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Building Permits, Why Important?

Posted in Decks & Fences, and Renovations

The Use of Permits Protects Everyone

Before the first shovel hits the ground, did you or your contractor apply for a building permit? Building permits are needed whenever you “construct, renovate, demolish or change the use of a building.” They are issued by the agency that enforces the Ontario’s Building Code in your area (Usually the Municipality or City). The use of permits protects the interests of the general public, the homeowner, and the contractor. When reviewing your project, prior to construction the Municipality or City primarily checks that it complies with:

  1. The Ontario Building Code standards for both design and construction. It must meet requirements regarding health and safety, fire protection, accessibility, and even resource conservation is considered.
  2. Local zoning bylaws and other planning controls on buildings specific to your City or area.
  3. Any other laws that apply, like conservation authority requirements or things protected by the Environmental Protection Act.

If all three of these standards are met the permit is passed and the project is allowed to continue. Keep in mind, because of COVID-19 the approval process has slowed in most areas. Therefore, apply for building permits early so your project isn’t delayed.

When to Get a Building Permit?

Most construction projects require a building permit, however there are some exceptions. (I.E., floating decks under 30”) How do you know if you do require one? In general, you need to apply for a permit if you are planning on any of the following:

  1. Build a new structure larger than 10 square meters or place a different structure on your property (I.E., mobile home).
  2. Make renovations or repairs or add to an existing structure
  3. Change the use of a building
  4. Excavate or build a foundation
  5. Build a seasonal building
  6. Install, alter, extend, or repair a sewage system

If you’re still not sure, it’s always a good idea to ask your Municipality what is required for your project. You can get in a lot of trouble both legally and financially, if a building permit was required and wasn’t applied for.

City Inspection

Depending on the size and scope of your project the City or Municipality may inspect your progress in person. Sometimes you will be instructed to stop after completing phases of the project and only proceeding after that phase is inspected. If everything was done according to code and the submitted plan, you have that extra assurance that everything was done right.

During an inspection the City Official will also look for the following:

  1. The building permit is prominently displayed (front window or door).
  2. Copies of the original plan are on-site.
  3. Any changes to the original plan have been communicated and approved by the Municipality.

If the inspector doesn’t like what he sees he will ask that problems are corrected during a specific timeline. Problems could be anything related to the construction including safety concerns. They have the authority to stop construction until they feel it’s ok to proceed.

Better to Be Safe – Pull the Permit

LCM General Contractor doesn’t hesitate to pull a permit whenever it is required. Their service area brings them into many different Cities, and Municipalities, most of which have very similar regulations for decks, fences, small structures, and renovations. All of them follow Ontario Building Codes. However, some Cities have very specific by-laws concerning fence size and what materials are allowed to be used, others have no by-laws about fences at all. It’s up to the contractor to know what’s required wherever, and whatever they build.

When planning a project remember the building permit. If your contactor tries to get you to do a project without it, that should be a red flag. If unsure contact your municipal building department.