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DIY Renovations and Building Permits- What Waterloo Region Homeowners Should Know

building permits

With winter over and the warm weather returning, in addition to the annual Spring clean many residents of the Waterloo Region are likely also planning to take advantage of the better weather to get some serious weekend DIY work done.

And why not? This a great time to do some home improvements, especially for those planning to put their Waterloo Region home on the market for sale sometime soon. And thanks to the Internet and the increase in the number of home stores in our region many homeowners DIY projects have become more complicated and adventurous. You’ll now find people building their own decks, replacing their own windows, doing their own interior renovations and more.

However, before you fire up the YouTube DIY instructional videos and head of to the local home store for supplies there is one important question you need to ask yourself before you begin; does the work I’m about to begin require a building permit?

What is a Building Permit?

Building permits are your formal permission to begin construction, demolition, addition or renovation of your property. As part of the building permit process, your local Building Division requires that you submit plans for their review so that they can ensure that they properly comply with the Ontario Building Code, local Zoning Bylaws, and other Applicable Law.

A Building Permit for DIY, Really?

Most people assume that they only need a building permit if very significant changes are being made to their home. However, did you know that in our Region you do need a building permit if you are planning to add a new fireplace to your home? Or decks or porches 24 inches (or more) above grade? You may be even more surprised to learn that finishing a basement or attic or even knocking out an interior wall calls for a building permit too.

Other projects that are likely to require building permits in the Waterloo Region include all of the following:

  • Interior structural alterations
    Sunrooms
    Attached or detached garages, sheds or carports
    Installation of irrigation systems
    Installation or repair of storm, sanitary or water services
    Work on plumbing or drains
    New or alterations to windows or doors, such as increasing the opening size
    Repairs of existing or installing new septic systems
    Retaining walls greater than 1 meter, depending on location

While for many of these projects you may enlist the help of a professional for at least part of the project it’s actually still your responsibility to ensure that the right building permits are applied for and obtained.

Getting Your Building Permit

So you think you might need a permit? For homes in the Waterloo Region, the best place to start the process is here. Follow the link and you’ll find all the right contact information for the Building Divisions of:

  • City of Cambridge
    City of Kitchener
    City of Waterloo
    Township of North Dumfries
    Township of Wilmot
    Township of Wellesley
    Township of Woolwich

The staff at the appropriate office covering your home should be able to tell you if a building permit might be required for your planned project or not. Even if you think you don’t need a permit it may be wise to call and make sure, after all, it’s better to be safe than sorry (and facing fines and penalties)

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