Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ken Kunka - To Code or not to Code

Unless you are replacing flooring, changing fixtures, painting or moving some cabinets around your project will likely need a permit and must meet code and local bylaws. It’s important to review when a permit is required with your local jurisdiction as most have fines for works started without permits and there could be costly delays with Zoning or improper construction repairs. Understanding the do’s and dont’s when it comes to codes and bylaws will save you time and money in the long run. It is the fundamental building block of an organized, safe and quality project.

Why are codes so important - they are a set of regulations that establish minimum standards for Health, Safety, Accessibility, Fire and Structural protection and protection of the building from water and sewer damage. Codes ensure that the materials you buy and the way they are used meet minimum approved standards. Permits and Inspections aid in creating a level playing field for contractors and offer another set of eyes for the contractor or owner to avoid costly mistakes. In short they offer all parties a level of assurance that what they are building will be safe, comfortable and last a reasonable amount of time. To quote a famous Canadian renovation personality - “ building to code is the bare minimum. It’s the worst that you’re allowed to build”. So if your not even building to code then what are you really getting?

Building and Land Use bylaws in most jurisdictions regulate when and what type of permits are required, regulate unique requirements within a local area such as snow loads and ensure a standard level of quality of life within your neighbourhood. Yes they may seem like a pain but I'll post some pictures of projects without regulations and it will make your hair curl. Bylaws assist neighbours to ensure their rights and investment are being protected!

Codes, Bylaws, Standards and construction practices continually change and even good designers and contractors can not keep up with them all. Inspectors have always been a source of information to the permit holder and builder and in most cases the price of a permit does not cover the wealth of information and service your local inspection staff can offer. Use them but don't abuse them. Their main job is to regulate not act a your project manager. The more organized the permit application and construction project the happier the plan checker and inspector and the smoother the project will turn out.

But, unfortunately mistakes can happen or personalities clash and it is important that the permit holder is educated enough to communicate and resolve issues in a timely manner. Ultimately you are their client and they are getting paid by you for their services - know your rights! Also, most jurisdictions have limited inspections so don’t assume every part of your project is being looked at and approved. Again educate yourself on when at what type of inspections are required.

Next post - how does code work in the design stage

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