Strong winds call for strong houses

Build­ing homes along the south­west coast may re­quire some ad­just­ment to cur­rent build­ing codes

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front Page - BY ROS­ALYN ROY

One could be for­given for think­ing Ja­son Pearce was tack­ling some heavy home con­struc­tion. De­bris from up­rooted trees, some of which has been chopped and stacked, along with the ex­posed in­su­la­tion on one side of his Cape Ray home make it ap­pear that the vet­eran con­trac­tor is likely plan­ning an ad­di­tion.

In­stead he’s merely clean­ing up from the lat­est wind­storm dam­age al­most two weeks prior, which ripped off a large sec­tion of sid­ing, blew apart his house num­ber sign, and even top­pled large, thick trees that had adorned his prop­erty for years.

“The wind is get­ting stronger. Storms are get­ting more pow­er­ful,” he says, wav­ing a hand at the mess he’s still clean­ing up. “The wind changes now.”

Pearce is a jour­ney­man car­pen­ter with over two full decades in the con­struc­tion in­dus­try. He has built homes, bridges, hos­pi­tals and schools in Bri­tish Co­lum­bia and Labrador, and re­turned to his na­tive New­found­land a half dozen years ago.

“There’s no reg­u­la­tions here. Any­body can build a house here,” says Pearce. “You don’t have to be a li­censed car­pen­ter here to build houses.”

Pearce com­pares the lax reg­u­la­tions in this prov­ince to Jour­ney­man car­pen­ter Ja­son Pearce doesn’t be­lieve that cur­rent build­ing codes are en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate for the south­west coast’s cli­mate.

his ex­pe­ri­ence in Bri­tish Co­lum­bia, which man­dates reg­u­lar in­spec­tions through­out the con­struc­tion phase.

“As soon as we got the shell of the house done, they come in and they in­spected it. Plumbers come in? They came in and in­spected it. In­su­la­tion was put in? They came in and in­spected it. Here? None of that goes on here,” shrugs Pearce. “I didn’t see none of that here.”

In­stead Pearce has wit­nessed peo­ple build­ing a home and pop­ping in in­su­la­tion, for ex­am­ple, with­out much over­sight. Even crit­i­cal power and sewage hookups usu­ally only get a cur­sory glance, says Pearce.

“There’s no in­spec­tions,” says Pearce. “They’re re­ally slack here.”

Built to last

But while the in­spec­tions Port aux Basques town man­ager Leon MacIsaac states that given the re­gion’s strong winds, higher stan­dards may be war­ranted.

may be lax, that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean homes are poorly built. Melissa Samms hails from the Codroy Val­ley. Her fa­ther and grand­fa­ther were heav­ily in­volved in con­struc­tion.

“The high­est wind speed I’ve seen was 218 km last win­ter,” states Samms via email. “We gen­er­ally build for it, rather than re­pair­ing. Trun­nel­ing used to be com­mon and us­ing an­gled 2x4 in­stead of ply­wood on the out­side of the home is a pop­u­lar so­lu­tion.”

Peo­ple had lit­tle choice but to build for the Wreck­house winds, and some of the homes her fam­ily has built have more than stood the test of time.

“Dad’s grand­fa­ther’s home was built us­ing trun­nel­ing and when the man who bought it tried to tear it down he had to take a chain­saw to it be­cause he couldn’t get it down with­out one,” she said.

Even if a home­owner chooses to go the tra­di­tional route and build us­ing the old meth­ods, there are still hur­dles.

“At the time when my great­grand­fa­ther built his house with trun­nel­ing, it cer­tainly wasn’t un­com­mon, but the most tra­di­tional way to deal with the wind was to em­ploy sod roofs and main­tain wind­breaks. It’s an old skill, and I’m not sure who would still be able to do ei­ther,” notes Samms.

Pearce un­der­stands the dif­fi­cul­ties of merely adopt­ing in­spec­tion re­quire­ments sim­i­lar to other prov­inces. It means more jobs, but also more ex­pense which will fall to the homeowners. And reg­u­la­tions that work else­where aren’t nec­es­sar­ily suited to the strong winds that typ­i­cally bat­ter the south­west coast of New­found­land.

“I’m never putting sid­ing back on my house. I’m go­ing back to shakes or wood sid­ing. It’s bet­ter. Our weather here is made for wood sid­ing, not plas­tic,” main­tains Pearce, who has al­ready twice re­placed sid­ing on his house and has had enough. “I’m a jour­ney­man car­pen­ter. I know how to put on sid­ing.”

In­suf­fi­cient

Samms is of the same opin­ion about cur­rent reg­u­la­tions be­ing in­suf­fi­cient.

“It’s be­cause pro­vin­cial build­ing codes aren’t good enough, and that’s what peo­ple are us­ing to­day to guide their con­struc­tion and re­pair de­ci­sions,” she said.

If the gov­ern­ment ever plans on draft­ing or chang­ing reg­u­la­tions sur­round­ing home build­ing, Pearce has an idea about how to en­sure they’re ac­tu­ally ap­pro­pri­ate.

“They should be putting a cou­ple of small build­ings up there (at the Wreck­house), 10 x 10 build­ings, do all kinds of dif­fer­ent sid­ing on the out­side, dif­fer­ent win­dows,” be­gins Pearce.

He sug­gests let­ting the el­e­ments have at the struc­tures to de­ter­mine what rules should be in place. Reg­u­la­tors, in­sur­ance ad­jus­tors, con­sumers, sup­pli­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers would all be able to have a first-hand look at what would work in New­found­land and what wouldn’t.

“Have light and power run to it too, to see how much it costs to keep that build­ing go­ing,” says Pearce. “Let’s put it on the build­ing out there for a year, see how it’s go­ing to last.”

Pearce be­lieves that reg­u­la­tions more ap­pro­pri­ate to the cli­mate would help re­duce in­sur­ance claims and help peo­ple re­al­ize that just be­cause some­thing is cheaper now, it’s not nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to be cheaper in the long run.

“There’s so much to choose to put in our houses now, that peo­ple don’t know,” he said.

Pearce re­counts an in­ci­dent about an in­spec­tor who im­me­di­ately ripped down plas­tic in­su­la­tion af­ter the in­spec­tion was com­plete. He doesn’t fault the in­spec­tor, as Pearce also prefers an al­ter­na­tive, but what works doesn’t al­ways suit what is re­quired.

“If you don’t fol­low gov­ern­ment rules you don’t get in­sur­ance on your house,” notes Melissa Samms is a fifth gen­er­a­tion Codroy Val­ley res­i­dent who knows a thing or two about con­struc­tion and the Wreck­house winds. Pearce. “When I was do­ing gov­ern­ment grants (for clients), we had to take the shakes off the house to put on the sid­ing.”

But in or­der to get in­sur­ance, the gov­ern­ment re­quired the shakes come off and lighter plas­tic sid­ing go on. Pearce did as re­quired, find­ing no rot or fault with the shakes he re­moved, and ad­mits he doesn’t grasp the logic.

“Now their house is al­ready sealed. Why take off a coat and put on a lighter jacket when you can put one on over it?”

Pearce says he has done it time and again for houses in Port aux Basques.

“To me it made their houses colder,” he said.

When it came to build­ing homes, Pearce of­ten tries to ad­vise homeowners that their choices, while com­pli­ant with ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions, were un­likely to suf­fice. Usu­ally the fi­nal de­ci­sion came down to cost.

“We’ve got to get more pre­pared for the wind.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

J. R. ROY — SPE­CIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

J. R. ROY — SPE­CIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

Ja­son Pearce points to a piece of ply­wood which is all that re­mains of his house num­ber sign, which blew off dur­ing the lat­est wind­storm.

J. R. ROY — SPE­CIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

Be­cause the sid­ing keeps get­ting ripped off Pearce’s house, he plans on in­stalling wood in­stead.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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