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BCC Ruling No. 98-26-631

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IN THE MATTER OF Subsection 24 (1) of the Building Code Act, 1992.

AND IN THE MATTER OF Articles, and of Regulation 61, as amended by O. Reg. 400/91, 158/93, 160/93, 383/94, 20/95 and 395/96 (the "Ontario Building Code").

AND IN THE MATTER OF an application by Mr. Andrew Smyth and Mrs. June Smyth, Homeowners, 204 Sutherland Drive, Toronto (East York), Ontario for the resolution of a dispute with Mr. Dean Pheakos, Plan Examiner, City of Toronto (East York), Ontario to determine whether the proposed attic storage area that lacks the minimum 75 mm (3 in) air space above the insulation and without adequate height above the storage space and the stair provides sufficiency of compliance with Articles, and of the Ontario Building Code respectively at 204 Sutherland Drive, Toronto (East York), Ontario.


Mr. Andrew Smyth and Mrs. June Smyth, Homeowners
204 Sutherland Drive
Toronto (East York), Ontario


Mr. Dean Pheakos
Plans Examiner
City of Toronto (East York)


Mr. Michael Lio (Chair)
Mr. Michael Steele
Mr. Kenneth Peaker


Toronto, Ontario


June 18, 1998


June 18, 1998


Mr. Andrew Smyth
Toronto (East York), Ontario
The Applicant

Mr. Dean Pheakos, Plans Examiner
City of Toronto (East York), Ontario
The Respondent


  1. The Applicant

Mr. Andrew Smyth and Mrs. June Smyth, Homeowners, 204 Sutherland Drive, Toronto (East York) have applied for a building permit under the Building Code Act, 1992 to renovate the attic of their house at 204 Sutherland Drive, Toronto (East York), Ontario.

  1. Description of Construction

The Applicants own a one storey, semi-detached bungalow that was constructed in the 1940s. The building area of the house is 74.3 m2 (800 ft2 ). The basement has also been finished. The attic is currently unused. There is little storage space in the house, only two closets each measuring approximately 0.93 m2 (10 ft2 ).

The Applicants propose to renovate their attic space to create a storage space for seasonal items, cleaning supplies, books, furniture, paintings, etc. Their intention is to keep the proposed renovation as invisible as possible from the exterior, i.e. they do not want to drastically alter the existing roof lines. Another consideration as a semi-detached house is that the existing roof ties into and mirrors the attached house. A stair would be provided as access to the storage area.

The proposed attic storage area is to be an L-shape. The long portion of this space, having a width of 2.59 m (8 ft., 6 in.), would run the length of the house against the party wall. The existing headroom at the party wall from floor to underside of the rafters is 2.0 m (6 ft., 7 in.). The height at the kneewall is 0.99 m (3 ft., 3 in.). The slope of the roof from the hip roof at the party wall to kneewall is 200. With the proposed insulation the respective heights at the party and kneewalls would be 1.94 m (6 ft, 4 1/2 in.) and 0.93 m (3 ft., 1/2 in.). The short portion of the L-shape has a roof slope of 450. After the proposed insulation is installed, the headroom would be 1.85 m (6 ft., 1 in.)

As the attic would now be conditioned space, insulation would be provided in the rafters. The existing roof construction is asphalt shingles on cedar sheathing on true 50 mm by 102 mm (2 in. by 4 in.) rafters. The Applicants intend to provide R20 insulation in the rafters by fitting 50 mm (2 in.) R10 rigid insulation between the rafters and applying a second layer of rigid R10 insulation to the underside of the rafters. The insulation would be covered with a vapour barrier and 13 mm (1/2 in.) Gypsum Board.

  1. Dispute

The issue at dispute between the Applicant and Respondent concerns whether the proposed attic storage area that will not have the minimum 75 mm (3 in.) air space above the insulation nor the required minimum height above the storage area and the stair provides sufficiency of compliance with Articles, and respectively of the OBC. Article, in particular Sentence (2), requires that a minimum of 75 mm (3 in.) be provided in a roof constructed in this manner above the insulation and the underside of the roof sheathing. The same provision in the 1997 OBC requires that 63 mm (2 1/2 in.) be provided. The proposed roof assembly will only provide 50 mm (2 in.) above the insulation.

Articles and require that the ceiling height above the proposed finished attic and the headroom above the stairs are 2.10 m (6 ft., 11 in.) and 1.95 m (6 ft. 5 in.) respectively. The proposed ceiling heights are 1.94 m (6 ft, 4 1/2 in.) in the storage area and 1.78 m (5 ft., 9 3/4 in.) above the stairs. Since the house is more than five years old, the Compliance Alternatives in Part 11 apply. For the ceiling height, according to Compliance Alternative C88.1, the headroom requirement for a room must have (a) a minimum room height of not less than 1.95 m (6 ft., 4 3/4 in.) over the required floor area and in any location that would normally be used as a means of egress, or (b) a minimum room height of not less than 2.03 m (6 ft., 8 in.) over at least 50 % of the required floor area, provided that any part of the floor having a clear height of less 1.40 m (4 ft., 6 1/4 in.) to not be considered in computing the required floor area. For the headroom over the stairs, Compliance Alternative C96 permits a stair to have a minimum clear height over tread nosing of 1.80 m (5 ft., 10 3/4 in.).

  1. Provisions of the Ontario Building Code

Sentence Purlins

(2) Cross purlins required by Sentence (1) may be omitted where the roof slope is 1 in 6 or steeper provided the roof framing members run in the same direction as the roof slope and a minimum clearance of 75 mm (3 in.) is maintained between the underside of the roof sheathing and the top of the insulation throughout the length of the roof joist.

Article of Room or Spaces

Heights of room or spaces in residential occupancies shall conform to Table 9.5.2.A.


The headroom measured vertically from a line drawn through the outer edges of the nosings shall be at least 1.95 m (6 ft., 5 in.) for stairs located in dwelling units and 2.05 m (6 ft., 9 in.) for all other stairs.

  1. Applicant's Position

The Applicant submitted that the proposed ceiling height, headroom and roof assembly provides sufficiency of compliance with the relevant provisions of the OBC. In their view, providing a ceiling height of 2.11 m (6 ft., 11 in.) for a storage space is not logical. They argue that because of the limitations of the relatively low existing clearance at the party wall, it is difficult to meet the required height. They are reluctant to raise the roof since the cost would not be justified for storage space. Further, the Applicants do not want to change the external character and design of their house. The spans in the storage space will meet OBC requirements.

The stairs, while not having the required height, are quite useable. Since they will not need the stored items on a daily basis, the stairs will be infrequently used. As well, the stairs will not be used by guests, only the occupants of the house who will be familiar with the reduced headroom. The Applicants also indicated that the stairs will be well lit.

Regarding the air space between the insulation and the roof sheathing, the Applicants indicated that the 50 mm (2 in.) provided is sufficient for the circulation of air. They noted that the roof assembly will provide the appropriate R-value. They also pointed out that the proposed insulation in the roof assembly was designed in an effort to minimize the reduction of ceiling height.

Finally, the Applicants argued that their proposed renovation meets the intent of the safety and thermal requirements of the OBC. For these reasons they submitted that the proposed construction provides sufficiency of compliance.

  1. Chief Building Official's Position

The Respondent submitted that the proposed attic renovation does not meet the requirements found in Part 9 of the OBC for ceiling heights and headroom. They also noted that the proposed construction does not meet the Compliance Alternatives C88.1 or C96 found in Part 11. As the Respondent indicated, the ceiling height at 1.94 m (6 ft., 4 1/2 in.) at its highest point in the proposed storage area is approximately 13 mm (1/2 in.) lower than that allowed under C88.1 and even that height is not provided over the required area. Also, the proposed headroom over the stairs, at 1.78 (5 ft., 9 3/4 in.), is 25 mm (1 in.) too low as per C96.

The Respondent noted that the air space above the insulation is not adequate. The proposed roof assembly is to have only 50 mm (2 in.) air space, not the required 75 mm (3 in.), as stipulated in Article

The Respondent recognized the construction difficulties faced by the Applicant in the subject existing house, however, they indicated that they did not have the authority to waive the relevant requirements of the Code.

  1. Commission Ruling

It is the decision of the Building Code Commission that proposed construction demonstrates sufficiency of compliance with the requirements of the Building Code provided:

a) The attic is designated as storage space and is not finished; that is, gypsum board joints are not taped, and

b) A lockable door is provided at the base of the stairway leading to the attic, and

c) The attic space and stairway are well illuminated with lighting controlled by switches at the bottom and top of the stairway, and

d) An airspace of at least 63 mm is provided between the underside of the roof sheathing and the top of the insulation.

  1. Reasons

a) The attic space will be maintained as an unfinished storage area.

b) Access to the attic will be controlled ensuring its use as storage space only.

c) Adequate lighting to ensure visibility of ceiling and stair will be provided.

d) The minimum required roof space ventilation will be provided.

Dated at Toronto this 18th day in the month of June in the year 1998 for application number 1998-25.

Mr. Michael Lio, Chair

Mr. Michael Steele

Mr. Kenneth Peaker