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Making sense of the building permit process

When homeowners dream about renovating their homes, they think turning existing rooms into beautiful, magazine-worthy spaces. What they do not think about is building permits. However, the building permit process is an extremely important part of ensuring that your project is completed safely and properly.

The truth is that most homeowners know very little about building permit requirements, which is why Paul Napolitano, owner of Royal Home Improvements, a residential renovation general contractor spoke with, to shed some light on this seldom discussed topic.

“Permit applications can be quite complex and the requirements are very specific, so many homeowners choose to have a professional with experience take care of them,” says Napolitano. “It is important for homeowners to familiarize themselves with the requirements and process, whether or not they choose to hire a contractor to complete the plans”.

Who Needs a Building Permit?

The first thing homeowners should know about permits is that they are required for more than just major home renovations. Some of the projects that require a building permit include structural alterations, building an accessory structure larger than 10 square metres (such as a garden shed, pool house or garage), finishing a basement, building a deck more than 60 centimeters and even building a tree house (depending on the municipality).

The Permit Process

For smaller projects, such as building a shed or deck, the onus is on the homeowner to obtain the permit; however, when working on larger projects, there are considerable benefits that come from having a reputable professional obtain the permits for you.

One major benefit is timing.

“[The permit acquisition] turnaround time can be expedited, [because] most contractors with experience have industry contacts that they work with regularly,” Napolitano tells us. “[In fact], delays are more common when homeowners obtain their own permits”.

The process of obtaining a building permit includes several steps and can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, depending upon the complexity. It includes hiring and coordinating architects, as well as multiple types of engineers such as structural, mechanical, electrical and HVAC.  All required documents must also be presented to the city, essential changes are to be made, and there is also the potential presentation of your case to a committee to gain approval.

Having a reputable contractor apply for your building permits also provides the benefit of having a representative answering the technical questions presented by the building permit department.

Of course, this is not to say that homeowners don’t have a job to do as well.

“As a homeowner it is important you verify that the permits are physically on site before construction begins,” Napolitano says.

Unfortunately, failure to do so can result in fees, fines and delays to construction.

To learn more about Royal Home Improvements, visit their listing here on

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