What is a building permit and why do you need one?

Are you thinking of doing construction or demolition on your home, building an addition, or altering the structure in any way? Well, it’s likely you’re going to need a building permit to do any of the following.

Many property owners and some contractors feel that they can make changes without a permit; however, local Building Official’s have the legal authority to require permits and impose penalties on a property owner and contractors for being non-compliant. Don’t let this be you!

Here is some information to be aware of when it comes to getting permits and why it’s extremely important to do so.

What is a building permit?

A building permit is your formal permission to begin the construction, demolition, addition or renovation on your property. This issued by the local governmental agency which will then allow you or your contractor to proceed with a construction or remodeling project on your property. It’s there to ensure that the project plans to comply with the local standards for land use, zoning, and construction.

These standards are intended to ensure the safety of current and future owners and occupants of the home or building and to provide enforcement of zoning and land use policies.

As part of the Building Permit process, your local city staff must review your plans to ensure they comply with the specific Building Code, local Zoning By-laws and other Applicable Law.

Why is a building permit important to have?

There are multiple reasons why it is important to obtain the required building permit(s) and to obtain the required inspections for your construction or project. Sure, you could do the job without permits, but here are a few important reasons you should never do that.

Safety
The main purpose of obtaining a permit is to ensure there is safety compliance. By enforcing proper safety standards, you and other occupants working on the site are guaranteed the best chance to avoid any accidents or issues during the construction process.

Keep Your Contractor Honest
If you hire a contract without first obtaining a permit, they may be inclined to cut corners. This is especially important to keep in mind if a contractor seems very cost-oriented. A residential building permit will ensure that a contractor uses safe and standard methods.

Adds Value When Selling Your Home
Your home or business is an investment. If you perform renovations on your home without a permit, a potential buyer will definitely find out. If you’re selling your home, you should be able to provide legal proof that you performed all renovations with the proper permits or your resale value can decrease.

Keeps Your Insurance Valid
If you were to build something without a permit and make a mistake or sustain an injury, your insurance may not cover it. However, building with a permit guarantees that you understand the risks involved and that you’ve received explicit permission to move forward with your project.

Ultimately It’s the Law
Work requiring permits are made such by your specific City of residence. Work without a permit may be subject to removal or other costly remedies.

How to obtain and apply for a permit(s)?

After deciding that you want to do some work on your home, what is the next step? Now it’s time to get the permit so you can start working. Based on the type of work you’re going to be doing specific documentations, drawings, and paperwork may vary (please discuss with your city’s office).

Building permits are only issued when:

  • your property is correctly zoned for your intended use
  • your property is registered
  • your building plans conform to the building bylaw, zoning bylaw, the development permit or approved variances to the bylaw
  • your application form is completed, all other requirements are met and permit fees are paid in full

    Make note that the requirements for permits vary widely from region to region, though, and the only way you can tell for sure if a permit is required is to call your local building office and describe the work you want to do.

What permits do I need for the project I am doing?

In addition to an application form completed and signed by the property owner or representative, applicants must submit fully detailed sets of plans drawn to scale with the following information depending on the type of work to be done. Please note that you may be required to submit further documentation and that plans must be drawn to scale, be clear and legible and indicate the nature and extent of the work. Here is a list of some items you’ll need depending on your project:

Single Family Dwelling and Two Family Dwelling, Attached Garage, Detached Garage and Sheds (including carports), require the following:

  • Site Plan
  • Foundation Plan
  • Floor Plan
  • Cross Section (showing all structural details and finishes)
  • All Elevations (all sides of the buildings)

Additions to your home:

  • Site Plan
  • Foundation Plan
  • Floor Plan
  • Cross Section (showing all structural details and finishes)
  • Applicable Elevations
  • Differentiation between new and existing construction

Please call your local office for further information regarding the above.

How long will it take to process a building permit application?

Your application will be reviewed to ensure that the proposed work complies with the building code and zoning bylaws, and that all other documentation required is accurate and up-to-date. A general “turnaround time” can be anywhere between 14 to 21 days for applications (depending on your city). This also depends on the work being done and if all documentation is submitted. If not, you will need to provide additional/sufficient paperwork and documentations, which can ultimately delay the process by months upon resubmission. You must not start work until after the building permit is issued.

When you should apply

It is best to get your application in right away when considering doing work on your property to avoid any delays in construction.

What are the Fees and Charges for a Building Permit?

Fees and charges for building permits are dependent on a variety of factors including but not limited to type of project, location and services needed to complete the scope of work. Overall, this cost is going to be based on the total value of construction. This will also vary depending on the city at which you reside or where the project is taking place. *It is not possible to provide a complete list of fees and charges prior to the review of the application. One factor that is universal when it comes to permits is their necessity.

The City’s Building staff is available to assist you in figuring out just what kind of permits and fees you will need in order to complete your project in a timely and cost-effective manner. Applicants are always advised to wait for staff to complete the review before determining any sort of final permit fees.

When do you need a permit?

Building permits are usually required for building or renovating work, that include the following but are not limited too:

  • All new construction, including accessory buildings (garage, carport, garden shed etc.) that are permitted outright (specifically allowed) by your zoning
  • All temporary buildings
  • Remodeling or constructing a new deck/patio
  • Constructing a swimming pool
  • Additions or alterations to existing buildings, including:
    • Moving interior walls and partitions
    • Moving existing plumbing, electrical or gas lines
    • Installing new plumbing, electrical or gas lines
    • Making structural repairs or changes that are permitted outright (specifically allowed) by your zoning
  • Some “hard” landscaping features, such as fences or retaining walls

When you don’t need a building permit?

Work that does not require a permit, still needs to comply with the City’s Bylaws and the specified Building Code. You do not need a permit when you are:

  • Replacing fixtures, cabinets, and flooring
  • Paint the interior or exterior of your home
  • Carry out non-structural maintenance or minor repairs to the exterior of your home
  • Fences
  • Roofing repairs

*NOTE (disclaimer) – Artisan builds for clients in Canada, US, and Europe; these are only suggested guidelines and it is best to speak and check with your local government’s building department to find out their requirements for all permits and inspections.

If you have any questions about what you just read regarding permits, building a custom home or upgrades that can add value to your property, please feel free to contact us.