Is the Code Enough? Part 1

There is a commonly used four-letter word in the building industry that typically elicits a range of emotions – code. Building codes are good things. They ensure our homes are built to a standard that will keep us safe and provide a good living environment. For the most part, just using common sense and proper building techniques will meet a lot of the building codes. But, are the codes good enough? Over the course of the next few blogs we are going to take a look at a few specific areas of the home and some of the general ventilation building codes that apply to them.

At the time of this blog, there is a large company using the slogan “just okay is not okay”. We can have this same approach when it comes to code compliance. In general building codes are a minimum standard but sometime we should be looking closer at what that minimum means for our standard of living. Let’s take a look at typical exhaust fans. There are a lot of codes across the country in regards to bathroom ventilation. Some codes just say you need a window in the bathroom and you are good. If this is the code in your area, we would highly recommend exceeding the code. In earlier blogs we have gone into detail as to why you need an exhaust fan in your bathroom so we are not going to say much in this blog. Most of the codes will call for an exhaust fan to be installed in the bathroom. This is a good thing, sort of. Something is better than nothing, but it is conceivable that you can meet code but not be effectively ventilating your bathroom.

Here is the scenario. You have a 10ft. x 10ft. bathroom. That is a total of 100 square feet. The minimum sized exhaust fan you will need is 100 CFM (cubic feet per minute). That should meet your building codes, but will it be effective? If you live alone in a mild climate and take short showers, it probably will be very effective. If there are 4 people sharing the same bathroom, who all take hot showers, 100 CFM might not get the job done. Going up an extra 10-50 CFM could be the difference between effectively removing the moisture from the bathroom or not.

Most people do not spend time thinking about their exhaust fan (it’s okay, we don’t take it personally). The fact of the matter is that your exhaust fan is something that is or should be used on a daily basis so it stands to reason it should be effective. Before we go any further we will come right out and say it – yes, generally exceeding the minimum requirements will mean a more expensive exhaust fan. Let’s put that into context however. Let’s say you need to spend an extra $50 to upgrade your exhaust fan if you are building a new home. The average cost of a new home in 2019 was around $300,000 (varies depending on what source you use). When you add $50 or even $100 to a $300,000 home, it seems like a fairly easy choice.

Okay, what do you get for that extra $50 to $100? We already talked about more effective ventilation depending on your living style but there is also a comfort level to it. Upgrading your ventilation usually includes lowering the sound level and even the power consumption. Meeting the minimum code might include a fan that you will definitely hear running. Exceeding the code opens up options for fans that you can barely hear running.