Are you looking to do renovation on your property? That’s fabulous! But… There’s a little nagging detail that a lot of us don’t even realize we need which is a permit to construct with the City of Ottawa. 

But… you’re just looking to take down your kitchen wall and add a kitchen island? YUP, buckle up kids because you now require a permit to do so from the City. Seems a bit crazy right? 

It can get super complicated… it states that you don’t need a permit if you were to take down non-load bearing walls BUT if you were to take down that non-load bearing wall which would then alter the space of the room or change the use of the room, then you’d require one. 

Does your brain hurt a little? Yes, we get it… it’s a roller coaster of emotions. We’ve been there… Many times. 

Let’s attempt to break this down into steps, that we typically follow, to maybe succeed at adding a bit more simplicity to this process? 

Step 1: Establish, to the best of your ability, what the renovation entails. Write this out in as much detail as possible and, if you’re fancy, have a basic plan drawn out. 

Step 2: Understand that a lot of homeowners choose to not get any permits from the City of Ottawa when they do a renovation. They go this route because they know that the likelihood of the City catching them in the act is minimal. It may be minimal but it still exists and that is one of the reasons why we always suggest that you go through the process of getting the permit. Construction is a noisy game and you can become enemy #1 to your neighbours for that reason and if they discover that you don’t have a permit then they can report you to the City of Ottawa. Then you face JAIL TIME. Just kidding, you don’t face jail time but they can come inspect your property and serve you with a “stop work notice” which means that if you continue your work without getting your permit then you will be subject to a fine. 

Step 3: Do your own research… we got you! Start with this link below. Go through this entire document and cross reference your list of work with the items on this page. Check off the parts of your work that require a permit and the parts that don’t.

Step 4: Get an idea of what the cost is going to be… you guys, it’s the City of Ottawa… OF COURSE you have to pay for a building application to renovate your home. I know, I know… don’t even try to think about the logistics behind this because you will have a hard time coming to a conclusion. 

Once again, WE. GOT. YOU. Hit that link below for all the details you need to calculate how much the permit application will cost you. 

For a renovation/alteration you are looking at $10.50 per $1,000 spent on your renovation. 

Therefore if your renovation is $50,000:  

$50,000/$1,000 = $50 

$50 x $10.50 = $525

The cost of your application will be $525.

Step 5: Find yourself an architectural technologist and a structural engineer. You will require plans to be drawn up of the work that you are going to do. They want to see the existing floor plans and the renovations that will be completed. The architectural technologist will do the plans and the engineer will review, stamp & approve the plans. This can get expensive so expect anywhere from $1,000-$1,500 for this. 

Pro Tip: When you are the homeowner (this applies more so to detached homes versus condos as condos are considered complex buildings) you are able to draw the plans yourself and have a structural engineer review, stamp & approve the plans. This can save you some money! 

Step 6: Once you have the plans stamped & approved and ready for submission. Ensure that you have two copies from your engineer printed out, have your cheque ready for the permit application fee and print and fill out the application form which we’ve linked down below for you. This may have already been completed by your engineer but if not, fill it out and ask them for assistance and to double check it before submission.

Step 7: Time to submit! As I’m writing this blog it’s during a time that is very complicated and different from when you could just walk into the Building Code Services office and drop it off. Check the link before to stay up to date with what their protocol is. Currently they are asking that you make an appointment online to submit the application.

Pro Tip: We cannot guarantee this will always work but the last two times we submitted our application we just showed up at 101 Centrepointe Drive and drove to the very back of the building where they have a mail room. You can buzz in and we dropped it off requesting they bring it to Building Code Services and they accepted both times. This doesn’t work at 110 Laurier Avenue West. 

Step 8: If you don’t hear from them in a week then reach out to them via e-mail (they do not answer the phone) with your name and ask that they confirm they’ve received it. We also recommend that you check up on your application at least every week or week and a half to ensure it’s moving forward. 

Step 9: Your permit application is reviewed by someone who specializes in your type of housing so whomever is assigned your application may reach out to you with any questions or issues. You can forward these questions along to your engineer to help answer and quicken the process. 

Step 10: Once completed, you will receive your Building Permit via e-mail. It is recommended that you attach a copy outside your door. 

Step 11: When your renovation is complete you will inform the inspector with the City of Ottawa that is listed on your Building Permit. The inspector will then set up a time with you to visit the property to do a walkthrough to ensure that the renovation is complete with no issues. From that point you will finally receive the final inspection report stating the work is complete and the file is closed. 

WHAT A TIME EH?! I hope that writing it out in these steps has simplified this process for you. Renovations can be so much fun and the final product makes everything worth it so don’t let the administrative side of it dissuade you! 

As always I am available for any questions you may have about this process. I am so happy to help you in your process of renovating as we know how difficult it can be doing it for the first time. 

Final Pro Tip: If it says you don’t need a permit for something on the website then you don’t need a permit. If you ask the City of Ottawa if you need anything for a permit (even if it explicitly says you don’t need one) they will likely say that you need one. 

Alex Harden

Managing Partner, Real Estate