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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 12:59 PM   #1
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Permit - To Finish Basement?

Hi,

New to the forum, so hopefully someone can clear up some questions I have.

I bought a house 2 months ago, and decieded to finish off the basement just last month. The basement was completely empty, aside from a rough-in washroom with vents (it was done to code).

Since then, I have framed it, vapour barriered it, drywalled 80% of it, and hired an electrician to upgrade the panel from 60 - 200amp.

Today, I got a visit from the cities building inspector saying I had to stop working and take out a permit. I was shocked. "A neighbour put in a complaint," and I have to get a permit to contiue work - - - or do I?

When the inspector came, I was about 80-90% finished dryalling the entire basement, and basically told him the previous owner left the basement like this and I am just finishing up the last 200sqf or so... He was ok with that, but he saw six four inch holes in the rafters that I drilled out to get venting through... He said this is a big problem - obviously. I knew you werent allowed to do that, but its my house - right?

I went to the building centre and applied for a permit today, paid the $130 and gave them the drawings. They said it will take upto 10 business days for them to respond.

My concerns are that they will make me take down drywall to see if the framing is up to code. I did it myself and it ppprobably isnt upto code 100% but should be fine, just the hasstle of taking it down is a pain.
Questions I have are:

1. What if I continue to keep working even though I dont have the permit yet? Waiting for one? The inspector didnt take any pictures...

2. What if I get the permit, and the inspector makes me take down drywall, could I refuse?

3. What if there are defecincies found, do I have to fix them? What if I dont. Main reason I ask this is I wont dont think I will be able to fix the rafter holes, along with being able to afford to have them fixed. Do I have a time frame??

4. What if I just stop working on the basement and 'quit'.

Anyone been through something like this similar, any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks
Canuck
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 01:25 PM   #2
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>but he saw six four inch holes in the rafters that I drilled out to get venting through... He said this is a big problem - obviously. I knew you werent allowed to do that, but its my house - right?

OK, this is the primary problem you have. You think that you can do whatever to your house because it's yours. You can't. Fact is -- you are not allowed to do things that compromise the safety or structural integrity of the house, because it may fail and injure you -- or the next people to own the house. That's why there are building codes - to ensure that any work done meets minimum standards of safety.

You drill out rafters, you compromise the strength of the rafter in a big way. Then next big snowstorm, the roof falls in. Insurance company sees you did a bonehead mod that caused the damage, they void your insurance. You lose house when the bank calls the mortgage. Connect the dots here...

Quote:
When the inspector came, I was about 80-90% finished dryalling the entire basement, and basically told him the previous owner left the basement like this and I am just finishing up the last 200sqf or so... He was ok with that,
Lying is a great start. Not. One word of advice -- never post the city you live in here.

>My concerns are that they will make me take down drywall to see if the framing is up to code.

On interior, non-load-bearing walls more likely to look at the electrical and the plumbing. This is why you get inspections -before- you drywall. But big deal -- so you cut out a panel, show them that the electical was done correctly, patch the hole and repaint.

> 1. What if I continue to keep working even though I dont have the permit yet? Waiting for one? The inspector didnt take any pictures...

You want to game the system, right? The system will win in the long term. AND if you do make mistakes that cost someone their home or their health later...

The more you do now, the more you may have to rip out later. Stop screwing around already and get professional help.

> 2. What if I get the permit, and the inspector makes me take down drywall, could I refuse?

Sure. You could also get your house condemned and be forced to leave when the city revokes the occupancy permit.

> 3. What if there are defecincies found, do I have to fix them? What if I dont. Main reason I ask this is I wont dont think I will be able to fix the rafter holes, along with being able to afford to have them fixed. Do I have a time frame??

Sorry? You are asking if you are called on code violations do you 'have' to fix them? See response to #2. Affordability is not an excuse, it was you what shot yourself in your own foot.

> 4. What if I just stop working on the basement and 'quit'.

They can still inspect, and any existing code violations still have to be rectified.

You are up a gum tree with this one. Quit weaseling and do what has to be done, properly.

Last edited by CanadaRAM; Jul 1st, 2009 at 01:43 PM.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 01:30 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
Hi,

New to the forum, so hopefully someone can clear up some questions I have.
Oh my, where to even start?

Quote:
Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
I bought a house 2 months ago, and decieded to finish off the basement just last month. The basement was completely empty, aside from a rough-in washroom with vents (it was done to code).

Since then, I have framed it, vapour barriered it, drywalled 80% of it, and hired an electrician to upgrade the panel from 60 - 200amp.

Today, I got a visit from the cities building inspector saying I had to stop working and take out a permit. I was shocked. "A neighbour put in a complaint," and I have to get a permit to contiue work - - - or do I?
Yes, you must legally stop work immediately.

Quote:
Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
When the inspector came, I was about 80-90% finished dryalling the entire basement, and basically told him the previous owner left the basement like this and I am just finishing up the last 200sqf or so... He was ok with that, but he saw six four inch holes in the rafters that I drilled out to get venting through... He said this is a big problem - obviously. I knew you werent allowed to do that, but its my house - right?
Only if you paid cash for the house. If you have a mortgage, part of your responsibility is to keep the home in good repair. (Remember the "first loss payable" clause in your insurance is to your bank or mortgage company. ) I'm not sure what you mean by "rafters" as they are under the roof in your attic. I suspect you mean the floor joists. Cutting holes that large in them can affect the structural soundness of the house and that is why the inspector states it is a big problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
I went to the building centre and applied for a permit today, paid the $130 and gave them the drawings. They said it will take upto 10 business days for them to respond.

My concerns are that they will make me take down drywall to see if the framing is up to code. I did it myself and it ppprobably isnt upto code 100% but should be fine, just the hasstle of taking it down is a pain.
Questions I have are:

1. What if I continue to keep working even though I dont have the permit yet? Waiting for one? The inspector didnt take any pictures...
You will be breaking the law. Simple as that. And believe me when I say the inspector doesn't need pictures. He will have notes on the progress and will be able to tell if any further works was done since his visit.

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Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
2. What if I get the permit, and the inspector makes me take down drywall, could I refuse?
I am surprised you even ask such a question. Of course you cannot refuse without severe repercussions legally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
3. What if there are defecincies found, do I have to fix them? What if I dont. Main reason I ask this is I wont dont think I will be able to fix the rafter holes, along with being able to afford to have them fixed. Do I have a time frame??
You were responsible for any deficiencies, as you surely are to do the repairs as ordered. Usually a time frame is given by the city.

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Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
4. What if I just stop working on the basement and 'quit'.
That is what you must do for now, but be prepared for the city to make certain demands before they will issue a proper permit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
Anyone been through something like this similar, any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks
Canuck
You've dug yourself a very deep hole, but I wish you luck in solving what could have been avoided by checking local building bylaws first.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 01:33 PM   #4
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You have cut large holes in the rafters and or trusses. That is a big no no. You would have no choice but to repair what you have done. The renos on the walls pale in comparison to what you have blindly done to the integrity of the house. The structure has been altered and now you may or probably have a dangerous situation. If you don't fix it you wouldn't be able to sell the house down the road.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 02:17 PM   #5
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There was a similar question here posted 2-3 weeks ago, working with permits when doing renovations, etc. In that post I mentioned someone I know in Vancouver who decided to finish his basement before selling the house. He spent in the tens of thousands to finish it to a pretty high spec, new bathroom, pre-wired for a media center, etc ... all without permits.

He didn't have any problems during construction and no inspector showed up. His problem came when it was time to sell. From what I recall, the first buyer requested permits for the renovation as it was pretty clear work had just been done. Because there weren't any, the space wasn't legal and the buyer's bank wouldn't mortgage it because the space was uninsurable. After this first debacle, they were forced to remove "renovated basement" from the real estate listing. He did eventually sell but a bit of a loss, including all the money he had sent on the renovation.

Stopping what you have done so far and getting permits is the best thing you can do. If any inspections are required, you may need to redo some of what you have already done but it will be easier now than to have all the headaches later.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 02:21 PM   #6
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Just to clear things up, when I wrote 'rafters' I meant BASEMENT FLOOR JOISTS. Sorry for the mis-understanding, I was a little stressed yesturday...

Anyways, thanks for the replies guys, you've given me more of an idea of what can/would/could happen.

I am not going to try and break the law (any more) by not doing what the inspector says... etc. I just wanted to know if I had the right to since I am clueless about the buidling code - and especially when it comes to finishing your basement.

Couple more questions I have.:

1. Someone mentioned that its my responsibility to keep the home in good repair if I have a mortgage on the current property. Well this isnt the case, I took out a home equity line of credit on my primary residnce (valued at 500K and paid clear) and used that to buy this current house I am having problems with - there is no mortgage on the property. Can you elaborate more on this please?

2. There is no load bearing walls in the basement. There is one 44ft steal beam with about 6 posts holding it up which is in the centre of the basement, holding up the floor joists. Other than that, there is nothing else...

3. As for fixing the floor joists, like I said I put 3-4 inch holes in 6 of them. I was told the way to fix them would be 'sistering' two foot 2x6's on each side. The only problem to this is there are wires on both sides, so I would have to unhook all the wiring from the panel.... and re-root them again.

The only other option I see is to completely take out, and replace them - which one do you think is more effective - cost/time wise... both would probably be up to code.

4. And finally, why havent I gotten anything in writing (yet) In reno shows, I've seen inspectors post a stop work order on the house on people - but nobody has given me anything. Why?

5. The electrical work I've done was all with a permit, and passed. The pluming was done to code by a 30+ years experienced plumber, but without a permit. I am kinda worried about 'framing' - I did that all myself, I use to be a framer couple years ago and am good at it, but not sure what the code requires... looking into that now.

6. Sorry for any silly questions - like I said I am completely new to this.

Last edited by canuck123; Jul 1st, 2009 at 02:39 PM.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 02:22 PM   #7
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He didn't have any problems during construction and no inspector showed up.
Yeah, building inspectors won't know you are doing work until you apply for a permit (or someone drops the dime on you). It's the homeowner's responsibility to apply for the permits and seek the inspection. And as noted, the future cost of not doing so can be from expensive to catastrophic.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 02:59 PM   #8
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Another very big thing to consider having a permit for is there are also regulations on how much finished space you can have. It is figured out based on the total sq footage of your house, compared to your lot.

In 2008 we wanted to finish our basement. So we applied for the permit. Found out that houses in our area can have no more than 60% of the lot sq footage as finished living space. This is done so, so you don't turn a residential property into a flop house I guess.

But at first application we were denied because even at our current state, we were already 'over'. We had to appeal based on the fact that the way our lot was divvied off of the lot beside us years and years ago would have never been allowed presently.

Secondly the city owns right up to our front porch. Our whole front lawn is city land, because when they were originally planning our street there was thought that it might be a 4 lane thoroughfare. That never happened. So when we appealed, we appealed on the basis of whole lot size, including the city property, as well as our lot. We also had to sign that we were not going to turn the basement into an apartment. Which that was never the intention. In the end it was approved, because the lot should have never been created as it is. I think we have the smallest lot in the city!

Anyway, the point is, no matter what you do to your house, never ever start a thing unless its paint or paper without a call to the building division of your city hall, to see what you need to do to start.

Permits, contrary to what a douche-bag contractor told me are absolutely of value and worth the money. They provide you with the sanity that if you hire someone, the work they are doing is up to code, and proper. And if you are DIYing it, proof that you've done it right. There should never be a moment where you don't consider a permit before you ever start hammering.

Do they not show Mike Holmes on TV in your neck of the woods?

The dude or two before me, decided he's rewire a bedroom. Took knob and tube wiring and spliced it with masking tape to a lamp cord and ran that to a ceiling lamp through puff insulation, next to ceiling joists. My friend that rewired my whole house, a master electrician said we lived in a time bomb for the 7 years we were here, not knowing. Thank god the whole house was rewired.

You can save money avoiding permits, and doing it yourself, but that does you little good when you are burned alive in a fire, or in your case the house collapses on you, or worse someone else and you're found legally responsible.

Seriously, stop what you are doing and wait, and do it the right way.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 04:39 PM   #9
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If you ever plan to sell this house, following the rules, getting a permit, and having it inspected to make sure it's up to code could be the difference between making a sale and not making a sale. Pay now or pay in a few years, your choice. Or you could have Mike Holmes come and take a look and see what he thinks. Heck, you could even get yourself on TV!
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 05:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
Just to clear things up, when I wrote 'rafters' I meant BASEMENT FLOOR JOISTS. Sorry for the mis-understanding, I was a little stressed yesturday...

Couple more questions I have.:

1. Someone mentioned that its my responsibility to keep the home in good repair if I have a mortgage on the current property. Well this isnt the case, I took out a home equity line of credit on my primary residnce (valued at 500K and paid clear) and used that to buy this current house I am having problems with - there is no mortgage on the property. Can you elaborate more on this please?
Well, no, because we don't have all the facts on your specific situation. The general principle though is that you are responsible for keeping the condition of your house to a certain standard both for mortgage and for insurance purposes.

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Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
2. There is no load bearing walls in the basement. There is one 44ft steal beam with about 6 posts holding it up which is in the centre of the basement, holding up the floor joists. Other than that, there is nothing else...

3. As for fixing the floor joists, like I said I put 3-4 inch holes in 6 of them. I was told the way to fix them would be 'sistering' two foot 2x6's on each side. The only problem to this is there are wires on both sides, so I would have to unhook all the wiring from the panel.... and re-root them again.

The only other option I see is to completely take out, and replace them - which one do you think is more effective - cost/time wise... both would probably be up to code.
Sistering the joists will be way easier than replacing them. Sux about the wires, but that's the price of 'shoot first, aim later'. But you HAVE to do it, to avoid your refrigerator ending up in the basement by express delivery. I'm not sure about using 2 foot long 2 x 6's -- I would have guessed that you would need longer sisters. CHeck this out before starting...

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Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
4. And finally, why havent I gotten anything in writing (yet) In reno shows, I've seen inspectors post a stop work order on the house on people - but nobody has given me anything. Why?
Who knows? It's probably coming pending your response to the permit application.

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5. The electrical work I've done was all with a permit, and passed.
Thank goodness.

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Originally Posted by canuck123 View Post
The pluming was done to code by a 30+ years experienced plumber, but without a permit.
Notsogood, but I would ask the plumber to lead the inspector through the work. If the plumber is well known for doing respectable work, the inspector may not require opening the walls (as much).

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I am kinda worried about 'framing' - I did that all myself, I use to be a framer couple years ago and am good at it, but not sure what the code requires... looking into that now.
Read your local code, but it is my impression that interior partition walls are not as critical as exterior walls and load bearing walls. The vapor barrier may need to be looked at.. Improperly installed, it can lead to rot and mould in the walls.

The other thing to look at is if this is going to be a rental property, make sure it is zoned properly for the number of living units you intend to rent. If you are making it a multiple-family residence, then you have additional code requirements for exits, firewalling and soundproofing between the units.
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