Know When You Should Get Building Permits

Most homeowner fret over the subject of building permits. However, obtaining a building permit becomes an unavoidable obligation under certain circumstances. A building permit is essentially a government-endorsed document that contains legal permission to proceed with a certain type of proposed, construction or remodeling. Regulations within a building permit contain constructional/structural limitations. These should be followed by the homeowner and all entities involved in the remodeling/renovation process, like contractors, designers and plumbers. Building permits consist of building codes that are registered for each area with the designated provincial or municipal authorities.

Understanding Building Permit Requirement

The general misconception is that a building permit is required only if you are building a new home or undertaking a major construction, like the addition of another story to your home. However, building permits are equally critical for domestic remodeling. Home-improvement projects that require alterations to an existing structure may also require a permit.

When Is a Building Permits Needed?

It is difficult to set precise definitions for different types of home remodeling needs that require a building permit. This is because, every area has a different set of building codes and thus, the regulations have extreme, regional variations. However, if you are planning to remodel your home, you should know about some common remodeling components that usually need a building permit. Essentially, all remodeling projects that involve making wholesome changes to an existing building, require a permit. If remodeling your home involves large-scale alterations to the building's existing electrical system, a permit is generally needed. Addition of any facilities within the house like a new bath, toilet or sink also requires a building permit. Similarly, addition of new windows in existing walls should be supported with a valid permit. Some other common examples include:

  • Addition of supporting walls
  • Building in-ground concrete pools or a porch/deck
  • Demolition of load-bearing walls
  • Altering the existing roofline
  • Making changes to partition wall or structural beams
  • Changing the egress format
  • Relocation of drainage systems, drain leader, sewer/drainage configuration, waste circuits or underground piping

Understanding Building Permit for Home Additions

There is widespread confusion regarding the need to obtain a building permit when making additions to personal, residential space. Building codes specify certain limitations for residential, structural additions in the form of size and overall presentation outlines. If the mentioned measurements are exceeded, homeowners are liable to pay financial penalties — such building codes cannot be pleaded. However, many times, the defined measurements can be exceeded. For this, a formal request has to be registered with the municipal organization. The authority undertakes an assessment to evaluate the safety considerations of the proposed structure and issues a building permit. The most common example in this realm is adding detached buildings, such as backyard sheds. External concrete additions like sidewalks, driveways and slabs too need a permit, only if the coded measurements have to be exceeded.

Avoiding Building Permits Confusion

However, if you plan to refurbish an existing structure, a permit is usually excused. This can be best understood with the example of kitchen cabinets. If you plan to refurbish the appearance of the existing kitchen cabinet doors with new wood paneling or laminate layering, a permit is not needed. However, if you plan to remove a section of the cabinets along the kitchen wall and install an exhaust system, you need a permit to ensure that the venting system’s size is in accordance with the permitted limit. Similarly, other remodeling requirements like flooring/ceiling coverings, painting/papering, tiling or carpeting and interior wall decorations can be executed without a building permit.