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When is a building permit required in Toronto?

Last modified: 2021-10-26 | Approximate reading time 4 mins

Undergoing any form of home renovation is a huge venture that requires time, energy and patience. Of course, you can’t just grab a hammer and some nails and begin your renovation tomorrow, as plenty of preparation and planning must be fulfilled. If you are renovating a home in the city of Toronto, there are numerous regulations and bylaws that must be considered before performing any type of structural changes or otherwise.

If you’re looking to avoid getting in trouble with the law or having to tear down your new project, it is crucial to apply for a permit before getting started.

It may at first be confusing to figure out what laws apply to your specific renovation project. However, there are some common building code violations that many homeowners make when renovating, without even realizing it. Luckily, we’ve done our homework and have listed when to apply for a permit and what is required to avoid trouble if renovating in Toronto. Curious? Read on!

Here’s what to know about building permits in Toronto and the GTA

The Building Code Act (1992)


source: Pexels

The Building Code Act was developed as a legislative framework which works by governing the construction and renovation laws in the entire province of Ontario. The Act itself establishes detailed technical and administrative requirements for anyone undergoing a renovation. This act keeps important aspects of home renovation at the forefront of the projects, including health and safety, fire protection, resource conservation, environmental integrity as well as accessibility. There are minimum standards that must be followed in several areas of home renovations, and these are fire protection, structural sufficiency, construction materials, as well as plumbing and mechanical systems. The full details of the act can be viewed here.

When is a building permit required in Toronto?

Small residential interior alterations

Even if your renovations are happening inside your home, where they can't be seen by neighbours and strangers alike, it is still necessary for you to submit a permit application. This includes any renovations happening in a small residential house, a detached home, a semi-detached home or a townhouse. This is especially true if the renovations include any form of plumbing or electrical work.

Make sure that detailed floor plans are submitted alongside the permit, and these will need to include dimensions for each level of your home. It is important to list the location of smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors as well as plumbing fixtures, even if they won’t be affected by your project.

The full construction details of your project must be carefully outlined, including the proposed building materials, specifications of roof, floor and wall assemblies. If you are planning on creating a new opening in your home, either by way of a door or tearing down an existing wall, you will need to indicate the plan for these alterations. If your plans do involve tampering with the existing plumbing, you will have to indicate this in a Plumbing Data Sheet which can be found here.

Small residential additions and garages

No matter what shape or size of an addition, garage or deck you’re planning on building, it is necessary for you to apply for a permit before beginning this work. As with all permit applications, detailed drawings are required. However, a site plan is required which shows your property lines, lot areas as well as any easements on your property.

Further, for an addition, you will need a roof plan. This should detail the existing and proposed roof layout showing the roof structure, slopes as well as areas of ventilation. If your plan is to build a garage or accessory structure, such as a shed, you must indicate where you plan on putting these new structures, as well as other buildings on your lot.

For decks or verandas, you must include the size of footing, setbacks to your property lines, as well as the height and depth of stairs and headroom above them. For more details on these types of renovations, you should visit this page.

Energy or environmental building improvements


source: Pixabay

Although you will need to apply for a permit when undergoing any form of green home renovation, some of these projects can be subsidized by the government. Green roofs are one example of an environmentally-friendly renovation project that is becoming increasingly popular. A green roof can be installed onto an existing building, and this can provide your home with plenty of benefits. Not only does a green roof offer a beautiful aesthetic value, but it provides natural insulation as well as the necessary structural support.

All green roofs in the city of Toronto must follow the green roof-bylaw, and need to conform to the Toronto Green Roof Construction Standard. Luckily, for those interested in this project, there is no fee required for the permit application, if it is a new or existing building. However, if you plan on building a stand-alone green roof, it is necessary to apply for a permit. For everything you need to know about green roofs, check out this article!

Working without a building permit

As stated, there are numerous laws and regulations that are required when undergoing any form of construction and renovation work. Permits work directly in relation to inspections, which are in place to ensure that the work planned was completed, and done so while respecting the restrictions offered by the permit. When homeowners are enthusiastic about the beginning of a renovation, they may forget to take the initial planning steps and jump right into a project.

However, some homeowners may take on a renovation and realize half-way through that they need a permit. What then? If you have already started working but do not have a permit, you could face potentially costly consequences. A permit will need to be submitted as soon as possible, and the processing of this permit could delay the work you already have in place. Further, if you have renovated in a way that is not approved by The Building Code Act, you may be required to undo some of the work you’ve already completed.

This could obviously affect your budget, as well as the timeline of the project. If you are hoping to renovate and unsure about what is required, do as much research as humanly possible before starting!

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