Not always the good old days

By Herb Lagois

They sure don’t build things like they used to.

Lead-based paints, asbestos flooring, asbestos insulation, mercury-filled compounds…wow. It’s comforting knowing we don’t build like we used to!

Planning a renovation or addition project is very rewarding, provided proper design, project planning and execution takes place.

There are many stepping stones before a project can physically start: from conceptual design, technical drawings, structural engineering, geotechnical engineering, applicable laws, energy analysis, permits, to budgets. And on it goes.

Often overlooked (especially at the pre-construction stage) is the requirement for hazardous material testing/designated substance survey (regulated by the Ontario Health and Safety Act) which designates 11 substances as toxic, each with specific regulations.

The 11 substances are:

  1. Acrylonitrile – O. Reg. 835
  2. Arsenic – O. Reg. 836
  3. Asbestos – O. Reg. 278
  4. Benzene – O. Reg. 839
  5. Coke Oven Emissions – O. Reg. 840
  6. Ethylene Oxide – O. Reg. 841
  7. Isocyanates – O. Reg. 842
  8. Lead – O. Reg. 843
  9. Mercury – O. Reg. 844
  10. Silica- O. Reg. 845
  11. Vinyl Chloride – O. Reg. 846

Furthermore, the Ontario Health and Safety Act stipulates that homeowners must provide contractors and sub-contractors with the results of the survey.

The act applies to homes constructed prior to 1987. Each home is individualistic when it comes to designated substances – Some old homes, where we would expect designated substances, have none, while others that should not have any have lots.

A prime example is two renovation projects we undertook: (1) A circa-1940s home with renovations done in the early 1980s; and (2) A circa-1982-constructed home. For the circa-1940s home, the original portion did not test for designated substances; however, the renovations done in the early 1980s tested for asbestos in the stipple. Same for the 1982 home: the stipple installed was found to have friable asbestos (friable if disturbed), thus requiring type 3 abatement, which seriously impacted overall project budgets.

Typical areas with designated substances are stipple, drywall, drywall compound, mortar, flooring, flooring adhesive, stucco, siding, paint and caulking, just to name a few. Therefore, along with traditional project planning, a designated substance survey (and accounting for any remediation) should take place early in the planning phase, even before permits are obtained. By undertaking this early on, budgets can be adjusted accordingly. Contractors can plan their schedule accordingly, especially if any remediation is required.

If you are planning a small do-it-yourself project, it is critical to be aware of potential hazardous materials (designated substances) to ensure you and your family’s health is not affected if the materials are disturbed. (Most designated substances are not an issue in the home until they are disturbed. They become air-borne.)

For larger projects, be sure to ask your architect, design professional or RenoMark™ certified renovator if they have experience dealing with hazardous/designated substance surveys and abatement. Although it is our responsibility as home owners to provide a designated substance survey, design and renovation professionals can guide us through the process.

As with all projects, be sure to hire professionals who have experience, have qualifications, and are suited for your project. Be sure to get everything in writing.

I’m definitely glad we don’t build like we used to!


Herb Lagois is the owner of Lagois Drafting and Construction, Inc.