Building Permits: Necessary Evil or Blessing in Disguise?
necessary building permits

If you search Google for construction failures, it doesnt take long to find stories about collapsed-building events. In almost every case, the causes listed include poor construction practices, poor project management, structural issues, or faulty materials. Municipalities react to these disasters by requiring licenses from their contractors and tradespeople and amending their building code to create an ever-improving safety standard. Building codes and building permits are a way to make sure that builders and those in the construction trades meet these standards. Although they may seem to be a necessary evil, the safe environments we glean from these standards benefit us making them a blessing in disguise.

Do I need a building permit? 

The project you are doing may or may not need a building permit. For example, building a deck less than sixty centimetres off the ground towards the back of your garden, providing it meets setback requirements, doesnt usually require a permit. But, build that same deck at the primary entrance to the house, and it will need a building permit. Whether or not you need a permit needs to be verified every time. That is why you need to work with a qualified and licensed professional.

Do I need a permit for driveway paving work?

The city has made it clear. Yes. Any business providing residential paving services must obtain a Driveway Paving Contractor License. And any work done by that contractor requires a permit from the city, including new driveway construction and alteration and repair work on an existing driveway. It is not affected by the materials used. They could include asphalt, interlocking brick, concrete, etc. If you are widening the driveway, an additional permit from the zoning department is required. You should ensure your contractor is licensed and has obtained all necessary permits. In addition, you should make sure the contractor has liability and WSCB insurance. You can get the permits (online or in person), but you will need a contractor number to do so. Or, you can let your paving contractor do so on your behalf.

Do I need a permit for a pool?

Oddly, you dont need a permit to build a pool. But you will need one for the fence that encloses the pool to make it safe. The specifications outline the fences height, various dimensions to ensure it is not climbable, and how it can use the home as a part of the enclosure, etc. It is illegal to fill a pool before the enclosure fence has been inspected and approved. Use a professional that knows what they are doing because you can count on this truth. If your pool enclosure fence doesnt meet code, you will not be swimming until it does. Also, if you are building an equipment room and cabana that exceeds fifteen square metres, you will need a building permit. And, if you are constructing an accessory structure that has plumbing (e.g., a cabana with a wet bar), regardless of its size, a building permit is required. So although the pool itself doesnt need a permit, a new deck, gazebo, cabana, and additional structures may require a permit.

Do I need a permit for a deck? 

There are three scenarios in which a permit will be required. The deck will be greater than 60 centimetres above ground (24”). The deck will serve as a principal entrance to the home. The deck forms part of a building exit required under the Ontario Building Code. If the deck does need a permit, the drawings required are quite rigorous, calling on the help of a reputable builder/designer.

Do I need a permit for landscaping?

Whether or not you need a permit for landscaping depends on the nature and scope of your project. If you are planning to undertake any work within the public right of way (the area beyond your property line), you will require a permit before starting work.” (City of Toronto website.) If you are doing a complete makeover, including hardscaping (e.g., deck, outbuildings, outdoor kitchen, fences) and softscaping (e.g., grass, trees, flowers, shrubs, etc.), you may require a permit. 

Do I need a permit for a retaining wall?

It depends on the location and height of the retaining wall. Anything extending beyond the property line encroaching the public right of way almost always needs a permit. If the retaining wall is more than one meter high, it requires a permit. But, if the retaining wall is less than one meter and is built entirely on private property, it doesnt.

As a reminder, even if a permit is not required, all construction must comply with building codes and zoning by-laws.

Note: The purpose of our blog is to bring to light, inform, educate, and comment on some of the issues faced by homeowners in the process of building and renovating. It is not intended to replace the information found in the zoning and building code documentation of your municipality, manufacturers specification sheets of products used, or other official documentation. It is the responsibility of the reader to do their own due diligence.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is included in the AHS permit package?

The AHS permit package is your all-in-one solution for getting your project approved smoothly. It includes detailed architectural drawings, making sure everyone’s on the same page about what’s being built. We handle all the paperwork, filling in every document and ensuring it’s up to snuff for the city’s approval. Plus, we take care of all communication with city officials, saving you the hassle. Need extra documents or specific drawings? Just let us know, and we’ll customize the package for you. And don’t worry – we’re here to support you until your project gets the thumbs up. Ready to start? Reach out to our team, and we’ll guide you through the process.

Does a Construction Permit Expire if I Build Years Later?

The expiration of a construction permit depends on the municipality. Typically, permits are valid for six months to one year from approval, with the option for extensions. However, if the permit lapses before completion, obtaining a new one is essential. Contact the municipal authority or building department for extension requests. Failure to adhere to timelines may result in reapplication, additional fees, or penalties. It’s crucial to comply with permit guidelines to avoid complications.