BC Housing

BC Housing – Licensing and Consumer Services: The Defender of Quality

Building a new home can be an exciting and rewarding venture. Support and protection to homeowners is offered through the government agency – BC Housing and its Licensing and Consumer Services branch. In addition, public for-profit companies provide 2/5/10 warranty for homes in BC.

The Licensing and Consumer Services (LCS) branch administers the Homeowner Protection Act and helps protect the consumer. When unethical builders and homeowners try to circumvent the law and get caught, they are subject to stiff penalties. See this link for disciplinary actions against disreputable builders and homeowners.

If a homeowner chooses to act as the contractor and build their own home, they are considered Owner Builders. As of July 4, 2016, anyone who wishes to build a new home in British Columbia as an owner builder must apply for an Owner Builder Authorization and pass an exam. The exam is designed to test an applicant’s knowledge and understanding of home building basics as well as the statutory obligations and requirements that owner builders must meet under the Homeowner Protection Act. This will help owner builders expand their knowledge, improve the quality of construction, and protect subsequent buyers of owner-built homes.

It is critical to note that it is illegal for an Owner Builder to hire another contractor to build their home using the Owner Builder exemption.

BC Housing – Licensing and Consumer Services

Formerly known as the Homeowner Protection Office (HPO), the Licensing and Consumer Services (LCS) branch of BC Housing, is the government agency responsible for licensing residential builders and administering Owner Builder Authorizations. They have the power to cancel the license of the builder and levy financial penalties. Ultimately, they protect the consumer by ensuring that new homes are covered by home warranty insurance. Wendy Acheson is Vice-President & Registrar of Licensing and Consumer Services, and also the person you will often see in the news. She is responsible for administering the Homeowner Protection Act, overseeing licensing compliance and consumer-service operations. Wendy has led important initiatives to increase the quality of residential construction and strengthen consumer protection. LCS also monitors the provision of third-party home warranty insurance.

Warranty Providers

Builders are responsible for arranging home warranty insurance through a warranty provider.
The warranty provider issues a 2/5/10 home warranty insurance policy when the home is completed or occupied and provides the following protection:
• One year on defects in materials and labour or violation of the Building Code.
• Two years on defects in materials and labour supplied for the mechanical systems, as well as for the exterior cladding, caulking, windows and doors, that may lead to detachment or material damage to the new home and violation of the Building Code.
• Five years on the building envelope includes the components that separate the indoors from the outdoors.
• Ten years for defects in materials and labour that result in the failure of a load-bearing part of the new home, and for any defect that causes structural damage.

There are four warranty providers in BC: Travelers, National, WBI and Pacific. It is illegal to build a house without registering the home with a warranty provider. Unscrupulous builders continue to ignore the laws and put at risk not only themselves but homeowners as well.

When looking for a builder, make sure they are licensed with BC Housing and one of the four warranty providers. It is illegal to build a home and not provide 2/5/10 warranty insurance.  Non-compliance with the Homeowner Protection Act and its Regulations can lead to a monetary penalty of up to $25,000 or imprisonment for a term of not more than one year, or both.

The English idiom, “A pound wise, a penny foolish” provides timely wisdom when choosing a builder. Ultimately, you get what you pay for. Happy Building.

Larry Clay
President of Clay Construction
Vice-President of GVHBA

New Home Myth

Destroying the New Home Myth

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” Benjamin Franklin

Sadly, too many people are taking possession of their brand-new home only to find that it is far from the perfect home they were anticipating. From the obvious poor quality of finishing and poorly thought-out features to the concealed mould behind the walls and inferior mechanical equipment, many new homes do not meet their expectations of excellence. New homeowners are routinely disappointed by the quality of their finished home. Are their expectations too high?

Comparatively, when purchasing a new car, we expect flawless perfection. In fact, whether the car is from Detroit, Toronto or Vancouver, we expect all cars to be virtually identical in their high quality. As well, there is an expectation homes that have been built to our BC Building Code/Vancouver Building Code and have passed inspections will reflect the same flawless perfection that exists in a new car. Why not? Unfortunately, this is not the case with most new homes.

To most people, the Building code is a high standard but in reality, the Building Code is a minimum standard. There is a comical expression in the industry that declares, “Homes built to code are the lowest form of building that you can legally build in Canada before being thrown in jail!” As one would expect, a home built only to code should not instill much confidence. Which High School student proudly announces to their friends, “Yeah! I earned 51% on all my subjects?” Why is this acceptable for builders? Inferior builders view the code as a high standard to achieve while first-class builders view the code as a minimum standard that needs to be exceeded.

The building code establishes standards that protect us and make our homes safer. For example, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors must be installed in homes and the bedroom windows must meet egress requirements to allow safe passage in the event of a fire. This code will also specify standards that increase the longevity, durability and efficiency of the home. City inspectors will ensure that there are no building code violations during their frequent inspections.

During the building process, homes are also inspected by third party engineers retained by the builder or architect. For example, for permit applications, engineers will specify how roof loads are to be supported down to the foundation. In addition, beams are specified to transfer loads from above and the foundation is engineered for the loads placed on it. At inspection, the engineer will make sure all requirements have been followed and the structure of the home has not been compromised by the mechanical trades. For instance, inexperienced trades may cut through trusses, joists and drill through point loads sacrificing structural integrity. Engineers will inspect to make sure all structural members have not been compromised.

Admittedly, without this building code, our homes would be even worse than homes built today. Without this standard, unscrupulous and unethical builders would find even more areas to eliminate and the quality of our homes would be dismally low. Critically, the homeowner needs to be educated by the builder on the value of building above code in strategic areas. This approach will improve the homes health, durability, efficiency and attractiveness while respecting the budget.

All homes are not created equal. Be wise and hire a builder who is professional, honest, and competent – these builders will not be the lowest priced. A German proverb states, “The cheapest is always the most expensive.” Lowest price produces lowest quality. Your new home will only be as good as the builder; so choose wisely.

Truth or Fiction?

They Don’t Make Them Like They Used To: Truth or Fiction?

Materials, craftsmanship and design might just make the new home of today, the character home of the future. More importantly, it is the engineering, building science and application of a minimum building standard that will result in our future homes being more durable, healthy and efficient.

Like most people, I hate to see these opulent character heritage homes removed from our streetscape forever. These homes have history and were built for influential people like judges, doctors and wealthy business merchants. They have a level of craftsmanship and quality of materials seen from only in the finest homes of that generation.

Truthfully, these magnificent homes are rare but do the vast majority of homes that are demolished have the same level of workmanship and quality of material? Are all older homes from previous generations quality, well-built homes? There is an adage, “They don’t make them like they used to.” Does this apply to homes as well?

The remainder of the article will be comparing average older homes with today’s average new homes. Let’s look at some facts and compare in several critical areas.

Remember the basement of your grandparent’s home that smelled musty and felt damp? These basements were never intended as living spaces. Damp proofing was minimal or nonexistent resulting in a basement that often-had moisture issues. Lack of insulation and vapour barrier under the concrete basement slab worsened the issue. The older clay draintile was inferior and prone to failure and floods.

Current newly built homes have a damp proofing spray applied to the exterior of the foundation wall with a plastic dimpled drainage mat secured over the surface of the damp proofing coating. This provides a drainage cavity for water to drain down to the superior PVC drainage piping protecting the basement from water infiltration. In addition, a poly vapour barrier is installed and rigid insulation is often installed under the concrete basement slab. This keeps the basement dry, warm and comfortable making basements more livable than their predecessors.

Older homes were not built to our current engineering standards. Foundations did not have steel and many had no footings which provide support to the foundation. This would cause uneven settling with one corner of the house or porch dropping several inches. Floor joists were undersized resulting in a floor that was bouncy and squeaky. Roofs were hand framed with no engineering and eventually the ridge of the roof would sag.

All new homes must be built to engineering specifications and inspected. Footings and foundations are larger with steel installed. Floors assemblies are engineered to carry the load from above and beams are correctly sized. Trusses are also engineered to withstand snow loads and not fail. New homes are much less likely to experience large amounts of settling, failure of structural members or squeaks in floors.

Climate change has necessitated more stringent standards for protection of homes from hurricanes, snow loads, and driving rain. We need to build the home to withstand the potential weather patterns in 50 years. The same applies to earthquake protection. More attention has been given to building homes that can withstand an earthquake which could level homes from decades ago.

In the past, fuel was either free or inexpensive; older homes did not need to be airtight or efficient. With the escalating price of fuel, it is not prudent to operate a leaky inefficient home. Current energy building codes are vastly superior over the homes build generations ago that applied few standards.

Asbestos, lead paint, formaldehyde, and mercury were prevalent in older homes. In addition, precautions were not taken to mitigate the deadly radon gas. New homes are healthier with products that have undergone extensive testing to be verified as safe. Albeit, time will tell which harmful products we continue to unknowingly place in our homes.

When an older home undergoes a renovation, we try to replace the old and dangerous knob and tube wiring or the aluminum wiring with the current code approved copper wiring. Circuit breakers are safer and less fixtures are installed per circuit. The same upgrades would apply to the plumbing, heating and ventilation as well as many other areas of the home.

In conclusion, the fabulous handcrafted character homes need to be protected but the same does not apply to the average older home. Builders are providing a service replacing dilapidated, unhealthy, unsafe and inefficient houses with durable, healthy, safe and efficient homes. Future generations will benefit from our advances in engineering, building science and application of a minimum building standard. Love your new home.

The EnerGuide Rating System – Think Energy Smart from the Start

We’ve all heard about building something “to code.” We hear that on construction and home repair shows all the time. These are a set of rules that builders must follow that the government has made so that a home owner knows that their home is safe and well-built.

But Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) has also created an EnerGuide system that provides ratings for homes based on their level of energy efficiency. This system uses a scale of 1 to 100, with the average new home sitting at a 72.

More energy efficient homes are rated at an 80 or higher. Homes that are built with a rating of 80 or higher use better insulation, heating systems, air sealing, and in many cases, some form of solar energy usage. They will also have better indoor air quality.

An EnerGuide builder is someone who has been licensed and registered by NRCan to provide energy smart homes that rate higher than 80. While most builders have a hard time getting that 80 certification, Clay Construction has averaged over 85 on their most recent projects.

When you start planning out your new home, think about using an energy efficient builder. They’re properly trained and licensed to provide you with the most cost-effective home. You can feel better by building a house that uses less energy, lowering the effect you have on the environment around you.

But the biggest advantage to having a home with a rating over 80 is the financial one. First, you can get up to $3200 back from the government. Second, your energy bills will drop while you’re living there. And third, your home is now more valuable when you decide to sell.

Now that you’re ready to build a new home, think Energy Smart from the start and think about all the benefits you’ll enjoy.

Top Building Materials make a Top Custom Home

When you’re buying a new home, there are a lot of things to consider: location, price, design, number of rooms…

One thing that many people don’t consider is the building materials. What is your home made of?

If you’ve decided to build a custom home, that’s an even more important question because you get to choose just what goes into your new home. You’re not just deciding the look of the building, but also the “ingredients” that go into it.

Any good custom builder is going to recommend using the top building materials for a number of reasons. The first, and most obvious one, is that the better materials you use, the better the final product. How good is the waterproofing on your foundation walls? Living in Vancouver, your waterproofing better be the best you can find or you’re dealing with leaks and drips that could cause a lot of damage down the road.

Second, what kind of warranties do your materials come with? Does the manufacturer stand behind their products? Does the warranty actually cover what it’s claiming? For example, when choosing shingles for your house, just how long is the manufacturer’s warranty? It may say that it’s a “lifetime” warranty, but with the terms and conditions, that may not be true.

Third, has the material been third-party certified? It’s not enough for the manufacturer to say that it’s good. You want to make sure that the products have been checked over by a neutral third party who will guarantee that what the manufacturer claims is true.

And finally, how ecologically safe are the materials? Everyone wants to protect nature and the environment to make sure that these beautiful views will be around for the future. Does the cedar siding come from a sustainably-managed forest? Do the products you’re buying use recycled materials to reduce waste?

So talk to your custom builder and make sure that only the best is going into your brand new custom home.

Custom Homes for Unique Lifestyles

We are all different. We are unique. We say it so often that it has lost much of its meaning, it has become a cliché. But then, most clichés are built upon some basic truth, and when it comes to your home – the way you live it, the way your family inhabits it – recognizing that truth is a fundamental part of getting it done right.

One-size-fits all construction fits no-one. No family of four is just any family of four, no newlywed couple is a prototypal couple, nor is a retired couple, a bachelor or a single mother merely a generic set of data parameters.

We all have different outlooks, taste, habits and needs. They impact on the way we live, the things we seek for in a home, the needs we look to fulfill.

A Custom Home in Greater Vancouver, Just for You

At Clay Construction we have worked for many years from Vancouver, British Columbia, and the Lower Mainland creating homes that are custom build and designed specifically for their owners.

We know the first and most important part of our work is to listen to you. But our extensive experience have taught us that sometime listening is not enough: we learned to ask the right questions, to help you tell us things which you couldn’t have imagined you needed to tell us.

Our emphasis on consultation is an integral part of the entire process from design to finish. We begin by helping you fill an extensive questionnaire to outline your needs and desires. We will take you to see the homes we have built and show you our projects online to stimulate the flow of ideas.

At every step we will discuss with you the alternatives with an understanding but informed approach, so that you can take part in the decisions but never feel the burden of them. As the design ideas encounter the realities of the terrain, the materials, the regulations and the costs, you will have all the information and support you need to come up with the right choices.

At the end of the journey, you will have a house that you can call your home, in every sense of the way.

Dealing with VOCs

Volatile organic compounds (abbreviated as VOCs) are gases that emanate from some solids or liquids and  include a range of chemicals which may have short or long-term negative health effects.

A big problem is that the concentrations of VOCs are  consistently higher in the interior spaces. Up to ten times higher than outdoors. They are readily found in most homes, which most people think of as their safe place in the world, the sanctum-sanctorum of private life.

The number of products emitting VOCs run  in the thousands, and all them release VOCs not only when in use but also when stored.

Most people is aware that organic chemicals are widely used in household products, fuels of all types, varnishes and wax, cleaning and disinfecting products, cosmetics, degreasers and more.

However, many homeowners don’t realize how often VOCs are introduced to the home when it’s being built or renovated. Construction materials,  paints, and adhesives, among others, are high on the list of VOCs emitting products, and poor designs in terms of air flow often compound the issue.

According to the EPA some of the health effects of exposure to VOCs may include eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination and nausea, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.

The same source cites a variety of symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs, which range from conjunctival irritation, to nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reactions and more.

For these reasons, it is of paramount importance to make sure the reduction of VOCs in the household starts right at the beginning, with the planning and construction process.

Clay Construction in Vancouver, British Columbia, works with their clients to ensure this issue is taken very seriously at every step of the way. For this purpose they closely monitor the construction materials, and implement designs that permits for better ventilation in order to reduce harmful toxins and minimize their effects.

Constructing Solid Stairs – how to avoid bouncy stairs

Have you ever walked up a staircase and it felt bouncy? Also known as bouncy stairs. There is an easy way to avoid this – for less $$ than you might think.

“Don’t you hate bouncy stairs? Well, I’m the same way. In fact, it’s one of my pet peeves. Let me give you one strategy that will give you strong, solid stairs.”

I’m going to give you one little suggestion that will only cost you about three hundred dollars a house. A quality house deserves quality stairs.

stair design

how to avoid bouncy stairs

Traditionally, framers will use dimensional lumber for their stringer. From this material, the framer will cut out the triangles to form the same shape of treads and risers. By going with the traditional use of dimensional lumber, the stairs will be bouncy, just not strong enough.

 

 

There is a better way.

LVL timber

The best material to avoid bouncy stairs

If you use laminated veneer lumber (LVL), you will have strong, non-bouncy stairs.  Ask your builder to use LVL for the stringers when you are framing the stairs.

For around three hundred dollars you will get for the life of your home – strong, solid stairs.  It’s one of the best places to spend a few hundred dollars. Every time you walk up and down those solid stairs you’ll be glad you took the time to invest.

We build this way in every home we build. We’re known throughout the Vancouver and Fraser Valley for building some of the best homes on the market.

 

We build by our own set of standards, above code – we call it #TheClayWay. If you’re thinking of building or considering a major renovation we’d love to talk with you and help you make the right decisions.

dry foundation

8 Steps To Achieve a Dry Basement

by Larry Clay

Case Study
I met with homeowners this week whose home had water coming into their basement. They were stressed from the potential costs and inconvenience to their life. Remediation after the fact would be exorbitant.

This home was typical of many homes where the builder’s only goal was to pass inspection, build to code and make money. Building to code is the lowest level of construction you can legally build in Canada. This is a minimum standard.

8 Steps to Success
Below are eight procedures completed on the exterior of a home to prevent water from entering the basement. Ideally, this is done during construction.

  1. The footings must be placed on a healthy bed of free draining crushed rock. This allows for ground water to make its way to the drainage piping around the perimeter of the foundation. Secondly, it keeps water from wicking up to the concrete foundation.
  2. Use superior PVC perforated drainage pipes. They cost a little more but in the event of a blockage, they can be snaked and cleaned. Big O drainage piping should never be used. In fact, some municipalities have banned the use of Big O drainage piping.
  3. The foundation is sprayed with a dampproofing asphalt. A thicker water proofing spray is better. A superseal drainage mat is placed over the asphalt spray. Backfill material will butt up to the drainage mat. In the event water gets past the dimpled membrane mat it will flow freely down to the drainage pipes.
  4. For builders, it is cheapest to backfill with the native material from the site. This is often unsuitable material. Material that is not free draining will not allow water to flow down to the drainpipes sitting at the bottom of the foundation. Often we need to import free draining material like crushed rock or gravel.
  5. Lot grading must take water away from the house.
  6. Gutter downpipes should never deposit water at the foundation. You may run the downpipes into solid PVC pipes and take the rainwater into the city storm if allowed by your city. Alternatively, you may run the downpipes into a large rock pit located away from the foundation. If site conditions allow, you may be able to run down pipes into a ditch or gulley if slope allows.
  7. Driveways and sidewalks must not guide water towards the house. In the event the house is lower than the road, trench drains must be installed to transfer water away from the house.
  8. Landscaping must not impede the flow of water away from the house.

Doing It Right From The Start
While a house is under construction, there are a number of upgrades that will potentially save thousands of dollars in the event of a wet basement. Penny wise, pound-foolish. Most of us cannot afford the maintenance and remediation costs of a poorly built house. Smart and strategic spending on the construction of your house will ensure a healthy, efficient and solid home built for the generations.

architecture plans for custom home

1. Starting Smart

Introducing The Clay Way

Clay Construction takes pride in building right, right from the start. We call it The Clay Way. In our blog posts we’ll share in-depth knowledge of our building style. Issues facing home owners as they navigate new home builds and renovations will be discussed. We’ll explain what to look for and what to watch out for and how Clay Construction gets it right. We start with the aptly name Starting Smart, the first in our series.

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