One of the most common questions we receive when our clients are renovating is “when do I need a building permit for renovations?” In this blog post, we will explain exactly what a building permit is and why they are required, when a building permit is needed, and how to apply for one.
Knowing when a building permit is required in Ontario is going to be critical to the success of your construction project, whether you’re considering building a laneway home or garden suite on your property, taking on a custom new build home project, renovating your restaurant, or building out a new commercial space.
In Ontario, regardless of whether your project is considered large or small in scale, you are required to have the appropriate planning and building permissions from your local government and municipalities, often before you can even start any demolition. In short, a building permit is necessary when you want to construct, renovate, demolish, or change the use of a building.
Legalities can be frustrating for many of us, but permits serve as an important set of checks and balances and are in place for a very good reason: namely, to ensure that your newly renovated or built space is compliant with building codes and that it is a safe space for its inhabitants or patrons.
A building permit is a document issued by the body responsible for enforcing Ontario's Building Code in your area that grants permission to construct or renovate a building, including a house, business establishment, or commercial building. For example, in Oakville, where Odera’s offices are located, this responsible body is the Town of Oakville’s Building, Planning, and Development office. A building permit is designed to ensure that all buildings constructed within the jurisdiction conform to local building codes and other safety standards set by the regulating bodies. Obtaining a building permit requires the applicant to submit detailed plans and specifications of their project in advance. Upon approval, permits can either be general (allowing for basic construction) or specific (for example, specifying which materials and construction methods should be used).
A building permit helps to protect both the homeowner and their surrounding community by ensuring that all built structures adhere to a high level of safety and quality standards.
Permits guarantee that all work being completed is in compliance with Ontario’s Building Code, in addition to the various municipal by-laws and regulations. Without a permit, you risk your project being shut down or receiving a fine by the municipality. In addition to these risks, keep in mind that without applying for a building permit, your project may also be subject to poor construction practices, or built in a way that compromises the integrity or safety of your home or commercial property.
For more information about why the Ontario Building Code matters, we recommend that you check out the linked article below:
You will need a building permit for any structural renovation project - in other words, any project where you are altering an existing structure in some way. This includes projects such as adding or removing walls, updating plumbing systems or making structural changes to your roof or any exterior openings. Below are a few examples of projects that would require a building permit within Ontario:
• Commercial construction projects or renovations, such as office spaces or restaurants
• Additions to any buildings, including 2nd or 3rd story additions, attached garages or carports, and sunrooms, porches, decks, or solariums
• Constructing an accessory structure bigger than 107 square feet in size, such as a detached garage, workshop, pool house or a sauna
• Demolition of any existing building or structure
• Increasing the size of existing windows or doors, or adding new windows or doors where there were none below
• New Bathroom additions and renovations
For a complete list of projects that require building permits, check out the below links from local municipalities where our team frequently works in:
Town of Oakville:
City of Toronto:
City of Mississauga:
To stay on the safe side, it is always advisable to check with your local building department or consult with a licensed, experienced, and knowledgeable General Contractor before starting any construction or renovation project. There may be additional requirements that must be met for the project to move forward, and it would be in your best interest to avoid potential fines and costly delays.
Not all projects require a building permit. Minor interior renovations such as painting, laying down new flooring, or installing cabinets do not require a permit. Typically, as long as the project doesn't require any changes to the structures or systems of the house or property, they will not require a building permit. However, it is always best to consult with your local building department or General Contractor to make sure that you are following the correct process for any project.
Below are some examples of projects that would not require a building permit within Ontario:
• Repairing or replacing existing plumbing fixtures, provided the locations aren’t changed
• Finishing the basement of a house if the work doesn’t include structural or material alterations, including when no additional dwelling units will be created, and there will be no new plumbing installed
• Replacing windows where there is no change in the location or size of the windows and doors, the structural support for the openings isn’t affected, and a new exit is not created
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it should give you a better idea of when a building permit would not be required. If you are not sure if your project will require a building permit, you can always contact your local municipal planning office for more information, or a trusted, reputable, and experienced general contractor.
Applying for a building permit is relatively straightforward. Generally speaking, you will need to fill out an application form that outlines the details of your project and submit it to your local building department, along with any necessary drawings or blueprints. After reviewing the information provided, they will either approve or deny your application. If approved, a permit fee must be paid to begin construction. The fees for building permits vary depending on the municipality.
Fortunately, many large municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area, such as the Town of Oakville, the City of Mississauga, and the City of Toronto, allow for electronic applications. Either by email or through a secure portal online, you can easily submit all the necessary forms, drawings, documents, reports, specifications, calculations, and plans for your permit application.
It is important to keep in mind that the application process may vary depending on the jurisdiction and project type. For this reason, it is always a good idea to reach out to your local building department ahead of time for specific instructions or speak with your general contractor about the process.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a short and simple answer to this question. While the amount of time it will take varies from one municipality to another, the biggest factor is the type and scope of the project for which you are applying for a permit. This influences the by-laws that must be reviewed and followed, and the documentation required to ensure that all regulations are being respected.
By way of example, the City of Mississauga has provided estimates [https://www.mississauga.ca/services-and-programs/building-and-renovating/building-permits/building-permit-cost-and-time-frames/] for the most common types of permits applied for:
• New residential dwelling (detached or semi) – 12 weeks
• Residential alterations (detached or semi) – 6 weeks
• New non-residential – 12 weeks
• Non-residential alteration – 9 weeks
• Second Units, such as X – 8 weeks
The best way to ensure the review process goes as quickly and efficiently as possible is to ensure you have submitted the correct documents you need for your application so that the application is considered “complete” by the municipality. To do this, it is important to double-check your application with the relevant city’s planning office to ensure you have exactly what you need. You can also rely on the expertise of a general contractor to ensure that any costly and lengthy delays in this process are avoided.
The fees associated with a building permit vary from one municipality to another and from one project to another. Some are based on a rate per square meter of the construction area, while others can cost a flat rate for the project as a whole. You may also be required to pay a small fee in order to submit a permit application depending on your municipality, or a deposit depending on the scope of work required. By way of example, if you are renovating the interior space of a restaurant in the Town of Oakville, the current Building Permit Fees are $10.40/ square meter, in addition to any other required permits and approvals, for example, a Demolition Permit, Plumbing Service Permit, Electrical Safety Authority Permit, or a Final Occupancy Permit, and so on.
The answer is simple: short-term pain for long-term gain. The consequences of doing construction work that requires a permit without one are worse than the additional time your project will take to kick off, the most obvious consequence being that you may have to immediately stop all work in progress if you do not have a permit. Depending on your permits and the type of project, inspections may be required at various stages and, if you have to stop your work, you will not be able to start again until the correct permits are applied for and approved. You may even have to undo or redo work that has already been done, a potential financial nightmare.
In reality, the opposite is true: if you begin a renovation or a building without the correct permit, you may be fined by your city. A homeowner is ultimately responsible for obtaining building permits, regardless of advice they may have received from their general contractor (another reason why it is so important to hire the right people for your project!). As outlined in the Building Code Act, 1992, an individual can be fined up to $50,000 for starting a renovation project without a permit. That is no small amount. The City of Toronto imposes an additional penalty that is equal to 50% of the permit fees that must be paid on top of paying the standard building permit fees.
Assuming you are not caught during the renovation process, there are still potential financial consequences of not having obtained a permit. For example, if you decide to sell your home, a potential homeowner can ask to see the permits for work that has been completed, and they can pursue you in court if it is not disclosed during the sale. This may affect your ability to sell your house for the price you were hoping to sell it for.
Whether you are looking to construct a new home, undertake major renovations, or do any other construction project, getting a building permit is essential to ensure that the project is done correctly and safely. If you are unsure whether your project requires a building permit, it is always best to check with your local building department first or rely on the expertise of a reputable General Contractor.
At Odera Construction, we pride ourselves on being a mindful construction company that prioritizes professionalism, excellence, and transparency. Our goal is to ensure our clients have as positive an experience as possible in their build and renovation process, including in obtaining the permits they require for their projects. Our team is based in Oakville and serves the Greater Toronto Area, including but not limited to Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, and Toronto.
It can be difficult to figure out which permits you to need and when. At Odera Construction, our team has the experience to help guide you through the permits and approvals processes across various municipalities in Ontario. In working with us, you can rest assured that your project is being taken care of by a reputable, experienced, and qualified general contractor that knows how to get the permits you need.
If you are interested in scheduling a consultation, Contact Us today. We would love to hear from you. You can also check our resource pages below for more information on our services.
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Article by Selman Nasir, Founder of Odera Construction Group