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Mechanical ventilation systems have long been required in Canadian buildings, including houses. There are requirements for these systems - usually heat recovery ventilators - in terms of how much air they provide to each area.

Effective immediately, our office is requiring ventilation installers to certify the systems they install meet these requirements.

This will be done using this ventilation record form.

A couple of times a year, our office receives a call from a contractor trying to figure out what grade of shingle should be used on the side of a house.

One of the reasons for this lies in the fact that some installers have believed – as gospel – that all shingles have to be No. 1 clear grade – except there is no such thing! There is a “clear grade” – which is a term for an Eastern white cedar shingle, and a “No. 1” grade, which is for a Western red cedar shake, but not a “No. 1 clear grade.”

One of the likely causes for confusion lies in the fact that people use the term “shingle” and “shake” interchangeably, and it’s not appropriate.

In simple terms, a shake is wood that has been split (it used to be done by hand, now often done by machine), whereas a shingle is sawn. A shingle is usually thinner.

There is only one Code-acceptable shake, and that’s a No. 1 (handsplit) Western red cedar.

However, there are two acceptable kinds of shingle, and depending on whether you’re using a Western (red) cedar or an Eastern (white) cedar, there are two different names for what is essentially the same thing, which doesn’t help clear up confusion:

Eastern (White): B (Clear)

Western (Red): No. 2

For Eastern shingles, C-grade shingles may be used on the lower (first) course of double-course applications, and for Western, a No. 3 grade may be used in the same situation

It’s time again for the annual list of the most common building Code infractions. If nothing else, it’s a cautionary tale for contractors and designers, to help make for a better 2023.

#10:  Fence posts used in (deck) construction

This infraction is one that our office has been challenged with for years. Simply put, a 4x4 section of wood is a fence post, and should only be used for fences or chicken coops. Yet we keep finding these things used for deck supports. Fortunately, we’re trending in the right direction: this was infraction #5 last year.

#9: Incorrect fastening of trusses to top plate

Three shall be the number of nails thou shalt use to attach trusses to top plates. Two nails is not permitted, unless you proceed forthwith to adding a third nail. Four nails is overkill but permitted. Wood screws will make our inspectors weep (See #7).

#8: Incorrect beam splicing

Splicing of built-up beams have some simple rules, but for some reason, our inspectors continue to find errors. Here’s how to splice a beam correctly. (On the plus side, this was #4 on the 2021 list, so there has been improvement.)

#7: Wood screws used for structural connections

For some reason, our inspectors continue to encounter builders – and not always DIY homeowners – who mistakenly believe that wood screws are a superior connector to the Code-mandated nail. If you’re not sure why Code requires nails, find a 3” screw and a 3” nail. Drive both halfway into a hefty section of wood, then bend the head so it lies flush with the wood. (Hint: the nail will bend, the screw will break.) We’re delighted at this being #7, because it was the top issue in 2021.

#6: Insulation of plumbing in exterior walls

This is new to our list, because it was a point of enforcement in 2022. Plumbing requires that vent pipes run vertically from fixtures like sinks. When sinks are located near exterior walls, there is a tendency to run vent pipes through the exterior walls. The problem: these pipes reduce the efficiency of the insulation in this section of the wall. Steps must be taken (usually the application of closed-cell foam on both sides of the pipe) to avoid an area that will lose a significant amount of heat otherwise.

#5: Improper lintel construction

This one continues to be a head-scratcher for our inspectors. When 2x6 construction became popular due to insulation requirements, some builders decided it was simpler to build two-ply lintels set on the outer edge of the 2x6 jack studs, leaving a space between. This is not permitted, unless the lintels are cross-connected with filler pieces set at no more than 18” apart.

#4: Emergency lights missing where required

Commercial buildings must be equipped with lights that will illuminate the way to an exit if there is a loss of power. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, building owners and contractors alike sometimes believe that Codes require illuminated exit signs.  Not all commercial buildings require exit signs, but all commercial buildings require emergency lights. [NBC and]  Given that commercial structures represent only 15 per cent of our total permits issued on any given year, the fact this cracks our top 10 for then second year running (it was #8 last year) is somewhat concerning.

#3: Improper window installation

Several years ago, improper window installation was the cause of the majority of Atlantic Home Warranty claims, which is one of the reasons we are zealous about ensuring windows are installed according to Code and the national window installation standard. This was #2 last year, so clearly, the message isn’t getting through to builders and installers. Here's our window installation guide. 

#2: Column not anchored

This has been a problem in past years, but not to this degree. It’s also a bit complicated to explain, but put as simply as we can, engineered post brackets (often used for decks) require nails, bolts, or engineered screws. The fact this was so common in 2022 is baffling.

(dis)honourable mentions

  • Joist hangers improperly nailed. (Missing nails, or wood screws used.)
  • Doors from garages to houses not equipped with a seal and self-closing device
  • Sealant missing where required. (If you don’t stop water from entering a gap or cavity, it will enter said gap or cavity)

#1: Improperly located or missing carbon monoxide alarms

If your home has a wood stove, gas-fueled appliance, or attached garage, a carbon monoxide alarm is required in or within 5m (15ft) of every sleeping area. Further, any wood-burning stove (including pellet stoves) will require a carbon monoxide alarm in the same room.  Given how simple this requirement is, we're at a total loss to explain why the incorrect placement of carbon monoxide alarms was such a problem in 2022 – representing more than 10 per cent of our violations.

Of late, our office has been dealing with a number of situations where people have begun construction of some major work without a required building permit.

We cannot stress this enough: don't. We have dealt with several instances where builders/property owners have begun work without permits, which has resulted in extra costs after the fact to rectify the work.

One of the critical services our building inspectors provide is a plans review. This is where the proposed plans are evaluated for structural integrity, (are the footings sized for the loads? Are the lintels suitable? Are joists sized for the spans and loads?), environmental protection (is the insulation sufficient? Is there sufficient ventilation?) as well as fire and life safety.  Proceeding to build without this "second set of eyes" on a plan is risky as well as illegal. And it can cost a lot of money.

Possible repercussions of starting work without a permit include:

  • Costs to have an engineer certify undersized footings are capable of handling structural and snow loads
  • Costs required to remove construction that encroaches a protected wetland or river corridor
  • Costs required to retroactively apply for variances (setback, lot size limits, land use)
  • Delays caused by contractors moving to other work during a period when a stop work order is in force
  • Costs required to replace work that didn't comply to Code
  • And, if the matter warrants, fines.

The bottom line - call us. Please don't build without a permit.

Over the last few months, our building inspectors have encountered serious challenges with clients deviating from approved plans without contacting us first.

Even minor changes can lead to problems down the road: changing a 6’-wide window to a 7’ window may require a lintel (header) to be altered from a three-ply 2x6 to a three ply 2x8 to handle snow loads. If that isn’t communicated to us, the end result will be a complete tear-out of the window assembly to install the correct lintel.

Another example: replacing a deck or exterior stairs serving a second storey duplex or apartment suite. There is an array of fire-safety regulations at play in such cases, and something as innocuous as moving a set of stairs two feet closer to a building wall can create problems that will require expensive alterations after the fact.

One area that has also been problematic involves renovations: very often, “replacing a living room window with a similar-size window” turns into “that whole wall is rotting, and we have to rebuild a load-bearing wall.” If the scope of work changes, call one of our inspectors.


Hey folks – the SNBSC building inspection department, in conjunction with Nudura and Bird Stairs, is pleased to announce a special education event for Monday July 11.

The topic will be the construction of shear walls under the Insulated Concrete Form Manufacturer’s Association (ICFMA) engineered design guide. The guide shows how to construct shear walls (above-ground ICF in seismic areas such as ours) and how to create openings in ICF walls closer than 1.2 m from corners.The session will cover not only Nudura, but QuadLock, SuperForm, Logix, BuildBlock and Fox Blocks systems.

Session will run from 9 am to 2 p.m., at the Hemlock Knoll Landfill. Lunch is provided.

Please pre-register by emailing  Space is limited, so it’s advised to register early.

Our office is seeing a significant spike in building permit applications at this time. While we are still trying to keep to a two-week timeline from application to issuance of a permit, a staggering number of permit applications are suffering needless delays because applicants are not providing enough information for our staff to conduct reviews.

In order for us to process an application, our administrative staff will require

  • Septic approval or re-approval documents for new home/business construction, or bedroom additions
  • Wetlands approval for properties near a designated watercourse or wetland
  • An accurate site map showing distances from the proposed building to all adjacent properties and buildings
  • Setback certificate for new builds that require driveways
  • Civic number for new builds on newly created/yet developed lots.

Our building inspectors are also seeing a disturbing number of applications with incomplete building plans. As stated, we require a scale drawing of the proposed construction, showing how all walls, floors and roofing systems will be constructed. This includes a detail on where required earthquake bracing panels will be located. If you have hired a professional designer, it is up to that designer to know the Code and prepare Code-compliant plans, including required earthquake bracing: our inspectors are not allowed to provide design guidance by law. 

At this moment, there are 12 applications awaiting review by a building inspector, and of those 10 are on hold because the plans did not have sufficient detail. Some of the issues that can cause a plan to stall:

  • Plans that do not show a required footing. Remember: an engineered design is required for almost all load-bearing slab-on-grade construction, contrary to popular myth.
  • Plans that do not show scale.
  • Plans that do not show required earthquake bracing.
  • Plans that are simply, clearly, and obviously not Code-compliant (such as an attached deck supported on deck blocks, using 4x4 posts as supports).
  • Sketches of a building with no detail on how walls, foundations, roofing or any other elements will be constructed.

Help us process your application quickly by making sure all the information is included. If in doubt, call an inspector before you file your application - it may save you lost time down the road.


Ah, it’s spring – that when the snow vanishes and DIY deck builders start using screws where they shouldn’t.

We’re not worried about the snow going away, but darn, we do get a bit cranky about the whole “don’t use screws to build things” part of the equation.

So, here’s a reminder: screws are NOT to be used for any structural connections. Yes, we’ve said it before, but as those who read our “top 10 infractions of 2021” list recall, the fact that people keep doing it is reason for us to say it again: do not use screws for structural connections. It will make us sad, but not as sad as you will be when we tell you to do your work over again.

Screws in post connectors, joist hangers and hurricane ties are not permitted by any manufacturer that we are aware of.

And, lest our message not be clear enough, “structural connections” also means joist hangars and post brackets.

Simply put, these kinds of metal connectors have been designed by engineers to provide structural connectivity, and the engineers require very specific connections – usually either nails or engineer-approved screws.

Extensive research by our building inspectors has yet to find a single manufacturer of joist hangers, post anchors, post connectors and hurricane ties that accepts wood screws as a connector.  Not one. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

In other words, the picture you see here represents a big no-no. And it makes us sad.

Don’t make us sad.

Our inspectors had an interesting discussion the last little while over an issue that apparently is common.

An area contractor asked if OSB sheathing could be installed vertically (in a braced wall panel) instead of horizontally.

The question led to an interesting dive through the Code books, standards, manufacturing requirements and the like.

First off, there are requirements in Code that OSB and similar sheathing materials is installed perpendicular to joists or roofing systems (rafters/trusses), and frankly, this is almost never an issue as far as framing inspections go. Most contractors install OSB wall sheathing horizontally, presuming the same factors are in play as for roofs and floors. However, after much digging, it turns out that there are no requirements to do so. That said, OSB has greater strength on its long axis, and best practice says to install it horizontally.

So, while we’re on the issue, here’s a quick thought: if you’re installing OSB or plywood as sheathing material, do you leave a gap? You’re required to – 2 mm by Code, in fact. [,]

Our office has issued its first development placard of the year.

Your proposed building may not need a building permit, but may need a formal approval: a development placard.

This little guy will grow up wanting to be just like its big brother the Building Permit, but unfortunately will only be good for accessory structures because of its size.

This momentous occasion may raise a question – what the heck is a development placard?

To answer that question, we have to get a bit legalese: while the province’s default building regulation exempts a certain class of buildings (accessory structures, and residential dwellings less than 604 square feet – aka “camps”) from a building permit, there are still a host of requirements that a development has to hurdle. In some rural areas, there are development restrictions, either due to proximity of major highways, or the presence of a rural zoning plan.

There’s where a “development placard” comes into play: it’s usually a formal permission to build a Code-exempt structure.

As always, the lesson here is simple: contact our office to determine what permits (if any) are required.