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February 8 2021 | Home Renovation

Renovation Guide Part 6: How to Get a Building Permit?

Hi everyone. It’s me, Danielle Demerino, your favourite Toronto Realtor back with another blog on home renovations. As you may already know, my partner and I are working on our third home renovation (total gut job). One thing that we are becoming quite familiar with is ‘building permits’. It may seem like a very daunting task that can cause delays in your project…but if you familiarize yourself before you get started this will help the process. 

Some homeowners aren’t even aware that they need a building permit when taking on home improvements. It’s a common mistake that could have costly consequences. Take time to educate yourself on the type of projects that require a permit before you get started to save time and money! 

It’s no secret that the Toronto housing market is a competitive one that continues to grow. The city of Toronto works hard to create a safe, healthy, accessible, and sustainable environment for its inhabitants. While building permits can seem like a real pain, without them, we wouldn’t be living in one of the safest and healthiest places in the world. This blog is a guide to the building permit process and will help first time renovators through the process! 

Why Do I Need Building Permits?

The purpose of a building permit is protection. Protection to you, your home, and your community. The municipality would like to ensure that your project complies with the following:

  1. Ontario Building Code 
  2. Local Zoning
  3. Environmental Protection Act

Whether you are renovating an existing structure or building a new home, you want to be sure your project is safe and follows all laws for future occupants. Did you know that because of our laws in place, Ontario saw a 35% drop between 2003-2013 in the number of fires in Ontario that resulted in fatalities, dollar loss or injuries?! 

When Do I Need a Building Permit?

One thing you should understand when taking on a home renovation project is that you are responsible for complying with building requirements and permits as the owner of the structure. If you do not apply and obtain the proper building permits this could result in construction delays, costly fines, and/or demolishing work that has already been completed. Here is a list of the type of construction that DOES require a building permit. If you are unsure of the project you are taking on, contact the Toronto Building Customer Service.  

  1. new building or structure 
  2. An addition to existing building that is larger than 108 square feet:
    • additional story/floor
    • garage or car port
    • porch or deck
    • sunroom or solarium
    • workshop or shed
    • pool house (if plumbing is required, regardless of size a permit is needed)
  3. Structural or material alterations (alterations that will affect building regulations compliance):
    • altering room size
    • adding/removing walls 
    • altering size or position of existing windows or doors
    • addition of new windows or doors 
    • enclosing patio, deck or porch
  4. Building a deck larger than 24 inches above ground
  5. Finishing a basement if any of the following are part of the plan:
    • structural or material alterations (alterations that will affect building regulations compliance)
    • adding or changing existing heating or plumbing
    • excavating and/or constructing foundations
    • basement underpinning
    • construction on basement entrance 
    • adding another suite
  6. Environmental and energy saving improvements:
    • roof top water retention system
    • solar projects 
    • construction of green roofs
    • structures used in support of a wind turbine generator with output of more than 3kW
  7. Construct a retaining wall larger than 3 feet 3 inches in height if the retaining wall is on or adjacent to public property, building entrances, and on private property that is accessible to public
  8. Building a tent that is attached to a building and/or within 9 feet 10 inches from another structure, that covers more than 646 square feet. 
  9. Demo and removal of a portion or all of a building 
  10. Installation of a fireplace or burning stove
  11. Installation or reconstruction of a chimney 
  12. Installation of plumbing or heating systems 
  13. Installation of back flow prevention system
  14. Installation of backwater valve 
  15. Change of the use of a building (from an office to residential space), even if no construction is required 

When Do I Not Need a Building Permit?

If you are looking to see if your home renovations fall under the permit free list of updates, click here.  If you are having a difficult time deciding where your renovations fall, contact the Toronto Building Customer Service.

How Do I Get A Building Permit?

Every home renovation projects is different and the permit process is based on the scope of the work. In most cases, there is a five step process:

  1. Determine if your renovation complies with the appropriate zoning and laws
  2. Draft your plans (I would suggest hiring a professional to prepare the application and draft the plans)
  3. Apply for your permit at the City of Toronto 
  4. Complete construction and inspections
  5. Close your building permit after final inspection is complete
Zoning and Laws

If you choose to do this research on your own, you can visit the Zoning Bylaw website at or you can visit a Toronto Building Customer Service Counter (once the pandemic slows). There is a service offered by the City of Toronto called preliminary review which allows you to see if your desired renovation plans comply with zoning requirements before you move to the next step and apply for a building permit. 

Draft Your Plans

As mentioned, we do suggest that you hire a professional for this step in the process. Sketches are not considered acceptable drawings. You have the option to hire a designer, an architect or an engineer. If you would like to confirm your providers qualifications, click here to access the QuARTS Public Search Registry where designers must provide information about their qualifications. Depending on your project, you may be required to hire an architect based on the complexity of the work. 

Apply for Your Permit & Fees

As you all know from reading this blog, there is a lot of information when it comes to getting your permits. I really want to encourage you to not be scared off based on these. People get renovations every day and it can appear to be much more daunting than it is. Click here for a complete list of required documentation for your project or call Toronto Building at 416-397-5330. Here is a quick rundown on some of the different types of drawings:

Cross section: is a view of the building from the footings all the way to the roof. This type of drawing is required to show the different building materials used and how they relate to one another. 

Elevations: show the exterior views of a building and may be necessary for construction projects that would make alterations to the exterior of the house. 

Floor Plans: are required for all levels of the building that are affected by the work being proposed in the building permit. 

For building additions, all types of plans may be required. Plumbing, HVAC, roofing all may require specific plans. This is again why we suggest you refer to a professional!

You can then submit your required application forms via email to [email protected] or in person (after the pandemic) at the Toronto Building Customer Service Counter Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm. 

As the saying goes, “ain’t no free lunch”. For a full list of the different building permit fees, click here. Note: no permit will be issued until all of your fees have been paid in full. 

After you have applied you can check up on the status of your building permit application here: s at 

Complete Construction & Inspections 

There will be inspections on all new construction and renovation projects by the Toronto Building Division. They will work with you and your builder making sure that all health and safety measures are met and matched up with your approved building permit. Several visits can be made over the course of the project. 

Final Inspection and Permit Closure

You will need to call and schedule your final inspection. This will require a minimum of 48 hours after you place the call at 416-338-0700. After your final inspection is complete, you will need to confirm if your permit has actually been closed by calling the Toronto Building TelePermit. Once all requirements are met, the work you had completed is safe then the permit will be closed!

If you have any other questions, I would be more than happy to have a call and provide you with any necessary resources. Call me, Danielle Demerino at 416-728-5401.


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