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 22.214.171.124(1) and 126.96.36.199(9)] 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.
- 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.