State, town on tenterhooks over stud spacing

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Lebanon Code Enforcement Officer Mike Beaulieu, seen here working at Town Offices, says the stricter guidelines he's proposing are a good deal for home buyers. (Lebanon Voice photo)

LEBANON - A state building code official said today that Lebanon's ballot question regarding spacing of wall studs is in violation of the Maine building codes, but Lebanon Code Enforcement Officer Mike Beaulieu countered today he's just trying to put through a local ordinance to help home buyers.

Spacing studs on nonload-bearing walls at 16 inches center out makes for a more "structurally sound" home, Beaulieu said.

Meanwhile, Assistant State Fire Marshal Richard McCarthy said the question should not even be on the ballot, adding that he's had several complaints about Lebanon's code enforcement and his office is looking into them.

The subparagraph is listed under state code R602.5 Interior nonbearing walls. Interior nonbearing walls shall be permitted to be constructed with 2-inch-by-3-inch (51 mm by 76 mm) studs spaced 24 inches (610 mm) on center or, when not part of a braced wall line, 2-inch-by-4-inch (51 mm by 102 mm) flat studs spaced at 16 inches (406 mm) on center. Interior nonbearing walls shall be capped with at least a single top plate. Interior nonbearing walls shall be fireblocked in accordance with Section R602.8.

McCarthy, who oversees all aspects of state Building Codes and Standards, said Lebanon is prohibited from any variation on from the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code and International Residence Codes, which authorize both 16-inch from center and 24-inch from center studding.

Framing studs from 16 inches center out mean that a stud would be placed at the center of a nonload-bearing wall, then every 16 inches out to the end. One thing is certain: more inches between studs equals fewer studs, Beaulieu contends.

He said home buyers don't understand the difference and don't realize they're getting an inferior product with the 24-inch studding, and thinks the town should be able to have more stringent codes than the state.

A spokesman at the Bureau of Codes and Standards said while they are investigating the complaints, there's little they can do unless someone complains to town selectmen, adding the bureau had "no teeth" in enforcement.

Lebanon Selectmen Chairman Ben Thompson was not immediately available for comment today.

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