Skip to content

This low-cost, over-the-counter screw pile is not suited for use on attached decks, platforms or stairs. (Contractor-supplied, Code-compliant piles are, however, suitable.)

We have run into a few issues of late with homeowners and contractors using an over-the-counter screw pile available over-the-counter from hardware stores. While advertised as a foundation screw for decks, these piles are NOT acceptable for attached decks. For one, they only allow for the attachment of a 3.5-inch post which is not Code-compliant for bearing any kind of deck load. Secondly they have not been approved as Code-compliant by the National Research Council of Canada, which oversees testing of construction products.

Please ensure that if you are using helical piles that they are the kind compliant for attached decks, and have met the engineering tests required to ensure they meet Code. Yes, they may cost more, but there is a wealth of testing to make sure they will do what they say they can do.

As always, please contact our planning and inspections department (and apply for/receive a permit) before beginning construction: you don’t want to rebuild an improperly-constructed deck, and we don’t want that to happen either.

We serve the unincorporated rural regions of Charlotte and southern York counties as well as the municipalities of Saint Andrews, St. George, McAdam and Harvey. If you live in any of those areas,

call us (466-7369) to make sure you have all required permits. That way, our team of professionally trained and certified building inspectors can ensure your plans meet or exceed the requirements of the National Building Code of Canada (2010 edition) which in turn will give you the confidence that your project will be done right the first time.

Concrete forms rest atop footings in this new build. Our inspectors check footing width as part of every plans review we do.

They’re usually hidden, done quickly in those early and heady days of new construction, but the footings upon which your new home rests are among the most critical of building elements.

Footings need to be set on undisturbed soil, or – as needs be – on compacted, clean, well-draining fill. They also need to be below the depth of frost, which is 1.2 metres or 4’, in general. Those who have rocky building sites may be able to set frost walls directly onto rock – call our inspectors to make sure, however.

A basic one-storey wood-frame home demands a minimum footing width of 25 cm, or just about 10 inches. That’s pretty scant, and most builders will go well beyond that, which we don’t mind: remember, Code is the bare minimum acceptable, and nothing stops a builder from going above and beyond.

We didn’t see large footings required for residential builds, because the above width was good for spans of up to 16 feet (4.9 metres). However, with the growing popularity of engineered trusses, we’ve started seeing homes with open joist spans of 25, 30, even 35 feet: the greater the joist span, the wider the footing must be.

For example, a one-storey stick home with a 25-foot joist span will require a 15 1/2” footing. A 30-foot span would need 18 1/2” footings.

Add another storey on to a build, and the demands on footings increase: a 25-foot joist span on a two-storey home will demand a footing of just more than 21 inches.

ICF (insulated concrete form) houses also require heavier footings, as does brick fascia.

Confused? Don’t be. Our inspectors are trained to calculate these numbers for you as part of the plans review we do on each new home build or addition sent our way. It’s one of the many reasons why (apart from the fact it’s the law) that you need to obtain a permit.

“I didn’t know I needed a permit: I don’t live in town.”

Our development officers and building inspectors hear this line a lot, even though permits have been required throughout the province since 2002.
Here’s the 411 on permits in our area.

First off, our team of planners have worked with the towns of St. George and Saint Andrews, as well as the villages of Harvey and McAdam to streamline building bylaws. Residents of those communities can now build small buildings of 600 square feet area or less, including garages, with a development permit.

This matches a long-standing policy for the unincorporated areas. In fact, outside of a municipality, accessory buildings can be quite large, and yet still only require a $50 development permit.

If a permit is required, we’ll make sure that a structure is located in a suitable place, far enough from any neighbours, roads, or designated wetlands. (And if wetlands are involved, we’ll make sure you have the right provincial permits to build, and help you through the process.)

The development permit structure for unincorporated areas also allow construction of small camps (residential buildings) of 625 square feet or less.
Bottom line? Call us and ask.

This week’s post is an interesting tip about levels. Did you know that not all levels are, in fact, level? In more than a few cases, the glass (plastic) arcs that hold the bubble are, in many cases, microscopically twisted.
Before buying a level, here’s how to verify that it’s accurate.

Bring the bubble into "level" by adding objects, if needed.

Put the level on a horizontal surface, and bring it to where the bubble reads “level” by adding objects at one end (like business cards, coins, etc.)

Then rotate the level so that the end that was on your right is now on your left. If the level is accurate, the bubble should be in the same position.
If it isn’t, then the bubble is wrong, and the level isn’t level.

In the image shown here, this is the bubble after the level has been swapped left-to-right. It no longer shows level! This means this "level" is going back to the hardware store.

After turning the level 180 degrees, the bubble that showed level no longer does. This means the bubble is not accurate, and the level cannot, in fact, show "level."

When you find one that is, repeat the process for the vertical axis – put the level on a vertical (wall) and pad it out with something at the bottom until it reads level, then flip the top and the bottom. If it reads the same both ways, the level is also accurate on the vertical bubble as well.