Shifting standards

Home inspections help keep tabs on fluidity of building codes

Despite the continued popularity of reality shows that showcase the positive side of home renovations, buyers need to be ever aware of the damage that can be done when things don’t go according to plan, says a local home inspector.

While the temptation to plunge into home ownership might be strong, CanPro Inspections Ltd. owner/operator Larry Pineda urges buyers to practise due diligence when purchasing a home to protect themselves against shoddy workmanship or even work done prior to changing standards – some of which may have taken place years or even decades prior.

“If I inspect a home that was built in 1990 or even earlier, where certain things like Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters were not required in bedrooms compared to a bedroom that was done two years ago, at that point in time I would recommend [work on] certain things that do not adhere to modern building standards,” he said.

For example, the National Energy Code for Buildings in 2011 established a 25 per cent improvement in energy efficiency for buildings four storeys and taller.

The National Building Code was also updated in 2012 to add new sections on energy efficiency for new homes and small buildings three storeys and smaller.

The national codes are recommended guidelines, becoming law when adopted by a province.

While renovated homes would not need to take such standards into account, the changes highlight just how drastically construction standards can change over time, said Pineda.

“We’re not out to attack renovators. However, we are out to tell our clients, ‘If you’ve had this renovated, it should be done properly,’” he said.

“If it was done 20 years ago, it might have been OK then, but building standards change and you need to get it accessed by a licenced professional, whether it be an electrician or a plumber or whatnot.”

In Alberta, home inspectors require a licence to operate, as well as a degree, diploma or certificate, or, an approved home inspection designation.

To the west, B.C. recently announced a professional standard for home inspection licensing. While similar rules have been proposed for Alberta, they have yet to be adopted.

On the other side of the inspection equation, the City of Calgary recently launched a tool to help Calgarians find a licensed contractor. While having a business licence does not guarantee a contractor can be trusted, it is a good indication a business is legitimate and the owner’s identity is known by the City.

“We’ve built the Licensed Trade Contractor tool to help Calgarians verify if a trade contractor is licensed with the City, which is an important first step before selecting a contractor for your next home renovation or repair,” said Kevin Griffiths, director of inspections and permit services with the City’s Planning and Development department.

“Helping Calgarians find certified and licensed contractors is one way to avoid potential scams, and ensure work is done to applicable code and bylaw requirements.”

The database is available at www.calgary.ca/contractors. Licences can also be verified by calling 403-268-5521.

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