Exceed the building code

Building codes are for safety, not comfort or aesthetics. Take your reno to a higher level by exceeding the code

By Jay Somerset

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Energy efficiency is the trump card to play when it comes to code upgrades. But energy efficiency doesn’t begin and end with the furnace, windows and doors. “I usually recommend little comforts, such as heated floors,” says Deane.

Another hot spot: insulation. The code calls for fibreglass insulation, but this semi-rigid material doesn’t offer the best heat protection, especially when you’re joining new work-an addition-onto an existing part of the house. “I suggest upgrading to blown-in spray insulation, especially in places that are hard to get at, such as attics or around piping and wires,” says Upshall. “It costs about the same, and it does a much better job of sealing gaps around windows and doors.”

The building code may keep the contractor on the straight and narrow, but it provides little in the way of comfort and aesthetics. Most of us prefer to do our own work, but if you’re hiring a contractor, keep in mind that the lowest bids probably won’t be from builders who are up-grading beyond the bare minimum. “It’s a Holmes On Homes world out there, so look carefully at the details,” says Deane. “If one contractor bids $10,000 more than the others, ask the builder why it’s worth spending that extra cash. It just might save you a lot more in a few years or when you try to sell your home.”

Changes to the Code

The National Building Code is renewed every 10 years, but provincial codes can change annually. Usually, Ontario makes its changes, then the other provinces follow suit.

This year, there are more than 700 changes to the Ontario Building Code (OBC), including higher energy efficiency and increased insulation for walls and ceilings.

“By 2008, the OBC will require new homes to be constructed with near-full-height basement insulation, and by 2011, all new homes will have to meet energy-efficiency standards that are 25 per cent higher,” says James Douglas, a manager in the building and development branch of Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

This means you need to think ahead. When planning renovations on your home, make changes with the future code in mind. Not only will you be left with a tighter, more energy-efficient home, but your resale value will likely increase because of your forethought.

Small Upgrades

Here are some small changes to consider:

– Before installing drywall, consider future uses and install wiring and cables. This goes for electrical outlets as well. If you’re hoping to build a proper workshop in your basement one day, now is the time to install extra electrical plugs. And if you’re thinking of a gas stove or barbecue, have the gas lines roughed in.

– Have the builder rough-in basement plumbing so that if and when you build that basement bathroom, you don’t need to tear open the walls and run plumbing down there. But be warned: if the rough-in is even an inch off, you will need to break apart the floor and move it.

– Install a backflow preventer in the basement drain, so if there’s a sewer problem or flood, your basement won’t fill up with water.

– If you’re redoing your roof, ensure the contractor installs an ice and water shield under the shingles, and full coverage is best.

– Canadian Home Workshop contributor Art Mulder recommends having your contractor install shut-off valves for every waterline under toilets and sinks. Mulder also wishes his garage was built a little higher so that he could open his minivan’s hatch without having to open the garage door.

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