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We know – judging from the number of new permit applications received over the last few weeks – that there are a lot folks in the process of trying to build a garage or shed before the winter hits.

While some of these projects are contractor-built, a few are self-built.
For those that are tackling a wood-frame construction job for the first time, what seems daunting may be simple. And yet, what seems simple might be daunting.

Today’s post focuses on some wall-building tips that may help a first-time or inexperienced builder working on a small DIY project.

The key approach when framing walls, is to – if at all possible - build the walls on the floor of the building first, then lift them into place when done.

1) Select lumber. Use the straightest pieces for the bottom and top plates.

2) Mark off the points where the studs will lay in place. Most tape measures have red marks on the 16” increments, making 16-inch-on-centre framing easy. Remember, the width of a common stud is 1 1/2”.

3) Select the studs. If your structure is going to have interior sheathing, then it’s best to look down the line of the stud and place them so the crown (bend) faces up.

4) Once the framing is nailed into place, square the wall. This can be done by taking two tape measures on diagonals, and tweaking the frame until both tape measures read within a small margin of error – the top-line contractors will want less than 1/16” in difference across the two. This ensures the wall as it lays on the floor is square. If you really want to be touchy, brace the wall using tack nails before proceeding to the next step.

5) Install the exterior sheathing OR, at the very least, tack-nail a section of lumber across the diagonal. If you’re installing sheathing best practice is to leave a “lip” of OSB/plywood at the bottom equal to the height of the sill plate or supporting wood members.

6) If sheathing is installed, lay out the housewrap over the sheathing before raising the wall.

7) remove the tack nails, and lift the wall into place.

Installing the sheathing before the lift minimizes the labour required to install the sheathing after the wall is in place.

One of the more challenging things we deal with, surprisingly, is the question, "What kind of permit do I need?"

That's because in New Brunswick's rural areas (and the four municipalities we provide planning and inspection services for) there are actually two kinds of permits: a building permit, and a less-onerous, sometimes-cheaper development permit. Development permits are usually for small, accessory structures.

Rather than use a lot of words, we're going to give you a graphic. Keep it or this pdf file  on hand if you have a project coming up this floor, or in the new year.

We’re still trying to bust the myth that permits aren’t required “in the country’, (they are). And there are several good reasons to get a permit, not the least of which is that applying for one puts our team of experts on your side, helping you avoid pitfalls that may otherwise stall your project and cost you money, pitfalls like:

Wetlands woes

Around lakes, streams, bogs and other wetlands, it’s pretty common for developments to require a Watercourse and Wetlands Alteration permit, affectionately called a “WAWA” by many.

What’s the outcome of building without a WAWA? The Department of Environment and Local Government may refuse to issue a WAWA after construction has begun – and it’s our policy that we won’t issue permits until necessary Wetlands permits have been obtained. The short and skinny: if you start building near a waterway or wetland without a permit, you may end up being unable to build what you’ve already started – and that means demolishing what’s already been done.

Property-line pains

In many areas, including rural (unincorporated) areas, there are provincial rules and regulations limiting how close something can be constructed to a neighbour’s property line – or the highway. If you build without a permit, you may find that something like a garage has been built too close to a neighbour, or too close to a roadway. The best-case scenario in such a situation is that you’ll have to apply for a variance ($250 that we might have been able to save you by just guiding the building location a few feet one way or the other). The worst-case scenario is that the building can’t be granted a variance, and has to be torn down: which is very likely to happen if a building is constructed across a property line. Again, working things through with our planning department can help avoid these disasters.

Land-use problems

There are a few areas within the region we cover – St. David, Pennfield, Lepreau and Bayside – that have what are called “rural plans.” These are simple land-use guidelines for rural areas that, while perhaps not as detailed or restrictive as municipal zoning regulations do put some limits on what land can be used for. These rules are designed to protect your property, your quality of life, the environment, and your community's economic resources. Given the above, it is always better to give us a call before launching into something that might not be legally permitted.

Code-compliance conundrums

Sometimes, a well-meaning action can result in unintended consequences. Some examples include:

  • Carbon monoxide detectors installed by doors to a garage, but not near bedrooms, as required.
  • Fire-rated drywall installed in residential garages, when not required, at needless extra cost
  • Ramps built to provide access for those with disabilities that don’t meet Code, and have to be altered after the fact

The takeaway: Call us first. We’re here to help homeowners and builders alike. We serve the unincorporated areas from Hanwell in York County to Lepreau in Charlotte County (and everywhere in between) as well as St. George, Saint Andrews, McAdam and Harvey Station.

It’s pretty darn obvious that the colder nights are coming. For most of us, that means nothing more than reluctantly starting up the wood stove, or setting a baseboard heater.

But for builders, cold weather means a bunch of considerations – or a stop to some kinds of construction entirely. Here’s a quick rundown on Code-enforceable temperature limits:

Concrete ( When the air temperature is below 5°C, concrete shall be

  • a) kept at a temperature of not less than 10°C or more than 25°C while being mixed and placed, and
  • b) maintained at a temperature of not less than 10°C for 72 h after placing.

Mortar ( Mortar and masonry shall be maintained at a temperature not below 5°C during installation and for not less than 48 h after installation.

Stucco: ( 

  • 1) The base for stucco shall be maintained above freezing.
  • 2) Stucco shall be maintained at a temperature of not less than 10°C during application, and for not less than 48 h afterwards.

Drywall mud: ( In cold weather, heat shall be provided to maintain a temperature not below 10°C for 48 h prior to taping and finishing and maintained for not less than 48 h thereafter.

Now, juuuuust in case you and your loved ones are arguing over what the correct indoor temperature should be, here’s what the National Building Code of Canada says: “At the outside winter design temperature, required heating facilities shall be capable of maintaining an indoor air temperature of not less than

  • a) 22°C in all living spaces,
  • b) 18°C in unfinished basements,
  • c) 18°C in common service rooms, ancillary spaces and exits in houses with a secondary suite, and
  • d) 15°C in heated crawl spaces.”

"The Span Book" is an indispensable tool for builders and contractors.

We don’t often promote anything in these posts, but today is an exception. Shown here is an image of one of our most-used books: and it’s not the bulky, insomnia-slaying Code book, either.

This is the “Span table” book from the Canadian Wood Council (link here: )

For those of you who lirez le francais, a French version is also available.

This book provides pretty much every possible joist, rafter, beam and lintel configuration possible, and is an essential tool for those folks who are doing renovations, small additions, garages, sheds and the like.

And it’s Code-compliant: the tables in the Wood Council book actually drive the tables in the National Building Code, but are more detailed.

It’s what we use to verify joist loads, deck loads, rafter assemblies during our plans reviews and our on-site inspections.