Building Permits – What You Don’t Know Could Cost You

Building_permitIn today’s market, home renovations and additions have become increasingly popular as many homeowners are choosing to stay put and enjoy their living space. Also, for those who have purchased homes for the purpose of renovating or building an addition, there are many considerations when it comes to building permits, and having awareness and knowledge prior to starting these projects can save you a lot of time and unnecessary costs.

A building permit is required before starting a construction, demolition or renovation project, with some exceptions. For instance, did you know that a permit may be needed in your city for constructing separate rooms in your basement, but not to build fences (other than a pool enclosure fence)? It is best to confirm with your city’s Permit Administrator as to whether a permit is needed for your planned project.

When it is determined that a building permit is needed, one of the first steps in applying for a building permit is to have a site plan drawn. This is a plan of the location of the existing house and the proposed addition, specifically as it is laid out on the lot. This site plan is used to show the boundaries, grade elevations, structures and trees of the property. An architect or designer can prepare the drawings, and a survey will also need to be provided as well.

A building permit will be refused by the city if an owner’s construction will not meet Ontario’s Building Code. The Ontario Building Code sets out mandatory minimum standards for structural, fire safety and accessibility, and health, and no appeal or variance is allowed.

The building code also requires that permit plans be prepared by a provincially qualified designer, or by an architect or professional engineer with a Building Code Identification Number. Designers in Ontario are required to be listed in the Qualification and Registration Tracking System. Your designer is responsible to ensure the design meets the building code but cannot submit drawings without having the provincial qualifications. If you are unsure if you are working with a designer that holds the proper ministry qualifications, you can do a quick search by name of BCIN on QuARTS Public Search Engine. Should you choose to work with a designer who cannot submit the drawings, the designs will have to be duplicated by qualified professionals in order to prepare the building permit application, thus incurring more costs and time to your project.

However, designers are not required to be qualified by the Ministry if they are designing their own house, an accessory structure to a house that they own, or if they are designing an accessory structure to any house that does not exceed 50m2 in area.

Being mindful and asking the right questions of the professionals you hire can make a huge difference in the length of the renovation but also in the pleasure from seeing your dream home completed.