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Ban the doorknob? Building code change removes choice for renovations contractors


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March 24, 2014 by Brynna Leslie

In March, Vancouver’s ban on doorknobs in all new residential construction in the city came into effect,  with city councillors arguing homes should be designed with accessibility in mind.

For people with disabilities, the change to the city’s building code – which calls for builders to use levers instead of round knobs — is a positive move.

But as Halifax looks to follow Vancouver’s lead on the doorknob ban, some are questioning the validity of petty building code changes that not only remove personal choice, but often add to the cost of renovations.

Although levers have become the more popular choice in recent years, they are also typically more expensive.

“A 2002 report from the Montreal Economic Institute estimated that unnecessary building codes had doubled the cost of new houses in Quebec over the previous 20 years,” writes Jesse Kline in the National Post last fall.

Kline goes onto argue that, while levers are helpful for people with disabilities, the ease with which they open makes them awkward for some families.

“Levers are easier for small children and, as anyone who’s watched Jurassic Park knows, velociraptors to open,” writes Kline. “They also have to match the orientation of the door, and can be hazardous to both children and clothing.”

Anyone who’s ever had a toddler or caught the hem of their shirt on a levered door understands Kline’s argument.

Unlike Vancouver, Halifax doesn’t have the authority to make changes to the building code, which is under provincial jurisdiction. But the city council is looking to influence the change in any case.

I don’t think any of us can argue against making public buildings more accessible. It even makes sense to encourage accessible design in multi-unit residential buildings, due to the fact there is greater turnover within them.

But, as Kline argues, the government is stretching its nanny state arm a bit far when it starts dictating how people design and build the interior of their homes – homes they’re going to live in. He asks how far the government will go toward enforcing accessible design —  will building codes eventually mandate walk-in showers and elevators instead of stairs?

What do you think? Are doorknobs a thing of the past? Should we care that they’ll eventually disappear from the market? Would you argue against these types of interfering building code changes on principle?


Brynna Leslie

Brynna Leslie

Brynna Leslie, contributing editor to Canadian Contractor, is a freelance journalist based in Ottawa.
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5 Comments » for Ban the doorknob? Building code change removes choice for renovations contractors
  1. Jesse says:

    We don’t like the levered handles in our house because our 2 year old can now open doors to rooms that he shouldn’t get into – he can now reach the door lock and get outside by himself. The child safety kits are all made for round door knobs and I think homeowners should be allowed this choice.

  2. dave says:

    Its fine if the home owner doesn’t have to foot the bill. why does the government have to meddle in personal taste. If the home owner pays for a product it should be up to them to pick what they want.

  3. Mark says:

    It should be the homeowners choice. Door knobs vs levers. I am updating my home and converting to levers. I don’t have small children and many of the visitors to my home are seniors. So the levers work for them. If you are building or renovating a home to attract the accessibility buyer then build accordingly. Door knobs can easily be changed.

  4. I am very much in agreement with a National move towards better building codes for everyone. In terms of accessibility, it is definitely easier for those with aging/arthritic hands to open and close a door with levered hardware. As far as mandating that ALL new homes be built with accessibility in mind, I feel that the government is overreaching here. Those persons affected by accessibility issues should have the right to this hardware at no additional cost to them. While I am not advocating that the contractor bear this cost, I feel a more reasoned approach would simply be to afford those with accessibility issues levered knobs at no additional cost to them, while affording those others their choice of hardware. Builders – simply include in the added cost of levered hardware to your estimates, and those that choose knobs might net you an extra few dollars at the end of the day. On re-sale of the home, those that opted for traditional knobs instead of levers shall pass on the same courtesy to prospective buyers. If more accessible hardware is required for those purchasing used homes (built after the date of new legislation), this hardware should be provided by the selling homeowners at no cost. Those selling the home made the aesthetic decision for knobs in the beginning so they should bear the cost of replacement hardware if required.

  5. James King says:

    Wow, government is overreaching here for sure.