 Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning Code as applicable, shall be applied. Unvented fuel-burning heating

appliances are not allowed.  Chap 104-491 to 526

PORTABLE SPACE HEATERS –  When the permanent heating system is faulty or deemed unsafe, portable ELECTRIC space heaters shall be allowed for very short term, limited, temporary use, that is, one to two days only. The heater must be a UL or F.M. listed and approved unit. The heater must be plugged directly into an approved outlet without the use of extension cords or adapters. Required clearance from combustibles shall be minimum of eighteen inches. (18”).

Recommendation: Heaters have “tip over” safety shut-off feature.

BATHROOOM VENTILATION – Every bathroom must have a window openable to the outside, or an approved mechanical ventilation system, venting directly to the exterior.  Chap. 104-372

TOILET ROOM/HAND SINK – Toilet rooms shall provide privacy.  A hand wash sink shall be located in the same room or in close proximity to the toilet room.  A kitchen sink shall not be substituted for a hand wash sink.  Chap. 104-411 and 421

TUB/SHOWER -- Each dwelling unit shall contain tub or shower installed and maintained in accordance with the state plumbing code.  Chap. 104-411

KITCHEN SINK – Each dwelling unit shall contain a kitchen sink installed and maintained in accordance with the State plumbing code.  A lavatory, toilet room hand wash sink or laundry sink shall not be substituted for a kitchen sink.  Chap. 104-411

ROOF DRAINS – The rain gutter down spouts or rain water stacks which are connected to the city sanitary sewer shall be disconnected and run outside as per Superior Code of Ordinance Chapter 114-23 & 26.  For further information please contact the City Environmental Services Division at 715-394-5826.

KITCHEN AND BATHROOM FLOORS – Must be impervious to water with a smooth cleanable surface, easily maintained in a safe and sanitary condition.   Carpeting is not allowed. Cracked or missing tiles must be repaired/replaced.  Chap 104-303


EXTENSION CORDS – Not allowed for permanent wiring. Those extension cords with circuit breakers are also not legal. The overload on the wiring in the wall produces heat and can be a fire hazard.

TENANT SANITATION/RESPONSIBILITIES – Occupants are required to maintain their unit in a clean and sanitary condition and dispose of refuse in the containers provided by the owner. They are also required to keep supplied fixtures clean and sanitary and use reasonable care in their use and operation.   Chapter 58

OCCUPANT LOAD – Dwelling units must contain the following:

Total unit gross floor area                                                                  Gross sleeping room/floor area

Please refer to Chapter 104-381, 384 & 385                                           1 occupant – 70 square feet

                                                                                                            2 or more occupants – 50 square feet per person


Chapter 122-1

Dwelling means any building or portion thereof which is designed for or used for residential purposes.

Dwelling, one-family means a building designed for exclusive occupancy by one family and occupied exclusively by one family and not more than four roomers.

Family means one or more persons occupying a dwelling and living as a single housekeeping unit, as distinguished from persons occupying a boardinghouse, lodging house, motel, or hotel as herein defined.

Chapter 104-221

(141) “Tenancy” means occupancy, or a right to present occupancy under a rental agreement, and includes periodic tenancies and tenancies at will. The term does not include the occupancy of a dwelling unit without consent of the landlord after expiration of a lease or termination of tenancy under ch. 704, Stats.

(142) “Tenant” means a person, corporation, partnership or group occupying, or entitled to present or future occupancy of a dwelling unit, structure or premise under a rental agreement, and includes persons occupying dwelling units under periodic tenancies and tenancies at will. The term applies to persons holding over after termination of tenancy until removed from the dwelling unit by sheriff’s execution of a judicial writ of restitution issued under s. 799.44, Stats. It also applies to persons entitled to the return of a security deposit, or an accounting for the security deposit.

(143) “Tenant at will” means any tenant holding with the permission of the tenant’s landlord without a valid lease and under circumstances not involving periodic payment of rent; but a person holding possession of real property under a contract of purchase or an employment contract is not a tenant under this chapter.




FIRE ALARM TESTING – Fire alarm tests must be done yearly by a qualfied contractor. Three (3) years of documentation must be furnished to Fire Inspector upon request.

SPRINKLER SYSTEM TESTING – Sprinkler systems must be tested annually in accordance with their respective standards by qualified personnel and tagged at or near the main control panel. Three (3) years of documentation must be furnished to Fire Inspector upon request.

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS  - A 2A5BC fire extinguisher must be available in the hall within fifty feet (50’) of any apartment door on the same level or a 2A5BC fire extinguisher in each apartment. Laundry room and/or furnace/boiler rooms require 2A1OBC fire extinguisher within thirty feet (30’) of the rooms.

FIRE EXTINGUISHER SERVICING – Extingishers must be inspected and tagged every year by qualified personnel and hydrostatically tested by a qualified company every six years.

FIRE SEPARATION/APARMENT – One-hour fire resistive wall and ceiling separation with a 20 minute self-closing fire door (closer shall be UL or other  listed and approved) is required in buildings with three (3) or more units.

FIRE SEPARATION/BASEMENT – One-hour fire resistive separation is required in incidental areas of 100 square feet or more (i.e. – basements or stoarage areas) of a three (3) or more unit building. Allowable construction is as follows:

1.)    Existing lath and plaster in good condition (Fire Inspector or Building Inspector approval is required) or

2.)    New 5/8” type “X” gypsum board or

3.)    An approved sprinkler system installed by a licensed sprinkler contractor or

4.)    Spray applied fire resistant coating (UL or other listed and approved) ** Building Inspector approval is required for product and application **

5.)    Fire-rated suspended ceiling system (entire system – tiles, grid and hangers must be one hour fire rated.)

Exception: Incidental area(s) with no combusitble/flammable storage and no tenant access.

All doors exiting these areas must be a self-closing, one-hour, fire-rated assembly (door, frame, door handle, hinges and self-closer must be UL or FM listed and approved.)

FIRE SEPARATION/FURNACE ROOM – In any furnace room containing a heating appliace that exceeds 400,000 BTU per hour input must have walls and ceilings of one-hour fire resistive construction with a self-closing one-hour fire door assembly (door, frame, door handle, hinges and self-closer must be UL or FM listed and approved.)


NUMBER OF EXITS – All exits shall be maintained in safe condition in accord with the original building design or the approved  building plans if the building was altered from its original construction.

EXIT OBSTRUCTIONS – All exits from the building must be unobstructed at all items. No storage is allowed in stairwells, corridors, or in front of doors.

CORRIDOR RATING – Exit corridors that serve more than ten people are required to be one-hour fire-rated. All doors entering that corridor must be twenty-minute, fire-rated with a UL or other approved self-closing device.

Exception:  Required corridor fire rating may be reduced if the building is properly equipped with sprinklers.

FIRE DOOR OBSTRUCTIONS – Fire doors must not be blocked open, secured shut or obstructed with storage. Self-closures must be in operable condition. **REPEATED VIOLATION OF BLOCKING OPEN FIRE DOORS WILL RESULT IN REVIEW OF THIS CONDITION WITH THE FIRE CHIEF FOR APPROVED METHOD OF CORRECTION.

STORAGE UNDER STAIRS – Storage under stairways in multi-family dwellings is prohibited.

Exception: In one and two family dwellings enclosed accessible space under stairs must have walls, ceiling and under stair surfaces protect on the enclosed side with minimum ½” tight fitting gypsum board.

STAIR ENCLOSURE/CHUTES – Stairs that serve three (3) to five (5) levels must be enclosed with a one-hour fire-rated enclosure or the building must have a sprinkler system.  Six (6) levels or more MUST have one-hour fire rated enclosures. Doors entering these stairwells must be one-hour rated assemblies.

STAIRWAY IDENTIFICATION – Stairways serving four or more stories must be identified with signs on each floor level that clearly indicate the floor level and whether there is roof access.

APARTMENT DOOR CLOSURES – Apartment doors entering stairwells must be one-hour, fire-rated with a UL or FM approved self-closures. Apartment doors entering corridors that serve ten or more occupants (1,000 square feet living space) must have operable UL or FM approved self-closures and doors must be 20-minute fire-rated.

EXIT SIGNS – Illuminated exit signs are required when there is more than one exit from a story/space unless built in accordance with a previous building code with lower standards.

EMERGENCY EGRESS LIGHTING – Required in common hallways or spaces with two (2) or more exits. Emergency lighting must be maintained at all times and tested monthly.   All common halls and inside stairways must be lit with a minimum illumination of one foot-candle per square foot. Exterior exits and entryways are required to be illuminated a minimum of one foot-candle at grade level.


High-rise residential buildings (75’ or higher) have additional requirements.  The regulations listed below enforced and inspected by Fire Department staff:

FIRE ALARM SYSTEM – Must be installed in accordance with the building code standards for high-rise buildings for the date it was constructed including:  voice communication, public address system, central control station, and HVAC smoke detection.

VOICE COMMUNICATION – Activation of any detection or other initiating device must sound an alert signal in designated areas followed by voice instructions giving appropriate direction and instructions to occupants.

SYSTEM TESTS – All sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, stand pipes, smoke and heat ventilators, smoke removal systems, and other fire protective or extinguishing systems must be tested and maintained in accordance with nationally recognized standards (quarterly for high-rise).

MANUAL SHUT-DOWN OR AIR HANDLING – Each air distribution system must be equipped with a manually operated device that will stop the operation of supply, return, and/or exhaust fans in an emergency.

STAIRWELL UNLOCKING – Stairwell doors into exit stairways/enclosures must be unlocked from the stairway side on at least every fifth floor. These doors must be identified from the stairwell side. There are exceptions for door locking mechanisms deactivated by the fire alarm system.

DUCT DETECTORS – Smoke detectors must be installed in the main return and exhaust plenum of each air conditioning system and located in a serviceable area downstream of the last duct inlet, and at each connection to a vertical duct or riser serving two or more stories from a return air duct or plenum of an air conditioning system.