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Important notice:

Effective immediately, our office will be strictly enforcing the requirement for scaled drawings for any additions and new builds. The drawings do not have to be professionally done, but must indicate with reasonable accuracy, such things as joist spans, door widths, window openings, and the like. (Please note this is a requirement laid down by the Province in new regulations in any regard.)

Further, for any construction that is greater than 1,200 square feet in size, our office will require submission of truss plans, plans for engineered joists, as well as window quotes to verify compliance with the National Building Code.

Plans for any non-residential construction must be submitted in digital format as a .pdf file.

When the province introduced new building regulations in February, it also required applicable buildings to meet the National Energy Code for Buildings (2011 edition). Our office has seen a few issues with builders and designers not being aware of NECB or its impacts, so here’s a quick primer on what the NECB means.

First off, what is the NECB? Simply put, it’s an extremely detailed (and complex) set of codes aimed at reducing energy consumption in buildings, and its aimed largely at commercial buildings. The average homebuilder and homeowner can stop reading here, because simple single-family dwellings don’t have to follow the NECB: the general requirements for heat, light, insulation and the like are all covered in Part 9 of the National Building Code.

It’s also worth noting that the NECB doesn’t apply to all commercial buildings, either. Smaller shops and offices – specifically those less than 300m2 in area – can also make do with the basic requirements that apply to houses (for the most part.)  In many of the larger buildings where the NECB does apply, a professional designer will handle all the requirements.

But that leaves a number of renovations, new builds, or changes of occupancy where a designer need not be involved, but NECB requirements apply. Here are some of the things a builder or owner should know:

Window limits:

Generally speaking, for buildings in our area, NEB places a limit of 34% of a building wall that can be glass or doors. The logic here is that windows – even the modern triple-glazed, argon-filled windows – are remarkably inefficient compared to a standard wall assembly. We love windows, but your energy bill doesn’t.  It’s also worth noting that limits on window area also serve the needs of earthquake bracing, which will become mandatory when the 2015 Building Code comes into force in 2022.

Exterior walls:

The reason that 2x6 stud walls are common is that an R20 batt installed into a 2x6 wall cavity will meet the requirements for R17 effective insulation for residential walls. But that wall assembly doesn’t meet the standards for NECB, which requires R23 effective for exterior walls.  This means that for new builds and renovations where NECB applies, our office needs to see a wall assembly that meets that R23 requirement. Examples of this include, most simply, a 2x6 wall with R22 batt insulation, sheathing, and a layer of 1.5” XPS foam insulation.

Automatic lights:

If you’ve been the first one into a changeroom in a modern hockey rink, you’ve opened the door to a dark room that immediately lights up.

Most open spaces in larger buildings will require either motion-sensing lights or lights controlled by a timer. There are some exemptions (such as areas where lights must be on full-time). It's also worth noting these motion-sensing lights will also be required in bathrooms, classrooms, meeting rooms, bathrooms, lunch rooms, small storage rooms, small office spaces and – as noted above - changerooms. The lights are designed to automatically cut power to the lights after 30 minutes of inactivity in the room, thus saving power. 

Obviously, there is a lot more to the NECB than these quick highlights – limits to lighting power, requirements for efficiency in building components and the like. The full NECB can be found on the National Resource Council’s website.

In the past few days, we’ve seen a lot of questions about the impact of the province amending provincial building regulations (which took place May 6, 2021).

Here’s a quick Q&A to help clear up some of the confusion.

Q: I can now build my camp with milled lumber, right?
A: Yes, but only if the building is less than 604 square feet and you’re in a rural area.

Q: Wait. I thought it was 625 square feet.
A: That’s what government press releases said – but the regulation states 56.08 m2 – which crunches out to just less than 604 square feet.

Q: Does a loft or basement count as part of the 604 square feet?
A: Yes.

Q: But all of this goes away at the end of the year, right?
A: No. The only thing that will change at the end of the year is the capacity to build under the 2010 National Building Code.

Q: Wait. I thought it was the 2015 Code that made milled lumber mandatory.
A: The requirement for stamped lumber has been in the National Building Code for a half-century. It’s just that in New Brunswick, the province has, for a long time, exempted some buildings from the application of Code – which most folks interpreted as “I can use milled lumber.” But it also means you don’t have to have frost walls, insulation, ventilation, smoke alarms and all the other thing that Code requires.

Q: So I can pour my own slab for my garage, right?
A: That’s what it means, basically. Again, as long as you’re talking about rural areas.

Q: Awesome! And I don’t need a permit for any of this stuff. Is that right?
A: Well, not quite. Here’s where things are a bit confusing: your construction still has to meet the requirements of any highway setbacks or land-use regulations under the Community Planning Act. If you call our office, we’ll check to see if your property is subject to these regulations. If they are, you’ll have to ask for a development approval, which costs $100. If not, then no permit (and no fee) is involved.

Q: So … what exactly is an “accessory building?”
A: Well, that’s a complicated answer. Generally, it’s things like sheds, barns, chicken coops, small garages and so on. But at some point, a building becomes so large that it simply can’t be called an accessory building: it becomes its own thing. We’re using the long-standing guideline of 2,150 square feet as a trigger point. It’s also worth noting that any building that is ordinarily accessible by the public – in other words, anyone other than friends and family of the land owner or occupant – has to be built as a building permit structure.

Q: I have a 550 square foot camp. I want to add a 100 square foot covered porch on it. What do I need to know?
A:  For that, you'll need a building permit. The total area of the final construction exceeds 603 square feet, so it is no longer exempt from Code.

Q: Wait. So now the whole camp has to meet Code, just because I’m adding a porch?
A: No. Under Code, a building inspector’s authority in this situation would only apply to the new construction, not the existing building.

Q: Does that include decks?
A: Yes! This is one of the things we run into on a regular basis: any deck attached to a house requires a building permit and must meet Code.

Q: So if I want to add a garage to my house, it has to meet Code?
A: Yes. The house would be, and is, subject to Code – and anything attached to it must also meet Code.

Q: What if the garage is, I dunno, 10 feet away from the house.
A: Unless the garage is massive, it wouldn't need a building permit, just a development approval.

Q: Augh! This is so confusing. If I have questions, who can I call?
A: Your local planning commission. For those in Charlotte County and southern York County, that’s us: 466-7360.

Updated May, 2021. New content will be added as we become aware of common questions and misconceptions.

To: all contractors and builders

RE: Earthquake bands in permits issued under NBC 2015

On May 6, 2021, the province adjusted the implementation of the National Building Code for the province of New Brunswick.

From now until the end of the year, building permit applications can be made under either the 2010 or 2015 Codes, after which point, NBC 2015 will fully come into force. (The National Energy Code for Buildings, 2011 edition, is still in force for buildings it applies to, regardless of which edition of Code is chosen.)

Since Feb. 6, 2021, we have required buildings in much of Charlotte County to meet the earthquake provisions of 9.23.13 due to revised seismic data in NBC 2015.
Applications for those areas can now avoid those requirements by requesting construction take place under 2010 Code.

In the interests of fairness, our office will neither require nor enforce the construction of braced wall panels for residential construction permits issued under NBC 2015.

If you have any questions, please call our office at (506) 466-7369.

Vern Faulkner and Mike Hall
Building Inspectors

The Feb. 01, 2021 adoption of the 2015 edition of the National Building Code introduced a requirement for much of the region (St. Stephen, Saint Andrews, Rollingdam to Deer Island) to be built to earthquake-resistant standards.

We've written a detailed post in our knowledge base about this.

Unsure if the property you want to build at is in the zone requiring more robust construction?

Here's the heavy language: The Code requires greater construction if the spectral acceleration from an earthquake exceeds 0.7g (70 per cent the pull of gravity) at two tenths of a second after an earthquake. (Whewf.)

But it's simpler than it looks to find out whether that affects you - and all you need are two web pages.

The first is good old Google Maps. Crack that open - we'll wait.

The other is this one from the Earthquake Centre at the National Resource Council. As you will see, it wants latitude and longitude to calculate the earthquake activity in your area.

Enter your address in Google Maps. It will show you the latitude and longitude in the URL. In this example, we've used our office location - 33 Wall Street in St. Stephen.

Note in the URL bar where it has the latitude and longitude?

Use these numbers in the Earthquake Centre web-page. (Hint: you can cut and paste by highlighting the text you want in the URL, and hitting <ctrl><c> - or for you apple folks, <squiggle><c> to copy.) Make sure to include the "-" preceding the second figure!

Hit the "submit" button. Then scroll down.

The critical information will be on the third column and first row.

This shows that the Sa (0.2) for our office is .758.

In other words, if we wanted to build something new, on this site, it would have to meet earthquake standards.

On Feb. 1, the Province adopted the National Building Code, 2015 edition. Our office will do as much as it can to help contractors, homeowners and others make a transition to the new Code.

There are also new provincial building regulations. Most notably, any structures that are more than 20 m2 (215 ft2), and all structures used for accommodation, regardless of size (in other words, camps) must now be built to meet Code.

The new provincial building regulations also clearly mandate that a building permit is required when a building's use, or occupancy, changes. In some cases, that's not as clear as one may think.

Here, in summary, are some of the critical changes to the building code:

Part 9 (residential buildings, small commercial buildings, apartments)

Earthquake safety

Due to changes in the classification of earthquake risks posed by the Oak Bay Fault, (which runs from north of Oak Bay, along the coast towards Campobello) buildings in St. Stephen, Oak Bay, Saint Andrews, Deer Island and parts of Rollingdam, St. David Ridge and Back Bay (areas in red on map at right) must now be constructed to resist earthquake forces. Requirements include:

Any construction shown in this red area must now conform to earthquake requirements under NBC 2015. Above-ground ICF construction in red or yellow areas require engineered designs.
  1. Decreased spacing of anchor bolts in foundations, and paired anchor bolts at foundation corners (in some cases).
  2. Requirements for more nails and blocking in some sections of stick-built houses.
  3. Requirements, in some situations, for increased interior wall supports.
  4. increased structural demands, and storey limits for buildings using these materials Limits on the use of heavy roofing materials and cladding (ie: terrazzo/clay roofs, brick.)

What this means:
Contractors will have to identify the braced wall bands and braced wall panels in areas deemed an earthquake risk. It is our hope to have some information on our website shortly, but in the meantime, this illustrated guide from B.C. touches on all the key points (BC’s building code in this regard is largely identical to NBC 2015.)

  1. Throughout what is essentially Charlotte County, (area shaded yellow in map shown here) all above-ground Insulated Concrete Form structures must have reinforcing designed/approved by an engineer qualified to work in the Province of New Brunswick. Several suppliers already have engineer-approved reinforcing regimes that our office can and will accept. This does not apply to ICF foundation systems.

What this means:

Any above-ground ICF building in either the yellow or red parts of the map will have to be designed by an engineer. Some of the ICF manufacturers can provide engineer-certified reinforcing methods for use.

Apartments and sound

  • Slightly more rigorous requirements for sound transmission when residential units abut other uses (ie: duplexes, apartments over stores, etc.)

Increased snow loads

  • Climate data has changed for three reference communities (St. Stephen, St. George, Saint Andrews) in the Charlotte County part of our area, increasing predicted snowloads.What this means: The increase (about 10 pounds per square foot) should be automatically accounted for by truss manufacturers. There is likely very little change for building with rafters in most circumstances, as the defined snow loads required us to round up to the same table as we will use under NBC 2015. Requirements for York County will not change.

Stairs

  1. Spiral staircases are permitted.
  2. Minimum run of a stair is now 25.5 cm (10 inches). (Was 8.5 under NBC 2010). This means contractors will have to pay close attention when planning stair configurations. Our office may, for some time, require a detailed plan for stairs until builders are familiar with the new requirements.
  3. Handrail height limits relaxed – now 86.5 cm to 107 cm (34-42”)
  4. Handrails must now be continuous through a flight, including through a landing. Can start at a newel post, but cannot be interrupted by one mid-flight.
  5. Landing dimensions simplified: for the most part, must have the same length and depth as the width of the stairs they serve.

Guards:

  • The restriction on guards facilitating climbing has been relaxed. This allows for more design options for guards with a height less than 4.2 metres.

Exits:

  • Exits subject to being blocked by cars or other obstacles shall have either a sign, or physical barriers (bollards) to ensure suitable clearance and pathways. (Not applicable to residential builds.)

Other:

  • Expanded list of materials accepted for protecting foamed plastic insulation.

Changes to Part 3

As most part 3 buildings (buildings > 600m2 in area, schools, restaurants, care homes, buildings >3 storeys, etc.) require a professional designer to provide code-compliant plans, the following is only a point-form summary of some of the changes to Part 3 in NBC 2015:

  • 4-6 storey wood-frame C and D occupancies (residential, office) now allowed
  • Spiral staircases allowed
  • Expanded list of acceptable coverings of foamed plastic insulation
  • Allowance of foamed plastic insulation in certain kinds of non-combustible buildings, esp. when used in coolers
  • Relaxed requirement for fire stops on some kinds of penetrations of fire separations (electrical outlets in particular.)
  • Modifications to rules for fire-dampers in ducts
  • Tweaks to rules for hold-open devices on doors
  • Modifications to handrail requirements for seats in aisles (theatres, rinks)
  • Requirement of minimum distances between exit stairs added
  • Introduced increased requirements for front door exits to dance halls, establishments serving alcohol
  • Handrails must be continuously graspable through a flight of stairs
  • Introduced rules for use of electromagnetic door locks
  • New section introduced to regulate self-storage buildings

Also; in conjunction with the changes to NBC, the province introduced modifications to the barrier-free regulation that guides construction to ensure access to persons with mobility or visual challenges.

Further, the province has adopted the National Energy Code, which would provide more prescriptive requirements for energy-efficiency in Part 3 buildings.

Modern windows are exceptionally simple to install, highly resistant to weather, rot, mold, the effect of sun and changes in temperature.

However, a key to a long-lasting window is a quality installation. One-third of all warranty claims fielded by the Atlantic Home Warranty organization are related to the improper installation of windows.

A key component is a flashing pan. We’ve talked about this before: the requirement for a waterproof system at the bottom of the window that extends into the building framework, in case water penetrates there.

That flashing pan, by Code, has to have a slope of no less than six per cent to the outside. The intent being is that if water accumulates under the window – whether driven by rain or because of a fault in the window itself – it can drain to the outside.

One of our inspectors saw a nifty way to achieve this requirement at a jobsite today: the contractor had on hand a stock of cedar cladding, which like cedar shakes have an inherent slope to them.

Sloped wood for a flashing pan
Although a little difficult to see in this image, this section of cedar slopes outwards. By laying this down, and then installing flashing tape, the contractor has easily and quickly built a flashing pan as required by Code.

By simply installing these pieces of wood so they slope to the outside, then using a flashing tape to provide the flashing pan, the contractor has quickly and simply created a sloping bed sufficient to meet or exceed Code.

In the past few months, there has been an influx of folks from out west – particularly Ontario – moving to the province, looking to retire or build a new life.
Our staff have noticed a lot of questions on social media about building, renovating and land use – and we’ve also noticed a lot of incorrect answers.

Here’s some of the common questions we’ve seen, along with the actual correct answers.

1) Q: Do I need a permit to build?

A: Yes. There is a great myth among a lot of locals that if you do not live in a municipal area, you can build without a permit. This is flatly not true. Provincial Regulation 2002-45, which is the default building regulation for unincorporated areas, requires either a building permit or development permit for the construction, altering or placement of any structure. Alternately, almost all villages/towns/cities have their own building bylaw mandating permits. Obviously, there's a grey zone - our office won't chase you down over a doghouse, for example - so it's best to obtain guidance from your local officials before you turn dirt or hammer nails.

2) Q: Are there any restrictions I should know about before I start my farm/welding shop/butcher shop/hair studio/pizza store/antique store/etc?

A: Maybe. If you’re in a municipality, there is a greater chance of a community plan or zoning regulation that may (key word, may) limit your land use. In a rural area, it’s a little less clear. Some areas may have what are called “planning statements” that lay down guidelines on what you can – and can’t – do with your property.

3) Q: I’m in a rural area. If there’s no planning statement, I can build where I want, right?

A: Maybe. Yeah, I know, you’re growing tired of these “maybe” answers. But here’s the thing: even if there’s no planning statement limiting land use, or setbacks, there may be other provincial regulations that impose restrictions. For example, if you’re near a wetland or watercourse, there may be limits on what you can do within 30 metres of the designated edge of that wetland area. Alternately, there is a default regulation in the province that limits construction within 7.5 metres of most public roads and highways. That restriction is boosted to 15 metres for properties abutting highways numbered 1-199.

4) Q: What do I need to obtain a building permit?

A: Ready for another vague answer? It depends. For rural construction, if you’re looking at a new building, you will need to show a legal access to the property (ie: a driveway to a private or public road, or at least the paperwork from the Department of Transportation showing you have applied to obtain a driveway), an approval to install a septic system (or evidence that one exists already) and details on the building plan, including where the building will be located on your property. If on or near a wetland, you will need to either show that you have a permit to work within the wetlands, or a site plan showing you will not be encroaching on a wetland. If you are building within 30m of a designated public road in a rural area, you will also require what’s called a “certificate of setback” from DTI.
Requirements are a little less onerous for municipal construction: but you may need a more detailed site plan.

6: Q: I'm not adding to the footprint of my home, just renovating. Do I need a permit?

A: Stop us if you've read this before, but .... Maybe. It depends. In our office (Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission) our policy is that a permit is needed for any structural changes (ie: increasing window width on a load-bearing wall), adding beams, and that sort of thing. We will also require a permit to change a bedroom window if there is no evidence of another egress-compliant window - it's a fire-safety thing. We don't require a permit for re-roofing or re-siding a home, renovating a kitchen if there's no structural changes, etc. At the same point, if you're doing a total gut-and-rebuild of an older home, we may require a permit to ensure the renovation meets insulation codes, ventilation requirements, etc. This is a local policy that other jurisdictions - especially municipalities - may not follow, so.... in this and most other cases, it's best to contact your local building officials for guidance.

7) Q: Who the heck do I contact?

A: If you live in a municipality, call the Village/Town/City office.

If you live in a rural area, you ought to contact the Service Commission serving your region. This map should help guide you in the right direction.

More info here:

Can I build with stamped lumber? 
Non-traditional building info.
Deck building guide.
Building near water.

8) Q: I want to live off-grid, but I heard you can't do that. What's up?

A: Of course you can. There is no requirement to be connected to grid power in this province, and many people do live without NB Power or other forms of outside electricity. That said, a building permit structure must meet minimum requirements for the National Building Code for electrical outlets, lights and so on.  There is no requirement for licences/permits to work with low-voltage gear (ie: 12, 24-volt battery systems) but there is a requirement that high-voltage systems (ie: most modern solar modules in series, inverters) be installed by a qualified electrician.

Our inspectors have seen a disturbing trend of late: people using wood or deck screws when building structural elements.

This means ordinary wood screws cannot be used to attach rafters to top plates, or joists to beams.

Nor can wood screws be used to install joist hangers.

Joist hangers are a really handy means of attaching joists to beams or ledger boards, but our inspectors have seen too many instances of joist hangers where builders have used deck screws as a fastener. This is a big no-no.

Joist hangers (and hurricane clips) are intended to be attached with nails or, in some cases, a specialty screw. Deck screws - like this - are not acceptable.

These hangers are actually engineered elements, and as such, must be attached according to the manufacturer’s instructions. There are many manufacturers of joist hangars, and none of them approve the use of deck or wood screws as an attachment. The only kind of screws that are acceptable are specialized screws, such as the Simpson brand joist hanger screws, for use in the Simpson joist hanger systems.

Deck screws or wood screws are not permitted in any structural situations: this includes building walls, attaching stairs to headers, constructing lintels – and yes, our inspectors have issued orders to correct improper building of all those elements. Don’t get caught out having to rebuild – do it right the first time: use proper-length construction nails for structural work.

In the last few weeks, several building permit applications have been delayed because the applicants weren’t aware of the rules and regulations regarding site-built slabs on grade.

Although these are a common way of constructing small garages (especially in rural areas), building permit structures – this includes a house/cottage or large garage – cannot be built on a slab in the same way as a small accessory structure.

The key is that all building code compliant construction requires a foundation. The foundation is what ultimately carries the load of the structure above and disperses it to the ground below. In general, foundations have to be four feet below grade to avoid the perils of frost heaves, which can cause considerable damage over time. (This includes decks attached to houses: our staff have seen decks on deck blocks rise and fall up to eight inches due to the power of frost heaves, and these forces can rapidly destroy a deck – and anything the deck is attached to. It’s why we constantly rant about not using deck blocks for deck construction if the deck is attached to any building.)

Otherwise, foundations require a frost wall with a minimum depth of 4’, sonotubes supported on either a “Bigfoot” style foundation or a site-built foundation capable of handing the loads of the building, or screw piles.

In order to submit a plan relying on a slab-on-grade foundation, an applicant must usually have a plan approved by a professional engineer licenced to work in the province, although there are exceptions. One exception is for building-code garages of less than 55 m2 (592 square feet), the other is if the slab can be poured directly onto solid rock – which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense.

In some circumstances, a building inspector is allowed to waive the minimum foundation depths when the soils of the area are suitably course and well-draining. This is a case-by-case analysis, and requires a site visit prior to the permit being issued.

In order to avoid delays, we urge clients to discuss this with a building inspector prior to applying for a permit.