You’re ready to build your dream kitchen. But first things first: do you need a kitchen renovation permit?
It’s a preliminary question that must be addressed before any of the fun design and demo work gets rolling. Think of it like driving—before you take your first roadtrip, it helps to get your driver’s licence!
Whether you’re hiring a professional contractor or going it alone on the DIY route, permits are a must-have. Building codes are no joke—break them (inadvertently or not) and you could be facing a hefty fine.
Thankfully, in this article, we’ve assembled a list of frequently asked questions concerning building permits and provided detailed responses to each one.
Scroll down to make your dream kitchen a compliant kitchen!
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What is a Building Permit in Ontario?
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 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.
Most kitchen renovation projects require a permit under the Ontario Building Code.
Is yours one of them? Let’s dig deeper.
What Home Renovations Require a Permit?
The 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 kitchen 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 kitchen sink’s location? That’s structural (new plumbing is necessary). Replacing a kitchen sink’s faucet? That’s cosmetic.
Other cosmetic changes that do NOT require a permit in Ontario include:
- Replacing kitchen cabinetry (if utilities do not move)
- Replacing kitchen countertops
- Replacing kitchen appliances/hardware
- Replacing kitchen flooring
- Replacing kitchen light fixtures
If your renovation moves load-bearing walls or utilities, 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 utilities
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 Kitchen Renovation Permit?
You must obtain your permit before you begin your renovation. The city will review your site plans and drawings with your application. You must wait until they give you the go-ahead to start.
For small homeowner projects, 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. 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 appliances 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). For your electrical inspections, you’ll be in touch with the ESA.
What Happens If I Don't Get a 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 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.
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 not worth the risk.
How Much Does a Kitchen Remodel 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.
Will My Contractor Handle My Permit Application?
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’s 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.
How Do I Procure a Kitchen Renovation Permit?
You can find all permit application details on the City of Ottawa’s website. Basically, 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 email@example.com or calling 3-1-1.
For other cities and provinces, there should be similar resources online.
Kitchen Renovations with Deslaurier
Deslaurier Custom Cabinets is a Canadian pioneer in the custom cabinetry business. We have over 40 years of experience on our resume, and we’d love to put it to work for your next kitchen remodel.
Sit down with one of our professional designers in the Jupiter, FL area, obligation-free. We offer complimentary first-time consultations because you deserve a wholly customized kitchen design.
Interested in joining Deslaurier by becoming a Florida dealer? Drop us a line on our Become a Dealer page.