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03/22 - Renovation

Do I Need a Permit for My Home Renovation?

Your Guide to Home Renovation Permits | Fox Marin Blog

Your Guide to Home Renovation Permits

If you’re thinking of taking on a renovation of any kind, there are many considerations to keep in mind. Whether you’re changing an existing property or creating a new building, you need to do your research. For those wanting to do a home renovation, you’ll likely look into common questions such as, how much will it cost? Will it be a good investment? What contractor and architect should I use? There is a long list of factors you’ll consider. However, the one question you want to ask is, do the changes I want to make require a building permit? The answer is, it depends. Your local government sets the requirements for dealing with and issuing permits. With this in mind, if you’re from Toronto, Ontario, this guide to home renovation permits is for you.  


Do I need a Permit for my Home Renovation?

In Toronto, the city wants to be certain that we are following the rules when it comes to construction. When you build almost anything, you must ensure you are complying with the Ontario Building Code. The guidelines set out in the code protect public health, safety and general welfare as they relate to the construction and the occupancy of buildings and structures. Particularly, the code dictates the specifications and standards that all elements of building construction must follow. This includes such standards as foundations, framing, insulation, roofing, electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. And, the city’s building inspectors must provide approval.


What Projects Typically Require a Permit?

So, if you’re thinking of doing a home renovation, here’s a general idea of when you should seek information on permits. However, when in doubt, err on the side of caution! Take the time to properly inquire to determine the correct course of action. The best place to start is to contact customer service for Toronto Building. In a nutshell, here are the types of projects that likely require a permit:

  • New building construction
  • Constructing an addition
  • Structural or material alterations
  • Constructing an accessory structure larger than 108 sq ft (i.e. shed, workshop, pool house)
  • Finishing a basement (depending on the details of the finishing)
  • Energy and environmental building improvements, such as green roofs  or solar projects
  • Any deck that is higher than 24” off the ground
  • Constructing a retaining wall higher than a metre (3 ft 3 inches)
  • Temporary construction of a structure, such as a tent or a temporary sales pavilion
  • Demolishing or removing all, or a portion of a building
  • Installation or reconstruction of a chimney, fireplace, or wood burning stove
  • Modification or installation of heating or plumbing systems
  • Installation of a backwater valve or a backflow prevention device
  • Changing a building’s use (i.e. from residential to office or single-dwelling unit house to multi-dwelling unit house)

Note that, even if no construction is proposed, but a change of use is, a building permit is a requirement.  


What Projects Typically Do Not Require a Permit?

There are certain projects that may not require a permit. However, compliance with Zoning Bylaws may still be a requirement. This includes the following list of projects:

  • An uncovered deck, provided that it is no more than 60cm (24 inches) above from finished deck level to the adjacent finished grade, does not form part of an exit required under the building code, and complies with the Zoning Bylaw
  • Installing a skylight in an existing building, provided that the building is a house or small building (three storeys or less) and the installation does not require the removal of more than one rafter, joist, or other similar structural member (with the exception of a truss)
  • Recladding of a house or small building (three storeys or less) with non-combustible material other than brick or stone veneer
  • Adding or replacing insulation
  • Replacing windows or doors where there is no change in the location or size, or impact to the structural support for the opening (i.e. lintel), and no creation of a new exit
  • Replacing a furnace or boiler in a house
  • Installing additional cooling systems, gas fireplaces, air cleaners, in-line humidifiers, or hot water tanks in a house
  • Repairing and replacing plumbing fixtures
  • Replacing existing roofing material where there is no structural work
  • Finishing a basement of a house, if the work does not include structural or material alterations, no additional dwelling unit(s) is created (i.e. a second unit) and the work does not include the installation of new plumbing
  • Undertaking waterproofing repairs to a basement
  • Installation of cabinetry and millwork
  • Where there are plastic sheet covered accessory structures (i.e. snow canopies, driveway tents, automotive canopy) if installed on or after October 15th and removed on or before April 15th
  • Constructing a retaining wall that is on private property, not accessible to the public and/or where the height is less than 1 metre in height at any location
  • Installation of a sump pump

Keep in mind, this list is only a reference for some of the information for the permits and construction process. Even if you think the list above makes it seem as though your alterations will not need a permit, a unique detail or minor variation from the norm may quickly change that. We cannot stress it enough: check and double check your compliance.  


Due Diligence

Whatever your project, no matter how small you may feel it is, always do your due diligence when it comes to permits. Be certain to display those permits in the correct location on your job site to avoid hassles. The penalties for not complying with the Ontario Building Code or permission to build can be expensive and time consuming. Especially when an inspector discovers your project, they will shut it down until the paperwork has been acquired. In extreme cases, if you cannot acquire the proper paperwork or what you have built will not be allowed, your building or project may be taken down.  


Building Permits in the City of Toronto

If you are in the market for a project property that needs a renovation or thinking of renovating your current property for sale, give us a call. We are happy to discuss the pros and cons and ins and outs of the renovation world and how it relates to the Toronto real estate market as well as your own real estate success story.    



This article is written by Fox Marin Sales Representative, Ian Busher. With an extensive background in carpentry and contracting, Ian is our resident “Renovations Expert”! He takes pride in his ability to assess the quality and condition of a house. This, in tandem with his talent for speaking to the feasibility and cost of potential renovations, and his eye for the aesthetic details of a property, makes him a powerful partner for anyone looking to buy a home in the Toronto real estate market.