Basement Finishing: Do You Need a Permit?

Jul 19, 2022 | Blog

Renovating your basement into a finished living space can be a massive undertaking. Since it is a renovation of an existing structure, you might not think you need a permit…but you actually do.

When it comes to a basement finishing, you do need a permit if it entails installation of new plumbing and electrical wiring and fixtures. You don’t need a permit if no structural alterations are planned.

Still confused? Below, we go into more detail about whether you need a building permit to finish your basement in Ontario.

Do I Need a Permit to Finish a Basement in Ontario?

A building permit is required for a number of different projects, including renovating a basement into a finished space. Each municipality regulates the design and permission for a building permit. In cases where a permit is not required, you still need to abide by the local municipality’s by-laws.

For example, in Toronto, you do not need a basement permit when no additional dwellings are built, when there are no material or structural alterations, or when the original plumbing remains intact.

But a permit is required for structural alterations, an addition, changes or replacement of heating and plumbing systems, or excavation work. With basement finishing projects that include the installation of an entrance or chimney, as well as a partial or full underpinning, a permit is required.

The regulations and guidelines for obtaining a permit also require a home assessment to be completed by a certified inspector. This evaluation outlines the scope of the project, requires architectural drawings and measurements, and includes permit-related details. The paperwork required varies depending on the municipality.

A permit application also provides direct and indirect information on building by-laws, trade codes, and zoning regulations.

Do I Need a Permit to Put a Kitchen in My Basement?

Many homeowners may want to maximize the space in their basement by including a kitchen. Whether the basement renovation is for the purpose of creating a rental opportunity or for more living space, a kitchen can be a great addition to a basement renovation.

You need a permit to put a kitchen in your basement.

Just as a permit is required when you completely remodel your home’s main kitchen, adding one to the basement will require you to follow the same building rules and regulations. With a kitchen addition downstairs, plumbing and electrical utilities need to be installed. Adding and removing a window, an entryway, and a wall also calls for a building permit to be obtained.

Do I Need a Permit to Build a Bathroom in My Basement?

Just like you need a permit for a kitchen addition, the same applies for a bathroom. If you add any new plumbing or electrical or replace any plumbing and/or electrical wiring, you will be required to get a permit.

The Ontario Building Code rules clearly state the reasoning behind the regulation in regard to safety and health standards.

In addition, the guidelines entail any change to the inner structure such as the movement of walls, restructure of staircases, and any work that includes attachments or changes to the foundation of a home or structure.

What Happens if You Finish the Basement Without a Permit?

Building and restructuring permits exist for a reason. They are there to protect your safety and ensure the integrity of the building/new structure. Even if the homeowner decides to save money and time by doing a DIY basement finishing, a permit is still required.

What happens if you finish the basement without a permit? A homeowner, and well-formed contractor, can face fines of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

If all the necessary permits are not obtained, the renovation project will be halted and/or may even be cancelled. The homeowner may be required to pay a hefty fine and will be out the money already spent on work started or completed. If part of the project is already completed, the homeowner may even be required to remove or reverse the work in order to comply with the municipality and province.

Furthermore, without a permit the homeowner may not be able to sell the property if there is no legal documentation for the work performed. Back taxes on a structure that was later uncovered to have work completed without a permit will need to be paid with a substantial amount of interest accrued.

Home insurance companies can void an insurance policy on a home if they discover that legal permits were not obtained. This includes any portion of the structure that was not directly affected by the renovation.

How Much is a Basement Permit in Ontario?

As with any form of renovation or construction project, the cost of permits is based on the scope of the work. Each municipality has a different range of prices. For example, in Ottawa, the rate stands at $10.75 for every $1,000 worth of construction value. This encompasses the total cost of material, overhead, labour, and any professional fees.

In Toronto, the permit costs are categorized starting at $300 for finishing a basement. The separate costs include permit application, a permit for plumbing, a permit for HVAC, a permit for basement construction, and a permit for the plans.

Who Handles Getting the Permit?

The homeowner is essentially responsible for any permits on their premises. That being said, obtaining a permit may require architectural and construction plans. A reputable contracting firm will help guide the homeowner through the process and obtain the proper documents that are required.

Contact Elite Construction and Renovations for Basement Renovations

When considering a basement finishing project, contact the building experts at Elite Construction and Renovations. Our years of experience have gained us our reputation as one of the leading design/build experts in the GTA.

We have a team of project managers, designers, and architects to help manage all of your permits, design, construction, and finishing needs. Our two-year workmanship guarantee is proof. Call us today to learn more!

Jay McDonald

Jay McDonald

Jay McDonald, general contractor and owner of Elite Construction & Renovations, has over 20 years of construction experience. He has completed various Ontario Building Code and Business Management courses from George Brown College and has managed over $50 million-dollars-worth of construction in his career.