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To Permit or Not Permit

To Permit or Not Permit

Generally, permits are required but you need to check with your municipality to confirm this.  Permits cover two areas—the Building Code and Municipal Bylaws.
Items that fall under “Repair & Maintenance” generally do not require a building permit.

Repair & Maintenance would include but not be limited to the following:
•    Changing out windows if the width does not change, roofing, gutters, soffits
•    Cosmetic upgrades, paint, siding, carpet, etc.
•    A bathroom upgrade if the location of the fixtures does not change
•    A kitchen update if the fixtures and the structure do not change

The following items require permits:
•    Any work that alters the structure of the home
•    Adding or enlarging a deck
•    Finishing a basement
•    Adding square footage to the home
•    Building a garage either attached or an accessory building
•    Adding a legal suite(generally requires a rezoning of the property as well)
•    Building a retaining wall system that is taller than 4’
•    Changing the interior structure of the home
•    Gas work
•    Electrical work
•    If you are adding or relocating plumbing fixtures

A permit/inspection is really a third party validation that the work is done correctly.  It protects the home owner and the renovator.
The other aspect of a permit deals with municipal bylaws.  This cover such items as, setbacks from property lines, site coverage of buildings, building heights, Riparian areas, sizes of legal suites, rezoning applications, heritage areas/restrictions, easements, sizes of accessory buildings, zoning issues, accepted uses within a particular zone.
If a development permit is required then it also covers form and character, what it looks like and finishes that can be used on the exterior of the building.  This permit application process is separate from the building permit application.  It has a separate fee and can take 12 to 16 weeks to be granted.  Development permits have to be agreed to by an order of the City Council, not by staff (as it’s a change to legislation under the Municipal Act).

The permit process involves certain documents that need to be included with the application.  These can include a State of Title showing who owns the property (6 months’ current), a survey of the property showing where the house is situated on the lot, an Owner’s Consent form authorizing the Renovator to apply for the permit and speak with municipal staff on your behalf, two sets of drawings of the work being done, any engineering if required, and the relevant documentation that goes with that.
The application process involves a plan check by municipal staff to ensure there is no contravention of bylaws or building code.  This process can take between 2 to 3 weeks.  Once your permit is issued you may commence work.


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  • Shawna Banman
    August 23, 2016, 9:56 pm REPLY

    Just a quick question. We are hoping to add a patio to our backyard and plan on doing it ourselves. As our yard is long and narrow, the patio will only be a foot off the ground at most. Are we required to get a building permit for that? It would be approximately 12 feet by 33 feet. Thank you!

  • Shawna Banman
    August 23, 2016, 9:59 pm REPLY

    Another question – we did an install of new kitchen cabinets last year and purposely designed it so we could add a wine fridge in the dining room (shares a wall with the kitchen). The job requires moving an electrical outlet and then finishing the gyprock (of course). Just wondering if this is something you would be able to do and what the rate for that job would be? Thank you

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