When planning a renovation project, many homeowners wonder “Do I need to get a permit for this?”. Short answer is yes, you should have all the appropriate permits for any construction project you plan on undertaking with your home. Any time you are making structural changes to your property, the appropriate permits need to be applied for, whether it is a kitchen renovation or building a new patio. In this article we will answer some of the most frequently asked questions about building permits.
Why do I need a building permit?
Renovations to your home must be in compliance with health, safety, and structural soundness guidelines as set out by the building codes for your area. You must also make sure your project is in agreement with the municipal guidelines for zoning regulations and heritage building designations. Failure to obtain the appropriate permits can result in several negative consequences; your municipality may place a stop work order on the project, and you could find yourself tangled up in red tape that will delay completion or you could be forced to redo the work at your own cost. You could face penalties in the form of fines. Working without a required permit may affect an insurance claim arising from the renovation. You may be held personally liable for the structural soundness of the renovation should you sell your home. Essentially a permit is like “proof” that the work was carried out properly and in accordance with all health & safety regulations for your area.
When do I need a permit?
Generally, a building permit is required for renovations that involve changes to the structure or systems of your home. This includes new additions, reconfiguration of space by moving or removing walls, new window and door openings and installation of fireplaces. Electrical and plumbing permits may also have to be obtained separately. Most projects require some sort of electrical or plumbing alterations, bathroom renovations in particular can be quite extensive.
Some repairs and renovations may not require a permit. These include re-roofing, painting, re-siding, flooring and cabinet installation, and replacement of windows and doors (provided the opening is not enlarged) – in brief, work that does not entail changes to structures or systems. Talk with your renovator, or check with your municipal building permit office to be sure. Also, find out if you need a permit to demolish old structures such as a garage, shed or porch, or to cut down a tree on your property.
What do I need?
The specific requirements depend on your municipality and the type of work you are planning. For simple interior projects, a scale floor plan will often be adequate. For larger projects involving additions, decks or major structural renovations, a full set of working drawings and a site survey may be needed. If your plan requires a minor variance or zoning bylaw amendment, you may be asked to supply additional information. Your municipality can tell you exactly what’s needed.
Who should get the permit – me or my renovator?
As the homeowner, you are legally responsible for obtaining the right permits. Your renovator can apply for permits on your behalf, your contract should identify which permits are needed and specify who will apply for them. This is why we always recommend working with a reputable professional. It’s important that your contractor respects current building codes and is up to date on any recent changes. The Canadian Home Builders Association has some great resources for planning a home renovation. Also, the City of Kelowna has a guide for understanding the most recent British Columbia Building Code Changes.
Before a permit is granted your plans and drawings will be reviewed. The approval time will vary depending on the scope of the project. You should factor the processing time for permits into your renovation timeline. Also an inspector may come out to your home to ensure the work is in compliance, plumbing and electrical projects may require separate inspections.
Overall permits are designed for your protection, they ensure that all work is done according to proper standards & specifications. Investing the time in getting the right permits is worth it if you want your renovation to be done right.
Building Permit Resources for the Okanagan:
City of Vernon
Vernon Building permit information
Contact info: (250) 545-1361
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City of Penticton
Penticton Building permit information
Contact info: (250) 490-2501