Passing Final Inspection #Renovations

Yesterday morning Wallace, our awesome contractor, called to make sure I was going to be home today. He wasn’t sure, but it was possible the building inspector was going to arrive for final inspection. Knowing how anxious I feel about inspections, he gave me instructions to call him the minute the inspector arrived and he would come over to be available to answer questions.

In the middle of the afternoon the inspector arrived and I unlocked the suite to let him in. With shaking fingers I texted Wallace, “He’s here.”

Throughout the duration of the renovation there has been a package of drawings, maps, and permits we kept in a large plastic bag. In the depths of winter, with rain pouring and mud filling the excavation, the contractor and foreman would pull out the plans and survey information to make sure the foundation walls were built the correct distance from the property lines. When the house was lowered onto its new foundation walls the elevation of the midband matched the architect’s drawings of the slope and height of the grounds. When it was time to build the steps into the entryways the plans came out and discrepancies between the architectural drawings and the reality on the ground were identified and had to be resolved. When we realized the mechanical room was not going to fit where the architect had planned, and we moved it upstairs, the drawings had to travel back to the City building permits department for revisions and notations. When we moved the electrical panel from the basement to the main floor, and disconnected all the old knob and tube wiring, we had to actually open a new electrical permit for the main floor and upstairs of the house, so we could get final acceptance of the wiring in the basement.

The copies of the architectural drawings that guided our renovation also served as the official record of successive inspections and approvals. On the back of the drawings are periodic notations from the building inspector, signalling approval to move to the next level of renovation: from forms to foundation pour, from foundation pour to slab pour, from slab pour to framing, from framing to insulation, from insulation to drywall, and to finish. From unfinished windowless exterior walls to lock up, from lock up to finish.

Over the life of the renovation, this plastic bag of drawings and permits grows, with engineering reports and confirmations and successful rounds of electrical, plumbing and gas inspections.

At the beginning of the renovation, I knew these documents were important because I was told to keep them organized and handy on the jobsite. Yesterday, I finally realized how much those documents were worth. When the building inspector arrived for final inspection yesterday, he walked through the suite and admired our handiwork. He checked to make sure the overhead fan for the gas range was connected properly. He checked to make sure the french doors were installed properly. And then he asked for the collection of documents.

I pulled them out the package of papers just as Wallace arrived. As the inspector perused the history of notations Wallace confirmed the changes and the status of permits on the property. The inspector reviewed the drawings, page by page, with their highlights of changes approved by the City. He checked the collection of inspection sheets from the gas, plumbing, and electrical inspections. And he signed off on our renovation.

At that moment I realized that collection of papers not only documented the history of our renovation, they were worth more than every penny we had spent so far to accomplish this job. These documents were priceless, with their traces of the struggle marked in mud, multiple foldings, and crumpled corners.

We have our final inspection. We are cleared to apply for a permit to rent the basement suite as a secondary suite. I know there are people who can undertake property improvements under the radar and avoid getting permits because the risk of doing unpermitted work causes them less anxiety than having to go through the rigours of following City protocols. I am not one of those people. However, I am also not one of those people who feel comfortable with the random authority of City inspectors to cause undue difficulties, simply because they have the power to use their judgement for good or ill. This is where having a trustworthy contractor on your side makes all the difference in the world. I can safely say this job would not have been possible without Wallace. He shepherded us through discrepancies between architectural drawings and on the ground realities. He stick handled the entire environmental situation when the house was held hostage up in the air on cribs with a stop work order. He supported us when our financing feel apart and it seemed the entire project would be lost. He stood by us as we finished the suite, two neophyte finishers completing our first renovation. He answered his phone to answer our endless stream of questions. In essence, he trained Matt to the point where Matt is now working full time on his new job as a carpenter’s apprentice, working toward his red seal.

It is no small feat to accomplish a project of this scale, complexity, and difficulty. Especially when we did not have a well-endowed renovation money chest to begin with. But we have arrived, and we have passed final. It truly feels like a miracle of spirit, community, and the values of helping each other get things done that we could not do alone.

It took us months to figure out how to finish the kitchen around these posts.

It took us months to figure out how to finish the kitchen around these posts.