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September 12, 2013

Renovating my unfinished basement is already shaping to be a bit of a pain, and I haven’t even sunk a nail yet — more on that later, though. A while back I wrote about the confusion I was having over whether I’d need a permit to finish my basement. Swaths of The Vaughan’s website is written in dense, legal jargon that I found to be largely impenetrable. For a host of reasons, Megan and I have decided to do this basement by the book. So, if The Vaughan requires permits, then permits The Vaughan shall have.

The problem, of course, was that it wasn’t immediately apparent whether we actually needed any. Scan the Internet and you’ll find just as many people, each claiming to be in the know, arguing that you need permits as there are arguing you don’t. Considering the scorn I’ve hurled towards the City, I was loathe to email for an easily-understandable answer to the basic question: Does The Vaughan require permits for me to finish my basement?

Following a labour-intensive study, it turns out The Vaughan requires permits for me to finish my basement.

I probably should have read the City’s site a little more closely because, if I had, I would have noticed a link, buried among the jargon, to something called “Basement Finishing — Building Permit Application Requirements.”

Cryptic, I know.

Anyways, the first sentence of the first paragraph of the first page broke it down rather succinctly: “A building permit is required for finishing basement areas and/or where are new plumbing fixtures or existing fixtures are being relocated” (sic).

Grammar errors aside, I thinks I knows what it’s getting at.

The form provides a laundry list of requirements to be included in the detailed drawings I’ll have to submit with my permit application: window/door sizes, ceiling duct locations; the name of each room (I have decided to call the living room, Harold, and the linen closet, Sienna); ceiling heights, etc. Aside from the room names, most of the requirements will require a lot of precise measuring.

My father-in-law, who volunteered to draw up the layout for us, came over this past weekend to help me measure the basement. In the days prior to this, however, it had become apparent that Megan and I are borderline hoarders. Ok, maybe not by the literal definition of the word, but boy do we have a lot of stuff. I spent the better part of a weekend clearing out our junk. Seeing as we moved a little more than three years ago — and we had presumably already hucked a lot of things to the curb then — the amount of useless stuff we have is astonishing. Among the things I pitched:

And then there were the boxes… lots of boxes. The Vaughan recycles just about everything and graciously sends chaps out each week to fetch our respective loads. The key with recycling boxes, however, is that you need to flatten and, in many cases, cut them up before The Vaughan will cart it away. Megan and I are fully in favour of recycling. Flattening and cutting up things to get them recycled, not so much. It seems we’re actually more of a “toss it in the basement and take care of it later” family of recyclers.

Who knew?

Sadly, “later” was suddenly “now,” and I had to spend a chunk of my weekend doing away with all sorts of boxes: the box Owen’s stroller came in; two different ceiling fan boxes; a mitre saw box; and a cadre of smaller boxes from the gifts we received two and three Christmases ago… It was an astonishing array of cardboard. Each box not only chronicled the Wormalds’ storied list of gifts and purchases, but it also painted an unfortunate picture of my family’s laziness and sloth.

I’ll be curious to see where we toss our boxes when the basement’s finished.

Anyways, when all was said and done, I cleansed the basement of six bags worth of trash and five bundles of cut and flattened boxes. What might be the saddest part, of course, is that I still haven’t rid the basement of all the junk. While a few things will be given to charity, there are more than a handful of boxes still dustily waiting to be sorted. Seeing as I haven’t’ a clue what’s in any of them, I’ll be interested to see what relics from the ‘80s and ‘90s I find.

After clearing enough space for the time being, my father-in-law and I spent this past Saturday taking precise (well, somewhat precise; they’re in the ballpark I assume) measurements. Like I said before, the drawings have to be detailed: ceiling heights, beam locations, etc. At least initially, this all seemed straight forward. Then, once you start delving into the specifics of everything, you begin to realize that, legal jargon aside, city codes and bylaws are insanely complex and extensive. While some things are easily discernible (i.e., the insulation R-value requirements), others are proving far more difficult.

For example…

I have no idea, truth be told, how long it’s going to take for me to do the basic framing. To speed things along, I want to use a nail gun but, because I don’t know if it’ll take me a weekend or a couple months’ worth of weekends, I‘ve decided to buy the framing nailer rather than renting one. And, since I won’t use it much after the basement’s done, I’ll later sell it on the used market to recoup as much money as I can. In theory, I should save over the cost of renting.

Great plan.

While researching which nail gun to buy, I noticed that different guns use different types of nails. I won’t go into detail, but there are a few types of nails expressly-designed for framing nailers. As I read more about them, I learned that some municipalities have codes prohibiting the use of certain nail types. And, since we’re looking to get permits, and not wanting to run afoul of any of The Vaughan’s building codes, I decided to inquire as to whether the City required a particular nail for framing my basement’s interior, non-loadbearing walls.

This was the response I got:

What are the specs for the nails you plan to use? Do you have a spec sheet? Some types of nails used in nail guns are acceptable as long as they meet the requirements of the Ontario Building Code. Therefore once you supply the information I can confirm if the nails may be used.

The nails’ spec sheet? Seriously?

I read somewhere that 75-90% of the basements in the Greater Toronto Area are finished without permits. I now know why. How many people can honestly say they know the specifications of the nails they’re going to use to frame their basement? Will I need to tear down my work if I’m found to have used 3.25”, 0.120 diameter, smooth shank nails rather than 3.5”, 0.131 diameter, screw shank nails? Will my basement come tumbling down if my screws sport a stainless rather than a galvanized finish?

What’s next? Are they going to inquire about the latent moisture content in the toilet’s porcelain? The chemical composition of the broadloom? No wonder it took nearly a year to finish my fence. They were probably arguing over the type of screws they’d need to assemble it.

The Vaughan makes my head hurt.