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Farm Buildings and Permits

October 4th, 2018

In Manitoba a structure on a farm property used only for farming purposes is not subject to building code inspection if its total floor area is less than 600 square meters or 6458 square feet.


That means you don't need a building permit.


That's a big building.


Maybe it feels like a free pass to do whatever you want but there are some things to keep in mind:


  1. You still need a development permit. A development permit shows the structure of the building and it's location on the property as well as other information subject to local bylaws. A development permit is not reviewed by an engineer or for code compliance, only by your local building inspector or planning district.

  2. You may also need other permits. If the building has electricity, gas connections, municipal water hookups, sewage or waste water disposal, and so on you will need to have appropriate permits for those things.

  3. It might be commercial. If you build a storage shed for your tractor and then put a work bench in it and then do a bit of repair work for your neighbors who pay you and then you hire a guy to help out it's no longer a farm building; it's a commercial building. Retrofitting an existing building to code compliance for commercial use can be more expensive than just building it to commercial specs to start with.

  4. Your insurance company might have an opinion. Whether it's inspected or not if your insurer decides that your building was not built to deal with expected conditions or was being used for purposes other than intended they may not honor a claim. Wood, coal, or gas stoves are their own category of insurance issue. It's worth checking before you build rather than after.

  5. Farming may be a lifestyle but a house is not a farm building. If you're staying in the building, even seasonally, then it's a house and subject to inspection. A garage that you park your daily use vehicle in is also generally not considered a farm building. Ask your local inspector.

  6. All floors count. If there is an office lean-to with storage and a lunch room above attached to your new shop that storage area is part of the total square footage.

  7. Your inspector or planning district might ask for it to be built to residential or commercial standards if it seems likely that use will shift. If your property is on the edge of town and you farm one quarter section but you decide to build a 64'x100' shop your inspector may clue in that you're planning to rent it out as commercial storage space once it's complete. You can push back if you want to but it may be more time and cost effective to have the building specified for its future use to start with.


A commercial use building or a farm building with floor area over 6458 square feet is inspected by the Manitoba Office of the Fire Commissioner. Their requirements for paperwork and attention to detail are high and you will need a drawing service and engineering services if your building's inspection goes to them. You do not want to find out after the fact that they will be inspecting your project.

As with anything related to a building or renovation project, ask your local building inspector before going ahead so that everybody stays on the same page.

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September 28th, 2018

The Manitoba Building Code requires that an engineer review and seal the
construction drawing set for houses and small buildings that contain
certain features including:
-PWF - pressure treated wood foundation
-ICF - insulated concrete form foundations or walls
-slab on grade foundation or any other frost protected shallow footing
-poured concrete or cinderblock foundation over 39'
-timber frame or post and beam construction
-structural insulated panels
-structural steel

-spiral staircases or any stair that turns more than 90° between landings

Almost all residential construction drawing packages go to an engineer.

This is a step that sometimes surprises people who have purchased house
plans online or anywhere anywhere outside of Manitoba. Chances are the
foundation pages at minimum will need to be re-drawn to Manitoba
Building Code standards including specifications for insulation value of
each component.  You can expect to pay several hundred dollars for the
drawing service to prepare the drawings and several hundred dollars for
the engineer to review and approve them.  We can provide those drawings
for you or refer you to a number of good drawing services in the area
who work regularly with engineers on residential projects.

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Dense Pack Cellulose

June 6th, 2018

Cellulose insulation is a common choice as blown in loose fill for attics and other easily accessible areas. It is cost effective, simple to install, and you can easily adjust the thickness for a target R-value.


A similar product can be installed in closed cavities and other odd shaped or difficult to access spaces. Dense pack cellulose installs more tightly than loose fill. It eliminates air movement within the cavity and packs effectively around pipes, wires, boxes, or any odd shape. By using mesh it can be installed in open stud bays or roof cavities for a tight fitting high performance insulation option throughout the structure.


Dense pack cellulose has an insulation value of about R 3.9 per inch of thickness, similar to batt insulation. Its tight fit into the corners and odd shapes of the cavity gives it a clear advantage over batts in actual performance especially in dormers, knee walls, vaulted ceilings, rooms above garages, and other complex assemblies.


Dense pack cellulose is a simple product but needs to be installed with careful attention to detail. We work with a certified installer, Paul Hoeppner, who will provide price packages and specifications for your project. Contact us at Norfolk Lumber for more information or a project estimate from Paul.

Things to Know When Ordering Windows

June 1st, 2018
  1. How big?

    Windows are usually measured by the size of the hole in the wall minus 1/2” on all sides. Occasionally on renovations you may need to order by Brick Mold Dimension instead if you want the window to fit into an existing space in the siding.

    When you write down the size width comes first and height comes second.

    If the window is in a bedroom it has to meet code requirements for egress, or getting out of it in an emergency.

  2. What shape?

    Many shapes are available but most non-rectangular shapes don't open.

  3. How thick is the wall?

    Depending on framing, insulation, and trim options the wall will likely be between 4-1/2” and 8-1/8”. Be as precise as you can especially if you are having pre-installed jamb extensions on your new windows. Two common dimensions are 6-1/2” and 8” for 2x6 walls with drywall and OSB and optional 1-1/2” rigid foam insulation.

  4. How will it operate?

    1. Fixed or Picture - doesn't open or close. Depending on the manufacturer you may need to specify that the frame on a picture window matches nearby casement windows.

    2. Casement - hinged on one side and opens to the outside by turning a crank. A casement window is called Right Hinge or Left Hinge depending on which side the hinges are on WHEN VIEWED FROM THE OUTSIDE.

    3. Awning - hinged on the top and opens to the outside by turning a crank. Note that building code does not allow an awning window in a bedroom.

    4. Glider - one or both sides open by sliding from side to side

    5. Single hung - the bottom part opens by sliding up

    6. Double hung - the bottom opens by sliding up and the top opens by sliding down

    7. Hopper - hinged on top and opens to the inside.

    8. Tilt and Turn - hinged on both the bottom and side swinging to the inside.

    9. Combination - several types can be attached to form larger assemblies. One common combination is CPC or Casement / Picture / Casement

  5. How many layers of glass?

    Double pane windows are still available but triple pane is becoming the standard.

  6. Gas between the panes?

    Manufacturers inject argon gas between the panes so that the window transfers less heat. On a triple pane window you can choose whether one, both, or neither of the cavities has argon in it.

  7. Films?

    Manufacturers install a low-emmissivity film to the glass to increase energy performance of the window. On a triple pane window you can choose film in one, both, or neither cavity between panes. Tinted film is also available.

  8. Decoration?

    Dividers are available in various colors and patterns between panes and/or on the exterior and interior. Pebbled or frosted privacy glass is available.

  9. How will they attach to the wall?

    If windows will be installed before siding then often they will be attached to the wall through a plastic fin that is later covered by siding. If the windows will be installed after siding then they will be attached with a Renovation Brickmold that has a removable strip covering the screws that hold it to the wall.

  10. Frames

    Most windows that we sell have vinyl frames. The default color is white but they are available in several shades of light brown as well. The vinyl can also be painted at the factory in a variety of colors. Usually the exterior trim is a rectangular brick mold profile but you can order your windows without exterior trim if you prefer to install other trims that go with your siding. Interior vinyl trim often extends to the inside face of the wall with a jamb extension but if you prefer to make your own out of wood or drywall you can order a channel return instead.

  11. Schedule

    Custom window manufacturers often work on a lead time of 4-7 weeks.

  12. Budget

    Windows are expensive.

  13. Manufacturer

    Most of our windows come from Armwood at Portage la Prairie. We also sell windows from Huron at Morden and tilt/turn windows from Kohltech from Nova Scotia.

Wall Insulation

There are lots of good ways to insulate a house wall. They each have some benefits and some drawbacks and you pick the pros and cons that best suit your project.


It got more involved in 2016 when Manitoba adopted changes to the National Building Code, Part 9.36 which deals with the energy efficiency of houses. You can get into some complicated calculations and tradeoffs but for most new houses there's no need to go there.


The Manitoba Building Code now requires an EFFECTIVE R-value of 15.9 in house walls above ground. The person who draws the plans for your new house will list all the stuff in the walls and how much of an insulation value each one has. So, for example, a wall with vinyl siding, housewrap, OSB sheathing, studs 16” on centre with fiberglass batts between them, vapour barrier, and painted drywall looks like this on your construction drawing details:


exterior air film - R 0.68

vinyl siding - R 0.62

weather resistant barrier - R 0.0

7/16” OSB - R 0.61

2x6 studwall 16” o.c. c/w R-20 fiberglass batt insulation - R 13.79

vapour barrier sealed at edges and penetrations - R 0.0

1/2” drywall - R 0.45

interior paint surface - R 0.0

interior air film - R 0.68

assembly thermal performance - R 16.83


The little stuff adds up and it all counts.


There are some shortcut documents to help. The City of Brandon has a good one which goes into some of the more complex tradeoff calculations that you can use for tall walls or houses with lots of windows.


If you have the patience or you end up in a disagreement with your designer, builder, or inspector about whether things will work out the way you want, go to the source at the National Research Council for the numbers that nobody argues with.


It's worth noting that all those numbers are metric. To convert the Imperial R-value numbers to metric RSI value, divide by 5.678. Multiply by 5.678 to go from RSI to R-value.


When these changes first came out people got excited about the idea that framing 2x6 walls with 16” stud spacing wasn't allowed, but that's only true if your builder uses a stucco exterior. If you use vinyl, wood, or composite siding you're fine. List the components of your wall and add them up. If you're over 15.9 for a wall that's up to 10' tall it should be good to go.

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