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Does your renovation need a building permit?

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Every homeowner knows that some research is required before embarking on any renovation project. Determining a budget and sourcing materials might seem like the obvious main components of a new renovation, but many neglect looking into a key aspect - building permits.

If you are about to tackle a renovation it is important to familiarize yourself with the necessary requirements for your project in order to keep your family safe, protect your investment and avoid costly errors.

What is a building permit?

A building permit is required for various renovation, construction and demolition work that could impact the structural integrity of your house or other buildings on your property. The permit, issued by a municipality's building department, ensures that your home will be safe and your renovation will comply with building codes that are applicable to your area. Building permits also help to ensure that your project follows any additional municipal requirements, such as zoning bylaws and proper drainage.

Does my project need a permit?

Most people understand that major work to a house, such as an addition, requires a building permit. Many, however, do not realize that several smaller-scale renovations also require a building permit, including:

  • construction of a free-standing building (such as a shed or garage) that covers an area of more than 10 square metres
  • moving or removing walls
  • enlarging existing window or door openings or creating new openings
  • structural foundation repairs
  • construction of a deck or porch
  • finishing a basement
  • installation of a  wood-burning fireplace or woodstove
  • alterations to a septic system
  • addition of plumbing fixtures.

This is not an exhaustive list of projects that necessitate acquiring a building permit. If you are unsure if your project requires a building permit, contact your municipality for verification.

What is required to get a permit?

Just like not every home renovation is the same, the requirements for building permits are not the same across the board. It is important to contact your municipality's department in charge of handling building permits to determine what supporting documents you will need to submit and the associated fees.

Keep in mind that the turn-around time on applications for building permits is not going to be overnight. Make sure that any applications are submitted with enough lead time before the work is to commence, as large projects many require several weeks for review and additional documentation.

It is also necessary to remember that as the homeowner, you are responsible for obtaining any building permits. If you hire a contractor to complete the work, this individual can obtain these on your behalf but make sure that your contract specifically outlines the required permits and who will be getting them.

But do I really need to get a building permit?

Firstly, to state the obvious, by not taking the time to acquire a building permit you could be jeopardizing the safety of your family. There is also the potential for costly repercussions. In instances where a permit is not obtained, the municipality can order that work be stopped and can even have all of the work ripped out if it does not comply with codes. This means you are back at square one without all of the money and time you have already put into the renovation, not to mention the hefty fine you could receive from your municipality.

Even if you manage to complete the renovation work without a building permit you still run the risk of encountering consequences down the road. If you try to sell your home, prospective buyers could request a copy of the building permit for any renovations you have done. Not being able to produce a permit could greatly impede the sale of your home or result in low-ball offers.

By Erin Kelly

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