Unproven 6-Storey Wood Frame Buildings Raise Serious Questions...

Real Estate Sales Representative with for real estate results in the Tri-Cities.


It is difficult to understand the motivation of our provincial government to throw so much of the housing ministry's resources into another initiative (this time 6-storey wood frame buildings) that does nothing to improve homeowner protection in BC.

How are the same people that can't build a 4-storey building right, possibly going to achieve a defect-free and safe 6-storey building?

According to reports from the Homeowner Protection Office (HPO), home buying is still very risky business, and British Columbians are being lulled into a false sense of security with a home warranty insurance program full of exclusions, limitations, and other "weasel-worded" disclaimers and representations.

The 2-5-10 warranty insurance excludes coverage for settling of 3 and 4 storey buildings and provides consumers little protection as it exists, requiring homeowner to deal with issues by their own means.  If we start building 6-storey, effectively adding 50%, with so much settling (wood shrinking) already being experienced, it seems that we could be on the brink of yet another building industry faux pas.

Furthermore, it would be absolutely scandalous to discover that the industry has had the technology and solutions to prevent settling all along but haven't been using it to protect British Columbians.

A 6-storey building vs. a 3-storey building, is a very scary proposition given the disastrous track record...

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John in Port Moody

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Brian Belcher
RE/MAX Executive - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Realtor

Great information thanks for posting here.  I'm glad you brought this to our attention.

Nov 13, 2008 02:48 PM #1
Scott Leaf Personal Real Estate Corporation
Keller Williams Elite Realty, Port Coquitlam, BC - Port Coquitlam, BC
Scott Leaf & Associates Real Estate Team

The science regarding wood frame construction is sound, its just physics & engineering.  My former career was in the Forest Industry and I know a fair bit about wood shrinkage. 

KD Lumber (Kiln Dried) is used for studs, it dos not shrink, if anything it would over time expand as it absorbed ambient moisture to re-admit the moisture into the cell structure of the wood but it would never again achieve the 10-12% stasis with the environment that SD Lumber has (Surface Dry 10-12% moisture content).  SD is used for posts and beams unless engineered beams are being used.

SD shrinkage is negligible as the shrinkage occurs in width (left and right) and the posts are used for length (up and down).  If Engineered beams are used they are consistent and STRONG.  The greastest settling occurrs now, and probably always will, from the foundation which I assure you has no wood in it.

Nov 13, 2008 04:59 PM #2
Hugh - Calgary

It seems that the architects and engineers in B.C. also have serious concerns:


8) Wood Shrinkage

Designing wood structures requires accommodating how wood changes dimension with moisture content.

Some of the effects of shrinkage are cumulative with building height. This could be a matter of concern

from design, aesthetic, maintenance and operational perspectives (e.g. air and water infiltration and

shrinkage gaps between building components). Such considerations may be addressed through the

increased usage of pre-engineered wood products as opposed to traditional wood-frame stick

construction. However, in case of wood-framed stick construction additional research is necessary and

similarly guidelines should be developed to address this concern.

If increased use of pre-engineered wood products reduces shrinkage why isn't it already used to prevent the ridiculous amount of shrinkage that occurs in existing wood frame buildings? 

Home owners continue to get the short end of the stick from builders, and it seems your provincial government enables this. 


Nov 14, 2008 03:21 AM #3
John Grasty
for real estate results in the Tri-Cities. - Port Moody, BC
Your Tri-cities REALTOR, neighbour and volunteer.

Thanks to Brian, Scott, and Hugh for your comments.

A local municipal building official informed me that the variance caused by shrinkage and expansion is commonly 3/4" per floor. In a 4-storey building with a concrete elevator shaft (which is static) the step in or out of the elevator can easily be a difference of more than 2".

There is little doubt that pre-engineered wood products are superior. Unfortunately the product of choice for the building industry will be the cheapest which is why the use of wood-framed stick construction is widespread and unlikely to change.

It is concerning the engineers and architects agree that additional research is necessary for the use of wood-framed construction; why is the building code being changed by the government before all concerns are completely resolved?

I have a feeling there is a profit motive here somewhere. Maybe an upcoming provincial election requiring donations for the campaign coffers; hmm!

Dec 02, 2008 10:04 AM #4
Bill M.

I have just read your article on this subject and would like to add to your concerns for this type of construction.

At the present time there is no expansion joint fitting available for use in multiple storey buildings for cast iron or plastic DVW the only one in the market was approved for single dwellings.

Although this will be a minor problem with cast iron as the expansion and contraction rates are almost identical to that of wood it will certainly be a major problem with plastic pipe in 6 floor wood frame buildings.

The expansion and contraction rate of plastic pipe far exceeds that of the wood framed building this has caused problems with 4 floor wood buildings in the past I can only imagine the problems we will have with this type of building if the problem is not addressed.

Jan 22, 2009 03:39 PM #5
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John Grasty

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