Monday, 28 November 2011

Final Building Permit Nov 25/11 Yippee!!

For months now I have wanted to write about The power of a City Building Inspector.  I have put it off because we still do not have our final building permit for our new house that we have been living in for the past 8 months.  If you have ever built a home you know that the worst thing you could ever do is make a building inspector mad, or even dislike you in any way.  They have more power than god!

We do believe we will get our Final Permit today, but I won't publish this until I have that little card in my hand.

When we started building our house in 2010 there was building inspector named V (not real name of course).  He had been around for years and made his requirements quite clear either in writing or verbally.   We learned quickly to give him certain level of respect.  In return we could rely on him to answer questions, or provide clarification.   There was one incident when V lost all of our truss drawings, or maybe someone at city hall misfiled them?  Anyway I had to go pick up another copy of the 2" stack of drawings and deliver it personally to the building department at City hall.  BUT the real problems started when V retired in June 2011.

Apparently building inspectors don't write down anything, unless it is on a card they give you.  Not only that, V didn't give us copies of all the cards.

So the new building inspector comes along we will call him E.  We called him for the final permit on the back garage and the house in June 2011, just after V retired (which was a surprise to us)
He kindly sat down in our kitchen and went thru a list of things he was missing, like a card showing our insulation had passed and where are the Truss drawings?  (see do you lose that huge stack of paper twice?)  We were able to explain alot of it, and E called into his assistant at the city and she found alot of the missing stuff in our file.  Some of it was found the next day and E called us to tell us not to worry about the truss drawings, the smoke detectors, we ticked them off the lists he had left and went on to worry about the bigger things.

  • V had told us to drywall our unfinished area above the back garage to a height of 4 feet.  E didn't like it, we had no proof V said that and it wasn't to code.  E wanted it done to the ceiling height.  This is a place we are using as storage, so we don't see the point.
  • then there is our beautiful stair railing in the house.  Hand made hammered rod iron, the craftsman who made it assured us it was to code.  E says it is climbable, he will have to ask his boss for another opinion.

5 months of going back and forth, between bosses, (there are many managerial layers) none will make a decision without talking to the other.  Or maybe E was just not allowed to make a decision on his own??There were many excuses or miscommunications:

  • We will have to wait till C comes back from his month vacation in Europe, he is the expert on code.  
  • C comes back and says I already told you and E my decision before I to us of course.  
  • We go to see the top boss, he is very nice and promises to get us a decision within a week.  
  • On and on......finally they decide it is not climable but there are openings at the bottom edges that are larger than 4 inches, which means a small child's head could fit in there.  
  • So how do we fix that?  A question we have been asking them for 5 months, can we use plexiglass? "that's not code" but I'll check with C.........

We called for a final inspection on the back garage, we had fixed the drywall to the level E requested.  We figured while he was here he could give us some direction of what we could do to get the stair railing to pass.

  • the back garage didn't pass because the truss drawings are missing  (No, I cannot believe my ears, and I may have gotten angry! I am only human I lost my patience) and he says "you need to drywall the whole room including the ceiling" I reminded him that he was the one who told us to drywall to the ceiling and he reluctantly agreed, but of course he had not written that down so he didn't remember.
  • As for the advise on the stair railings, he had none, whatever we do has to be permanently attached.  

My handy spouse came up with a creative idea to make wood triangles to fill in the 4" spaces, it looked OK and cost about $400 to get the matching wood.  Also we had to put a 2nd handrail on the other side of the stairway, as the width of the stairs called for 2 rails.  (It all looked kinda ugly but it was to code)

Yesterday E was here for the final inspection again, I handled him the 3rd copy of the truss drawings, he said "what are these? we already talked about this didn't we?"  (what now you don't need them? ) He couldn't remember, and of course he has nothing written down.   Not to mention he wasn't here for a final inspection on the back garage as we had only called in the permit number for the house.

He agreed to pass the stair railing but don't celebrate too soon.......what about those smoke detectors still on his list(again see above, we have more than we need and he already told us they were fine as is)  He has no record of that.  (Grrrr  don't get angry, ten calming deep breathes)  He left saying he will go back to his office today and look through the file again, but we need to call in both permit numbers again so he can issue the final permits if applicable.  ( I assume this is a billing thing for his employer).  He will call and tell us when he approves the final permit....But I need that card, no way we are going to trust him without something in writing.  (Oh and the City is holding a $10,000.00 bond for trees that we took down and replaced, but we can't have that back until we have the final permit.)

We called the City on Nov 25th and confirmed the Final Permits were issued and we could go pick up the written cards.  Yippee!!

Building a house has many challenges, all the people at City Hall are very helpful, kind and informative if they choose, but few really have the authority to make a decision on their own, and this can add months to the process of building.  I am so glad it is over, Thank you for allowing me to vent!

We do love our new house. (and our stair railing is beautiful)

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