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Permits provide a record of work done in accordance with local building codes, Mike Holmes notes.
Permits provide a record of work done in accordance with local building codes, Mike Holmes notes.

Every time I bring up buildings permits on social media, I get some blowback. I can practically set my watch to it. I get comments like “but Mike, permits are just a cash grab,” and “my contractor said I didn’t need one for that,” and my personal favourite, “he said he’d do the work for cheaper if I skipped the permit.”

I actually love it, because it’s my chance to get in there and clear up some misconceptions about building permits — and why they are in fact necessary for your construction job. You need building permits for all sorts of construction jobs — when you’re updating your electrical, HVAC, plumbing or making structural changes, you can bet you’ll need a permit. Even some seemingly “small” renovations might require the use of a permit, so don’t think that just because you’re not spending a bundle on your reno, you can skip the permit.

Trust me, the permit is much more than a “cash grab” or taxation from the city. Believe me, you always want to pull the right permits for your job. Why? Read on:

Permits give peace of mind

Think of a permit as formal permission to complete your project. This is the city saying that yes, your project complies with all local building codes, zoning laws and ordinances. It also means that the job is being inspected by independent professionals who can review your plans and monitor the progress of the project to ensure it’s meeting all standards.

Building codes are complicated and can be open to a bit of interpretation. By getting the permit, you ensure that your contractor’s plans fall within the scope they need to make the project safe.

As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that permits are pulled — not your contractors’. Usually they’ll be the ones to actually do the work to get the permits, but make sure that’s included in your contract. A contractor who doesn’t want to pull permits is a red flag. I wouldn’t hire them, even if you think it will save you a couple of bucks.

If you get caught doing work without the right permit, the city could potentially issue a stop-work work, and you may be issued a fine and even be required to put things back the way they were. If that happens, the couple of bucks you “saved” by not getting the permits will fly right out the window.

Permits also provide a nice record of work done to a home. Imagine moving into a house that had an addition added, or a new bathroom, or some walls removed. Now imagine doing a permit check for that home and not finding anything. How can you know for sure that the work was done safely and to code without a record of closed permits? I’m not saying there would be an issue, but it would certainly give me cause for concern.

When won’t I need a permit?

Not every job will require a permit. Most will, especially on larger-scale renovations where you’re making big changes. However, some small jobs don’t require you to obtain a permit.

What kind of jobs? If you’re building a shed in the backyard or adding a fence, you typically won’t need one. There are some exceptions — if the shed is larger than 100 square feet, you might need a permit. If you’re building an enclosure fence for your pool, that will also require a permit. For other fences, make sure you build within your property lines or you could be forced to tear it down if you accidentally build on your neighbour’s land.

For repairs, like replacing shingles, stucco, or other exterior siding, as long as you’re replacing it with the same kind of material, you won’t need a permit. If you’re totally tearing away the old material to replace it with something different, you likely will.

If you’re not sure that the project you want to undertake requires a permit or not, remember, it’s always free to call and ask.

Permits aren’t the cash grab they’ve got the reputation for. Think of them as your documentation that shows your renovation is safe.

To find out more about Mike Holmes, visit makeitright.ca

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021

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