Tag Archives: Building Permits

Successful permit-applying strategies

Successful permit-applying strategies

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Successful permit-applying strategies

Projects vary in size and scope. No matter your role in the design and construction process, permits can be a stressful part of the operation. I’ve had years of experience pulling together permits of all kinds. I also have a passion for efficiency that has boded me well, and, in turn, has helped me to acquire knowledge and experience as it relates to the acquisitions of said permits. I sincerely hope that your permit process will go smoother, after having heard some of my hard-learned lessons.

Do Your Research

This may seem obvious, but I’ve learned how important it is to do my research before I go through the process of permit drawings and submissions. It’s paid off every single time, especially if I’m submitting for someone else’s design.

I always ask the following three questions:

  1. Are there any previous permits for this property?
  2. Are there existing drawings available?
  3. What are the permit requirements for this specific project’s scope of work?

By doing so, it saves on unnecessary work, and also gives you a heads up on what you might be missing when you do apply.

Be Clear and Concise

Only submit permit drawings of the plans that the examiner needs to see in order to pass your project. If it’s not necessary, there’s no need to show them millwork elevations or drawings of the finishes.

It’s very tempting to put all of the information on one drawing, and let them sort it out. Trust me, everything is easier when you keep your drawings and designs easy enough for all to follow. Don’t make the plan’s examiner hunt for information.

Submit in Person

Some municipalities, including Toronto, will accept submissions by email, which is far more convenient. However, you want a relationship with the people who you’re submitting to. Developing a rapport with the employees at the desk is paramount. If you submit by email, your submission either gets rejected (just one of many in a queue), or you’ll get a refusal letter if something is missing. Stuff happens. If you submit in person, you get direct feedback as to what you may have forgot. And, by doing so, you may even have time to go back and make the changes, and re-submit the same day.

Hire a Professional

When in doubt, hire a professional, especially if you’re stressed out and overwhelmed. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, so it’s often worth your time, and budget, to hire a professional – someone who’s specialized in keeping everything on track, so that all goes smoothly.

I may be somewhat biased, but for residential projects, hiring a registered interior designer can be a beneficial asset. If you’re the client, or on the construction side, find someone who’s aware of the building code and zoning when they’re preparing the designs. This will help to avoid potential headaches.

Other types of design professionals, who understand your vision, can be of assistance when defending your project to those who are in charge of permits. If they get it, they can help you to accomplish it.

MELISSA TOSSELL, NCIDQ, BCIN, ARIDO is the owner and registered interior designer for Sanura Design and co-chair of the Residential Committee of ARIDO.

Article provided courtesy of ARIDO.


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Practical tips for remodelling your home and garden

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Practical tips for remodelling your home and garden

Remodeling your property allows you to gain greater equity and resale value. It’s also a good way to enjoy the comforts and pleasures of your home and garden even more.

Here are some ideas on how to improve your home and garden.

Start with the garden

Before you start the heavy work of remodeling your home, see if your garden has any issues that you should take care of sooner rather than later. If you don’t start with the garden, you’re likely to be too exhausted after the construction work in your home to consider working on the garden at all.

One common problem many homeowners with large gardens overlook is soil erosion. Mulch and blankets are effective ways to prevent this issue from getting out of control and you can find out more about them on this erosion control website: graniteseed.com/erosion-control/

5 tips for remodelling your home

Your remodeling project will go smoothly if you plan a realistic budget, find a reputable general contractor, get all necessary building permits, and find a good home insurance policy. It’s also important to address any problems with your garden. Soil erosion, for example, is a common problem.

Tip #1: Create a detailed plan

It may surprise you how many new ideas you’ll come up with on how to improve your home when you brainstorm. Your plan should include the prep work that you will need to do before starting your remodeling project, a schedule on what areas to gut or deconstruct, and a long list of remodeling steps to take, such as rebuilding, painting, and deep cleaning. The more meticulous your planning, the happier you will be with the new look and feel of your home after the dust has settled.

Tip #2: Design a realistic budget

If you’re not shopping with a clear budget in mind, you’ll be tempted to spend much more than you planned because when you shop for equipment, tools, and building materials, you’ll be thrilled by the number of innovative products and attractive designs available in stores.

Incidentally, your budget should also include a financial cushion to pay for anything that goes wrong during the remodeling. For instance, if someone drops drywall panels while on a ladder, this loss of material will be an unexpected cost.

Tip #3: Hire a reputable general contractor

The plethora of information available on how to start your own do-it-yourself (DIY) remodeling projects may tempt you to do all the work on your own.

However, unless you’re working on a small project like tiling the bathrooms, you probably won’t save as much as you imagine. You are more likely to waste money on buying the wrong tools or materials or making expensive construction mistakes.

It’s always better to hire a general contractor for big projects, like breaking down or building a wall. Ask people you know who have remodeled their homes for referrals on whom you should hire.

Tip #4: Find the best home insurance

Homeowner’s insurance will protect your home during renovations. Many unexpected things could occur, such as spills, tears, breaks, or material thefts. Take the time to shop for the best policy for your needs.

Tip #5: Get all the necessary building permits

Find out about all the necessary building permits that you need. They’re issued to ensure safety during construction work because renovating a home can be hazardous to both you and your neighbors.

In conclusion, although you may have a clear idea about exactly what you need to do because you’ve been thinking about renovations for a long time, following these six remodeling tips will increase your chances of getting your home just the way you want it.


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Design/Build Expert: Permit Process Primer

Design/Build Expert: Permit Process Primer

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Design/Build Expert: Permit Process Primer

by Brendan Charters

Navigating twists & turns along the permit path

Whether creating, moving or otherwise altering a structural wall; relocating or running a new drain; installing a new furnace or amending the location or size of a heat run—a permit is required. Contrary to popular belief, even when rehabilitating an old porch, deck or structure over 10 square metres (about 108 square feet), not only will you require a permit, but you will also need to clear zoning bylaws.


The world we live in is a highly regulated one, and while there is ample debate on both sides of the argument as to whether that is a good thing or not, it is the environment we must all operate in. As such, when planning to renovate or planning to build, it is imperative that you understand the process and what impacts to cost and timing it may have on your project.

Photography: after shot courtesty of Peter Sellar
Photography: after shot courtesy of Peter Sellar


Depending on where you live, your municipal planning and building departments may operate in a very personable and efficient way. Should you be lucky to live in a small town, you may even know the people helping you on the other side of the desk. As you get into more metropolitan regions, especially in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) or in Toronto proper (especially North York, Toronto and East York), your project rarely has a face to it, in that the examiners reviewing your file are often not speaking directly with you at all. The timing of the project can be drastically impacted due to the sheer volume of applications that the local municipality receives.

Photography: after shot courtesty of Peter Sellar
Photography: after shot courtesy of Peter Sellar


Additions, renovations and custom home projects can often take a path similar to that of the stacked townhouse, mid-rise or even high-rise project that your local developer is undertaking. The difference is, with the development fees they pay, there is often a dedicated planner on their file. In the case of smaller projects, it becomes imperative you understand the process to ensure you (or your designer/consultant) can shepherd your file around the various departments that need to review and approve your file before a permit is issued. To help you do that, or to at least shine a light on the process so you understand what you may be into, I have outlined a typical project process, along with typical time frames as outlined in a survey of professional RenoMark contractors undertaken by the BILD Association last year.


Photography: diagram courtesy of BILD
Photography: diagram courtesy of BILD

In the chart above, we outline some typical steps in the process of renovating an old Toronto home and assume we are building an addition to it in order to expand the living area.

In order to submit for zoning review, you will require plans of the as-built home, plus plans showing the proposed changes, including floorplans, elevations and a building section to show heights of floors and the roof. You will also require an up-to-date survey, which shows neighbouring houses (half of them at least) and some key grade heights (top of first floor, and average grade across front of home, as well as 0.01m on each side of your property at the front yard setback), in order to determine the height of the building in relation to your surroundings. A site plan will show your existing conditions relating to the house and the lot, as well as what is being proposed by way of expansion. The first step is to submit that for zoning review. This review will outline your compliance with applicable laws governing the site, will set your path to move forward and can typically take anywhere from 2-12 weeks, depending on where you live.


If your zoning review yields non-conformity with the bylaw(s), your next step is to submit to the Committee of Adjustment. Here you will request relief from the bylaw, arguing the merit of your application as it pertains to the four tests of the planning act. They include:

  1. Is it minor?
  2. Is it appropriate and desirable for the area?
  3. Is it in keeping with the intent of the bylaw?
  4. Is it in keeping with the Official Plan?


Timing for a Minor Variance can vary tremendously. The Planning Act legislates that a file be heard within 30 days of an application being accepted. In Toronto/East York, that timing is currently in excess of 120 days. Assuming you are successful at the Committee of Adjustment (CofA), there is a legislated 21-day appeal period where if contested, you may have to go to the Ontario Municipal Board or the Local Appeal Body (if in Toronto) to plead your case. Doing this adds months and costs to the project, as a formal trial takes place, which requires a planner and lawyer to be retained to argue the facts of the application. Avoid it if you can by being a good neighbour and involving your neighbours early in the planning process, in hopes of obtaining their support of your application—it can go a long way with the Committee members at the initial hearing and also reduces the risk of an appeal of the decision.


If you were successful at Committee, the decision often comes with conditions of approval, including urban forestry, transportation or other department conditions, which must be met in order to allow the Building Department to accept your permit application as complete. Start the process with the various departments immediately after your CofA decision, as they can often take a long time to clear (i.e. Forestry or Ravines and Natural Features can take 8-12 weeks to review and approve if there are trees on the property affected by your application).


Once you have the final and binding letter from the Committee of Adjustment, and have clearances from the various commenting departments, you can request your initial zoning submission to be closed off and cleared as compliant. Congratulations! You now have a file that can be accepted as a complete application, which binds the Building Department to a 10-business day review. Keep track of your file to ensure you get a permit issued, or comments back within that time period, as files can often lie dormant if examiners are away on vacation, or if a labour union strike occurs, as it has twice in the last 10 years in Toronto.


Our industry experience has been that a typical project can take an average of 46 weeks (or close to 12 months) to go through the process from initial submission to permit issuance. Six months is by no means unheard of and can be possible, depending on your specific region, if you are fortunate with whom you are working with at City Hall, and you stay on top of the status of the file. As such, we recommend being diligent with moving your file along the path outlined above, keeping in regular contact with the various departments, to ensure your file does not get lost in the shuffle. If things seem to be at a standstill, don’t wait on an email or a phone call to be returned—there is value in making a trip to the department you are working with. A face on a file can help to bring a personal urgency to a file that a phone call and email just cannot deliver.


As always, we recommend working with a professional who knows the process and the people to help move a file from a dream into a reality. The approval process is a daunting one, and if you are not aware of the chess moves required to advance a file, a lot of time and stress can be added to the timeline suggested here. Also remember the individuals reviewing your file are people too—ones that are just as stressed with the file loads as you are, and a smile and professional treatment can go a long way in helping you and your file…rather than initiating the heat of battle, which can be counter-productive. Once a permit is issued, there is a fantastic relief that your project can get underway. Enjoy the euphoric ride!

Brendan Charters is co-owner of Toronto Design-Build Firm Eurodale Developments – 2016 BILD Renovator of the Year.

Visit eurodale.ca or follow Brendan on Twitter @EurodaleHomes


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Industry Expert: BILD

Industry Expert: First Things First

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Industry Expert: First Things First

by Bryan Tuckey

Simplify the building permit process by entrusting your renovation to a professional

Now that you’ve decided to renovate your home, the first step is to do your homework and determine what building permits you might need.

Most construction, renovations, alterations and demolitions require a building permit. For instance, in many municipalities you need a permit for constructing separate rooms in your basement, but you probably don’t need one if you are building a fence, unless it is one that will enclose a pool.

Too often people question the importance of permits and sometimes they are tempted to undertake projects without having required permits in place. However, that is very short-sighted. Permits help protect you, your home and your community by making sure your project is structurally sound and follows all regulations.

Unprofessional renovators may be willing to do work without obtaining permits. Forgoing required permits may seem like a way to speed up your renovation and save money upfront, but it could very likely result in renovation deficiencies and added costs down the road. You could be faced with substantial fines and then having to redo the work. Lack of required permits may affect your home’s insurance coverage and you could also run into problems when you sell your home.

Local municipalities issue permits and application processes, and the rules governing building permits, can vary depending on where you live. Getting a building permit can be a complicated process. It can take several weeks or even months to obtain, and it can be a bit overwhelming, so a good approach is to work with a professional renovator who is experienced with permit applications.

RenoMark professional renovators are very experienced with permits and they will guide you through the process. They will assess your project and explain whether or not a permit is needed and what it will take to get one and they will work on your behalf to acquire them.

A critical step in obtaining your permit is ensuring that your project complies with the Ontario Building Code, municipal zoning and other applicable laws. Working with a professional renovator is the most efficient way to obtain permits. Your renovator is the project manager for your renovation and he/she will bring in the right people such as architects or engineers to get any necessary drawing for the permit application process. Make sure that the costs for additional professional services are discussed upfront and included in your renovation contract.

After you’ve obtained your permit and started construction, your renovator will arrange for all inspections required under the permit.

BILD created the RenoMark program in 2001 to help homeowners distinguish professional renovators from underground contractors. A key feature of the program is the RenoMark Code of Conduct by which all members agree to abide. It mandates that they provide written contracts for all jobs, have at least $2 million in liability insurance and offer a minimum of two years warranty on all work. Find a RenoMark professional at renomark.ca.

Bryan Tuckey is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association and a land-use planner who has worked for municipal, regional and provincial governments.

Follow him on Twitter @bildgta, facebook.com/bildgta, and bildblogs.ca.


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