Know cottage re­quire­ments be­fore build­ing

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QI have just pur­chased land in the RM of Gimli and will be look­ing to clear and build on it, if not this year then next. We are only look­ing at a 900-square­foot cottage. The prob­lem I’m hav­ing is that ev­ery foun­da­tion per­son is quot­ing me about $16,000 to put in a pile foun­da­tion. So, maybe I’m ask­ing for the wrong thing. I don’t need an in­su­lated crawl space, as I will only use the prop­erty in the sum­mer. So, af­ter read­ing a pre­vi­ous ar­ti­cle of yours, it sounds like I should be ask­ing for quotes on a sim­ple con­crete spread foot­ing. I had hoped to have the beam sup­ported on piles, think­ing that four or five piles shouldn’t cost that much. What am I miss­ing and can you sug­gest any­one I should work with?

Thanks, Brian Good­man An­swer: Build­ing a cottage on pre­vi­ously un­de­vel­oped land, from scratch, will af­ford you sev­eral ad­van­tages but will also come with a few chal­lenges. The style and cost of the foun­da­tion for your new build­ing will de­pend on sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing re­quire­ments of the build­ing of­fi­cials in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. When em­bark­ing on new con­struc­tion, whether it is a rel­a­tively sim­ple cottage project like yours or an en­ergy-ef­fi­cient home, the first place to start is with the plans. En­sur­ing you have a good house plan, whether done by an ar­chi­tect, from a stock drawing source, or from an ar­chi­tec­tural tech­nol­o­gist, is im­por­tant. The plan should not only sat­isfy your de­sires for form and func­tion, it should be well suited to the new area and lot you are build­ing on. This may in­clude a site visit by the designer, but should also in­clude an eval­u­a­tion of the grad­ing and soil con­di­tions. This last item may be crit­i­cal in de­ter­min­ing the type of foun­da­tion em­ployed. In ad­di­tion to the phys­i­cal plan, a trip to the lo­cal ru­ral mu­nic­i­pal­ity of­fice will be in or­der to en­quire about build­ing per­mits and re­quire­ments. Each RM may choose to adopt the Na­tional Build­ing Code (NBC) in its en­tirety, mod­ify cer­tain ar­eas, or in­crease some re­quire­ments. Find­ing out ahead of time may save you ma­jor grief, and money, be­fore fi­nal­iz­ing plans that may not com­ply with the wishes of the build­ing of­fi­cials in that area. One ex­am­ple of this may be the com­monly used styles of foun­da­tions. For many years, and with vary­ing de­grees of suc­cess, sum­mer homes in the area you are build­ing have been built on sim­ple foun­da­tions. Th­ese ini­tially may have in­cluded post and pad foun­da­tions, with many own­ers up­grad­ing to a spread foot­ing on grade foun­da­tion. While this may have been ac­cept­able in the past, that style of foun­da­tion may or may not be ac­cept­able any­more. Pour­ing a spread foot­ing on grade may be a rea­son­ably good sup­port for some por­tions of the RM of Gimli, due to sandy soil con­di­tions, but may not be suit­able for other ar­eas with clay or swampy con­di­tions. In those lo­ca­tions, the foot­ing could eas­ily sink, caus­ing ma­jor set­tle­ment is­sues for the new build­ing. That is why the ex­act lo­ca­tion of your pro­posed sum­mer home is so crit­i­cal. If the area is found to have poor soil con­di­tions, poured con­crete piers (piles) may be the only good op­tion. The next is­sue is found within the build­ing codes them­selves. His­tor­i­cally, many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have al­lowed sum­mer homes to be con­structed with­out proper foun­da­tions and in­su­la­tion. That has dras­ti­cally changed, as many are re­quir­ing all new con­struc­tion to meet the cur­rent stan­dards for year-round use. That will in­clude an in­su­lated and heated base­ment or crawl space, walls, and at­tic, up to the cur­rent lev­els re­quired in the NBC. Con­trary to your de­sires, you will likely need to con­struct your new cottage on a grade beam, to al­low for an in­su­lated crawl space, whether you choose piles or not. This is in­deed a su­pe­rior choice to an in­su­lated open floor, which would be cold and would not ac­com­mo­date wa­ter pipes and other me­chan­i­cal items lo­cated be­low the floor. How deep the grade beam should be, and what it is sup­ported on, will de­pend on a com­bi­na­tion of soil con­di­tions, RM re­quire­ments, and your bud­get. While the cost of the con­crete piers for your foun­da­tion seems high, that may be re­duced by in­creas­ing the strength of the floor sup­port sys­tem in your plans to min­i­mize the num­ber re­quired. In­creas­ing the size and style of the main beams and/or floor joists can min­i­mize the num­ber of poured con­crete piers you will need. They may also have to in­crease in size or depth ac­cord­ingly, but some sav­ings may be re­al­ized by this method. The con­trac­tors you have con­tacted may be us­ing min­i­mal build­ing prac­tices for their es­ti­mates, rather than en­gi­neered floor sys­tems, which may al­low larger spans be­tween sup­ports. While it may seem like a fairly sim­ple process to build an unin­su­lated cottage only for sum­mer use, that may no longer be pos­si­ble in many re­gions. Plan­ning for a mod­ern, en­ergy-ef­fi­cient sum­mer home built to to­day’s stan­dards will pre­vent a huge sur­prise. This process starts at the plan­ning stage with a visit to a designer and the lo­cal RM to de­ter­mine what will be re­quired. Also, hir­ing a con­sult­ing en­gi­neer to eval­u­ate the draw­ings and soil con­di­tions should be the fi­nal piece of the puz­zle in de­ter­min­ing whether a foun­da­tion in­cor­po­rat­ing deep con­crete piers is worth the ad­di­tional cost. Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the past pres­i­dent of the Canadian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Prop­erty In­spec­tors — Man­i­toba ( Ques­tions can be emailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his web­site at trained­

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