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So, you've decided it's time to upgrade your bathroom.
With so much excitement surrounding your upcoming renovation, you might be more focused on tile samples for your new shower than you are on the logistics involved. The most important being obtaining a building permit.
At Deslaurier, we have over 40+ years of experience manufacturing custom cabinets. While we do not perform any renovations, we do partner with Contractors and Renovators on their projects in order to provide clients with custom cabinets and design services.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about bathroom renovations and permits: when you need a permit - when you don’t - and what it entails in order to receive one for your bathroom reno.
Let's get started!
What is an Ontario Building Permit?
To begin, let's breakdown what a building permit in Ontario entails.
In Ontario, any homeowner can undertake a construction project on their property, whether or not they have qualifications in the field.
In the interest of quality control and maintaining safety standards province-wide, the Ontario Building Code (OBC) was enacted in 1976 (rest assured, it has been amended many times since). According to the OBC, all renovators, DIY or otherwise, must adhere to a strict set of codes intended to protect both homeowners and municipalities.
These building codes ensure that any changes to your home’s structural systems meet the health and safety standards in your city. Renovations without any structural modifications do not require a permit.
Under the Ontario Building Code, most kitchen renovation projects require a permit, but not necessarily all bathroom renovations.
Is yours one of them? Let’s dig deeper.
What Home Renovations Require a Permit?
The Ontario Building Code Act stipulates that: “a building permit is required for the construction of a new building, an addition, or alteration of any building or structure with a building area over 10 square metres (approximately 108 square feet).”
The definition leaves room for doubt.
What counts as an "alteration"? If you’re still unsure if your bathroom project needs city approval or not, use this simple screener question. Ask yourself whether your renovation falls under a cosmetic alteration or a structural alteration.
Moving a bathroom sink or shower drain location? That’s structural (new plumbing is necessary). Replacing a bathroom sink faucet or re-tiling your shower walls? That’s cosmetic.
Other cosmetic changes that do NOT require a permit in Ontario include:
- Replacing bathroom vanity cabinets (if utilities do not move)
- Replacing bathroom countertops
- Replacing bathroom hardware
- Replacing bathroom flooring
- Replacing bathroom light fixtures
If your renovation moves load-bearing walls or plumbing, you can safely assume you’ll need a permit. Changes that definitely require a permit include:
- Adding/Removing a wall
- Adding/Removing a window
- Adding a door or entryway
- Adding/Changing the location of a sink, toilet, bath, or shower
Categorizing your renovation as a cosmetic or structural project is a simplistic guide, and not always as clear-cut as it seems.
The best way to determine if you need a building permit is to contact your local building code client service centre. In Ottawa, you can dial the number for Building Code Services at 3-1-1.
When do I Need My Bathroom Renovation Permit?
You must obtain your permit before you begin your renovation.
Your city or township will review your site plans and drawings with your application. Then, you must wait until they give you the go-ahead to start.
For small homeowner projects, such as a bathroom reno, the City of Ottawa estimates it will take 5 business days to review your submission and issue a permit—so plan ahead! Nothing delays a renovation project like uncompleted paperwork.
When you have your permit, make sure to post it in a visible spot on-site. At last, when that piece of paper is in plain view, you can begin your renovation!
What Inspections Do I Need to Book During Renovations?
Once you have that permit in your hands, your responsibility isn’t over.
Part of the permitting process is having your work inspected at various phases by a professional building inspector. If you are undertaking your renovation on your own, it’s your duty to schedule these inspections throughout construction.
Just as there are many different renovations you can undertake, there are many different types of renovation-related inspections you might need. When you pick up your permit, you’ll receive the specifics about which inspections are required for your project.
The number of required inspections depends on the project at hand. Expect at least two appointments for each major job. For instance, for plumbing work, the inspector will assess and test your work at the rough-in stage and the final stage, when utilities are installed.
The same typically applies for electrical work, HVAC work, and so on.
You should anticipate to have other agencies get involved in the inspection process. For example, in Ottawa, there’s an independent regulatory body in charge of approving electrical work: the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA). If your bathroom reno requires electrical inspections, you’ll be in touch with the ESA.
What Happens If I Don’t Get a Building Permit?
Technically speaking, unless someone notifies the authorities, nothing will automatically happen if you don’t get a permit.
At least, not right away.
If a neighbour or someone else reports you, and it’s discovered you’re unlawfully renovating without a permit, you’ll get hit with a heavy fine. And by heavy, know that first offence penalties can reach up to $50,000. Subsequent offences? $100,000.
If the city finds you half-way through a project and permit-less, you’ll also be forced to immediately stop construction until you get one.
Not to mention, you’ll probably have to back-track and re-do parts of the renovation if they weren’t built to code and don’t pass inspection.
That’s if you get caught right away. If you sell the house with a non-compliant reno and the new owner finds out, you could get sued for far more.
The bottom line here is, without a permit, you’re liable for all potential health and safety risks of your uninspected work. The City of Ottawa even states that in the case of building failure caused by work done without a permit, your insurance coverage may be voided.
So, in answer to the “what could happen?” question: nothing could happen, or a whole lot could happen. Working without a permit is never worth the risk.
How Much Does a Bathroom Renovation Permit Cost?
Permit fees are subject to the scope of the renovation.
In Ottawa, you should expect to pay $10.75 for every $1000 construction value (construction value is the total of material, labour, overhead, and professional fees). At the time of publication, there is a minimum permit fee of $98.
Fees are due upfront when you submit your application.
How Do I Get a Building Permit For My Remodel?
You can find all permit application details on the City of Ottawa’s website. Essentially, the process involves filling out an application, submitting plan drawings, and paying the fee.
If you require additional support, you can contact a city staff member by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 3-1-1.
For other cities and provinces, there should be similar resources online.
Will My Contractor Handle Building Permits?
If your bathroom renovation requires a permit, you’ll more than likely want to be working with a professional Contractor or Renovator on your project.
Likely, your contractor will shoulder all permit-related tasks for you, but it’s best to discuss the topic with your contractor, as all professionals work differently.
Although, even if your contractor agrees to handle the logistics, ultimately, the liability falls on the homeowner. A professional can apply and arrange inspections on your behalf, but it will still be your name on the permit.
At the end of the day, if there are any permit hiccups, you’ll be held responsible. It’s a good idea to check in periodically with your contractor to ensure permits are posted and inspections are taking place.
Design with Deslaurier Custom Cabinets
Planning a bathroom renovation? Deslaurier Custom Cabinets has everything you need for the ultimate bathroom vanity.
We have over 40 years of experience on our resume, and we’d love to put it to work for your next home renovation project. While we don't offer renovation services, we do provide custom cabinetry and design expertise!
Sit down with one of our professional designers in Jupiter, Florida, obligation-free. We offer complimentary first-time consultations because you deserve a wholly customized kitchen and bathroom design. If you live outside the Ottawa area, find a dealer near you.
Interested in joining Deslaurier by becoming a dealer? Drop us a line on our Become a Dealer page!