Building permits — don’t start your renovation without one

luxurious bathroom

Whether you are considering a bathroom renovation or full home reno, before you begin any project, ensure your plans comply with the B.C. Building Code, local bylaws and municipal requirements.

When do I need a building permit?

Generally, a building permit is required for renovations that involve changes to the structure of your home. This includes new additions, reconfigurating a space by moving or removing walls, new window and door openings and the installation of fireplaces. Electrical and plumbing permits will have to be obtained separately — the exact rules that apply vary from municipality to municipality.

Some repairs and renovations, such as an accessory structure like a storage shed, may not require a permit. Others include re-roofing, painting, re-siding, flooring and cabinet installation, and replacing windows and doors, provided the opening is not enlarged. In brief, any work that does not entail changes to structures or systems, does not require a permit.

Talk with your renovator or check with your municipal building department to be sure. Also, find out if you need a permit to demolish old structures such as a garage or porch, or to cut down a tree on your property.

What do I need to provide to get a building permit?

This depends on your municipality and the type of work you are planning. Often, for simple interior projects, a floorplan will be adequate.

For larger projects involving additions, decks or major structural renovations, a full set of working drawings and a site survey will be needed. If your plan requires a minor variance or zoning bylaw amendment, you will be asked to supply additional information.

Who should get the building permit?

As the homeowner, you are legally responsible for obtaining any building permits required. However, your renovator can look after this on your behalf. Your contract should specify which permits are required and who will get them. Some municipalities will require a letter of authorization from you before your renovator can apply for a permit for your renovation.

Before a permit is issued, the municipality reviews your plans and drawings. After the work begins, an inspector will visit your home to make sure it is being done in compliance with municipal requirements and the BC Building Code. There will also be separate electrical and plumbing inspections.

What happens if I don’t get a permit?

If you don’t obtain a building permit, your municipality can issue a stop-work order that will remain in effect until you do. If any work doesn’t meet the requirements of the B.C. Building Code, you will have to re-do it at your own cost. You could also be forced to un-do the work, such as removing an addition, if you violate setback regulations. Working without a required permit may also affect an insurance claim arising from the renovation.

As the homeowner, you are the one responsible — not the contractor. Renovators who suggest that you skip the building permit are not looking after your needs. Fly-by-nighters won’t want their name on any official documents.

Take the time to get your permits in place. Connect with the professionals at and remember, always get it in writing.