When is it required to get a building permit?

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You've been staring at a wall for an extended period of time and you're itching to tear it down to make it more "open concept", but before you bring out the sledge hammer, there are a few things to consider. 

What kind of renovation are you doing? Altering, addition or repair? Below are a few examples of when you need a permit(s) and for what.  

  • If you are taking down a wall to change a room size or its use, then you require a permit from the town/city.  
  • If the wall has a plug and a light switch, then you will need an electrical (ESA) permit AND a permit from the town/city.
  • If the wall has a plug and plumbing running through it which requires removal and alteration, then you will need a permit from your town for the plumbing and a permit from the ESA. 
  • If the wall is a load bearing wall with a plug and a light switch, then you will need a permit for structural alteration, stamped architectural engineer drawings and an electrical permit.  
  • If you want to do an addition that will add a bedroom and a bathroom on the back of the home and it is backing onto an open water source, then you will need a total of 3 permits.  It is wise to obtain your permits in this order to avoid wasting time and money. 
  1. Approval from your local conservation authority (if applicable)
  2. A permit from your local township 
  3. An electrical permit from the Electric Safety Authority-  ESA. 

If you have your contractor draw up a plan for an addition, only to find out you can't build because the conservation authority says you're too close to the water, then that could be a costly mistake.   Your best bet is to first visit the conservation authority and see if you can build, then pursue the rest. 

Here are a few examples of when you need to get a permit(s).

  • Any addition to the home 
  • A deck that is attached to the home
  • Major demolition
  • Adding a fireplace / wood stove / chimney
  • Garage
  • Shed (larger than 108 sq ft)
  • Hot tub
  • Septic Renovation 
  • Major alterations to the plumbing or additional plumbing fixtures (new bathroom)
  • Swimming pool enclosures
  • Adding new pot lights with new dimmers
  • Removing drywall/plaster/etc to add new insulation
  • Removal of a rafter or change to a joist, truss to install a skylight
  • Solar panels/Wind turbine/Geo thermal

Here are a few examples of when you DON'T need a permit.

  • A free floating deck that is not attached to the home
  • Finishing a basement with no change to the structure of the home, additional dwelling units or new plumbing.
  • Removing a non load bearing wall
  • Adding a skylight with no change to rafters or truss, etc.
  • New hardwood floor
  • New vanity with new surface plumbing
  • Any repair/replace for maintenance on the home.  For example, new windows, roof, furnace, etc.
  • Stucco or siding replacement
  • Replacing a furnace
  • Adding a sump pump

Building permits are necessary to ensure that the zoning requirements, fire and structural safety standards and other building standards are adhered to, primarily for safety reasons.

The Ontario Building code consists of building standards and the zoning requirements are contained in the Municipal Bylaws. This code is provincial regulation, administered by the housing development and Buildings Branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Local governments are given authority to enforce the building code within their municipality.

Visit www.obs.mah.gov.on.ca or 416 585 6666 for further information.

As a Home Owner, What Do I need To Know About Permits?

When hiring any design professional, you need to know that legislation requires the Designer/Engineer to be registered with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The Ontario Architects has their own Building Code Designation System and before hiring one, you should visit www.oaa.ca or 416 449 6898 to confirm certification and registration.

As the owner of the property, you are responsible for hiring certified trades or contractor that is insured which can help alleviate legal headaches if you decide to stay or sell the home shortly after once your renovation is complete.  

Applicable Laws Regarding Permits:  Applicable law is any legislation deemed applicable to your application.  For example, you want to construct something within a flood plain which needs approval from the Conservation Authority.

When you are ready to start your application, you will be asked to make a declaration stating that you are employing only certified people; the drawings are complete and it meets the building by-laws and complies with applicable laws.

Other Approvals:

Committee of Adjustments: If the proposal doesn't comply with the by-laws, you can seek permission from the Committee of Adjustments for a minor variance.

Site Plan Control:  If your property is in an area to site plan control, you will have to submit an application with the Planning Department.

Demolition Permits: In addition to any building permits, you will most likely need to obtain a permit from the building Department.

Conservation Authority: Any reno's or upgrades near water sources most likely will need to be approved.

- Heritage Approval: If your home is designated historical interest, you may require approval from the Heritage Advisory Committee.  Preparing the Application for the Permit.  Prepare drawings which accurately represent the construction you propose. Your ideas would be on paper with rough floor plans and specifications.  If you're going to go with a professional, make sure they are certified.

- Zoning Requirements: You should contact the Building Department to determine the specific requirements for your project.

Site Plan: The plan should identify your existing home and your proposed changes. Your site plan can be located on your survey.

Floor Plans: A floor plan is a drawing of the structure in 2d or 3d showing the layout and framing information for the floor and roof.

Cross Sections: A cross section presents a view of a home along an imaginary cut; showing the structural elements of the building and exposing what is hidden behind the walls.  This may be needed to show building materials and how they relate to one another.  For example, heights and dimensions of windows and doors, room names, size and types of materials, etc.

Elevations: Elevations show all views of a building. Drawings may be required for any project which would alter the exterior view of your home.

Submitting the Application:  Your completed application should be brought to the Building Department accompanied by the following. 2 or 3 sets of building plans 2 copies of your property survey or site plan the building permit fee.

Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding this.  It is also helpful to call your local building department and talk to someone there.  Happy renovating!