A Step-By-Step Guide to Canada Building Permits

June 18, 2022


Even if you are familiar with the process of having your own home built in the US, moving to Canada and trying to have the same thing done can be a real challenge. The laws and the process are subtly different, after all. So, to help you avoid mistakes, here’s a step-by-step guide to Canada building permits.

When do you need a building permit?

In Canada, things are not as stringent as in the US regarding building permits. If you are doing minor work on your home, such as building a utility shed under 10 square meters in area, installing a skylight, re-shingling a roof, doing minor chimney repairs, or minor electrical work, you do not need Canada building permits. In the US, you would typically require a permit for all of these. However, there is still a list of home improvements that you need a permit for. These are:

  • Adding rooms to a building
  • Making structural alterations to a building
  • Demolishing or removing parts of a house
  • Adding or removing doors, load-bearing walls, or partitions
  • Building a porch, balcony, or garage
  • Any installation larger than 10 square meters
  • Excavating a basement
  • Engaging in significant renovation or reconstruction work

Concerns over licenses

At the same time, you will need to ensure that the contractors you find are qualified for their job. There are four major types of building licenses available in Canada. Residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional (governmental). Only the first two are essential for building a home: the residential and the commercial licenses. If you plan to make a large house or an apartment building where you can rent out the space for either other families or a business on the first floor, then you need to hire contractors with a commercial building license. If you want a family home up to three floors in height, then you need someone with a residential license. Of course, if this seems confusing or overwhelming, you can also look into legally preparing your family for purchasing a home in Canada instead.

Why building permits are so important

Building permits are about more than just informing the government about your project and paying taxes. It is about making sure that your building plans can slot into the city you live in seamlessly and safely. Vancouver, for example, is a city where lots of people tend to build their own homes. If you want to organize a long-distance move to Vancouver and reach your new home safely and settle in without issues, it is in your best interest that everyone within the city keeps to strict building codes.

How do I apply for a building permit?

To get Canada building permits, you will need to approach your municipality’s local Planning Office. Of note is that nowadays, most municipalities allow for an electronic application, where you submit all you need over the internet, including documents, specifications, drawings, forms, reports, calculations, and plans for your new home. Of course, some municipalities require you to show up in person for your application to be valid. This includes Ajax, Brampton, Pickering, and Vaughan. Once you’ve done that, you are ready to start working on the house of your dreams. If your application passes, that is. Getting the results of your application will take anywhere from five to fifteen weeks, so do it early!

Grounds for refusal

There are many reasons your application might be turned down - the most obvious of which are significant problems with your house drafts and plans. If they are not up to code, then it is obvious the building project would be shut down early. Some more examples include problems with your contractors or even financial problems on your end. If you still have an insured mortgage on your old home that you are planning to demolish, you will likely need to settle it before getting the okay.

Closing construction

There is one thing you should always keep in mind. Do not declare things over and try to move in before the construction project is officially closed. The experts from Centennial Moving have encountered this numerous times and are frequently hired to help people move out quickly! This is because, for your home to be considered successfully and legally built, it must pass a final inspection by relevant authorities. Of course, be aware that the authorities will do routine inspections even while the construction is ongoing.

Change of use

An interesting fact to learn about real estate in Canada is that you need Canadian building permits even if all you are doing is changing the ‘use’ of a building. In other words, if you want to do some light renovation, rent a house out, or even use it as a shop or business office, you need to register the change with the authorities. Not doing so can incur serious legal ramifications. Thus, you don't want to take any unnecessary risks that could later interfere with your plans. Think proactive and get the necessary building permits in Canada on time.

Other considerations when applying for a building permit

When trying to get Canada building permits, one final thing of note is that you may run into additional complications when planning your building project. One such example is that you need to get a demolition permit if there is an existing structure on your property. However, that structure could fall under the Historical Preservation efforts included, for example, in the Ontario Heritage Act. In this case, you would be automatically banned from doing anything to the building. Other than some light renovation work that needs to be kept within specific guidelines, you might not be able to get all the planned work done.

Final Comment

With a step-by-step guide to Canada building permits under your belt, you should be able to get things done without making mistakes. The most important thing is to plan ahead properly. And to make sure you are always complying with the local laws! Keep in mind that doing anything that can classify as breaking the law won’t do you any good.






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