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Renovations are challenging projects: they’re frequently messy and full of surprises.

The building inspectors at the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission want to help make sure one of those surprises isn’t a violation of the National Building Code of Canada.

Here’s a quick guide to how inspectors interpret Code when it comes to renovations.

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

First off, any new construction must meet the building code, but existing construction does not.

To put it in practical terms, a new bedroom addition on an existing house must have an egress window and a smoke alarm. If there’s an attached garage, wood stove, gas appliance, or oil furnace in the house, the bedroom must also have a carbon monoxide detector (but we can’t force installation of any other carbon monoxide alarms in the existing house.)

The more extensive the renovation, the more we will require from the build. Consider an older home where the owner wants to do what we call “a gut” of a home, that is, pull out all the old lath-and-plaster walls and insulation, removing everything on the interior right down to the studs. In such a case, we can require

  • Wall and attic insulation to Code
  • Wiring to Code
  • Vapour barrier to Code
  • Bathroom ventilation
  • House ventilation (installation of a heat-recovery ventilator if the furnace is not equipped to introduce outside air into the home.)

That last item is one that catches a few owners and builders every year. Here’s the basic point: if a home is being largely returned to bare studs, that gives space and opportunity to install ducts for an HRV.

As always, the best thing to do if you have a question is give us a call at 466-7369.

This week, we’re going to correct a common myth – and maybe put some cash back in your wallet in the process.

Many people believe that if you have an attached garage on a home that you must install fire-rated drywall between the garage and the house.

Regular 1/2 drywall is about $13 retail, while fire-rated 1/2 drywall is $22. For 5/8 drywall, the difference is $20 for regular, $30 for fire-rated.

The National Building Code of Canada (2010 edition, as used in this province) says otherwise: there is an exemption for garages attached to houses when that house is used for a residential occupancy. That’s a fancy way of saying that as long as people are living in the house, no fire separation is required.

Given that fire-rated drywall is more expensive than the regular drywall (almost double for 1/2 drywall, 66 per cent increase for 5/8" material), that might add up to a decent saving.

Now, if you have an attached garage there are some details you need to tend to, such as

  • Doors leading from the garage to living areas (including basements) must have an air-tight seal/.
  • Doors leading to living areas must automatically close.
  • The garage must be sealed from the rest of the house with vapour barrier.

The requirement for fire-rated drywall remains for garages attached to homes or buildings used for other purposes, like a dentist’s office, hairdressing salon and the like.

Some of our final inspections the last few weeks have raised a bit of a concern about exposed foam.

Here’s the thing about foam: it’s a combustible material, and if left uncovered presents a fire risk.

That’s why the National Building Code mandates that exposed foam in most building areas has to be covered. It’s one of the things our inspectors will check homes for during a final inspection.

This site-applied foam must be covered in order to pass a final inspection. This must be done to reduce fire risk, as foam is a flammable product.

Don’t get the wrong impression: foam, whether it’s site-applied or comes in pre-manufactured panels, is amazing stuff, and nothing else out there offers the same bang-for-the-buck in terms of insulation value. To put things in perspective, site-applied two-pound foam offers R6 per inch, compared to Fibreglass batts, which offer R3 per inch.

In addition to being a spectacular insulator, foam is also impervious to water and air, so it can’t trap moisture. Site applied foam also serves to seal homes from air leakage, which just bolsters its insulative properties and also means that in most cases, a vapour barrier (plastic) isn’t necessary.

Exposed foam can be covered in a number of ways, including the construction of a stud wall closed off with drywall, application of a stucco coat, or the use of specialized paint-like products intended for that purpose.