You are here

Building Permit FAQ

How do I apply for a Building Permit?

An application for a  Building Permit Application is available on-line or may be obtained from the Building & By-law Division office at City Hall. This application must be fully completed and signed before it will be accepted.

A complete application for a Building Permit will include:

  • completed Building Permit Application [Adobe Acrobat PDF] (46 kb) signed by the property owner or the owner’s authorised agent (usually the general contractor);
  • two complete sets of construction drawings;
  • a site plan, if required;
  • building permit application fee ; and
  • payment of any other charges and fees for services that may be applicable.

Submit the completed application form with the required information to the Building & By-law Division.

Once you submit a complete application for a Building Permit, the application is reviewed by Building & By-law staff who assess the application for compliance with the City’s zoning by-law, conformity with the Ontario Building Code, service connections, and any other factors which might apply to your specific project.

If, in the process of reviewing the application, it is found that additional information is required or that there are errors or corrections that need to be made, you will be advised specifically what is required. You should respond to requests for information promptly to avoid unnecessary delays in obtaining your Building Permit.

Once a complete application is received, it usually takes between 10 and 30 days to review plans for construction and prepare a permit for issuance, depending on the project. Your Building Permit will be issued when all necessary approvals have been obtained and all fees have been paid.

The Building Permit must be posted in plain view on the construction site for the building inspector to verify at all times. You must also keep a complete set of the approved permit drawings and documents on-site for use by the building inspector.

Please read the permit documents thoroughly before starting construction. The construction must comply with the plans and documents issued with your permit. Any changes to the approved construction drawings must be reported to and approved by the CBO. Contact Building & By-law staff immediately should you decide to modify the construction plans; depending on the degree of change, revisions can lead to serious complications.

Why is a Building Permit needed?

The Building & By-law Division requires Building Permits to ensure structures are safe with respect to public health, fire protection and structural sufficiency.  A permit ensures that the construction meets the minimum standards set out in the Ontario Building Code.  Before the start of any construction project a Building Permit must be issued.  To commence without a Building Permit is illegal and a Provincial Offence under the Ontario Building Code Act; a penalty fee will be added to the Permit cost. The CBO is empowered to stop construction work where there is non-compliance with the Building Code or municipal by-laws.

When is a Building Permit required?

Building Permits are required to erect, install, extend, alter and/or repair any existing or new building or structure; there are only a few minor exceptions. As a rule of thumb, you should assume a permit is required for any construction or alteration to any building or structure. You should always obtain assistance from Building & By-law staff before proceeding.

Here are some examples of when a Building Permit is required:

  • New construction, including accessory buildings (i.e., detached garages, tool sheds, playhouses, etc.) - over l0 metres squared (107 square feet) in area
  • Additions - of any size to existing buildings (i.e., sunrooms, porches, carports, garages, dormers, second storeys, etc.)
  • Any structural work (i.e., alterations to interior partitions, new skylights, windows, doors, patio doors, interior alterations, basement walls, foundations, floors, roof structures, built-up roofs or dormers, etc.)
  • Construction or finishing of rooms in the basement or attic
  • Any interior work of a multiple dwelling (contains more than one dwelling unit) that may affect means of egress, fire separations or access to exits
  • Decks - greater than 24 inches (600 mm) above adjacent finished grade, attached to buildings, or over l0 metres squared (107 square feet) in area
  • Enclosing a porch or deck
  • Raising a house or excavating a crawl space to provide a full basement
  • Fireplaces and other heating appliances (i.e., wood stoves, chimneys, etc.)
  • Chimneys and flues
  • Retaining walls exceeding 1 metre in height
  • Swimming pools - above or in ground - to ensure that the requirements of the zoning by-law, fence by-law and grading requirements are met
  • Substantial material alterations - alterations to or new exit facilities, fire separations, fire protection systems (i.e., fire alarms, sprinklers, standpipes)
  • Changes in use - to a use with an increased hazard (i.e., from residential to retail)
  • Prefabricated buildings - over l0 metres squared (107 square feet) in area (i.e., portable classrooms, kiosks, garages, tool sheds, patio roofs/enclosures)
  • Plumbing - alterations or new plumbing systems as well as water & sewer installations where applicable (homeowners may install their own plumbing; if you plan to hire a contractor ensure the contractor is licensed by the City of Owen Sound for the type of work to be performed)
  • Demolition
  • Permanent tents and temporary event tents
  • Any other building or structure designated by the Building Code as well as any relocated structure

This list should not be considered all inclusive. If this list does not include your project and you are not sure whether a permit will be required, you are strongly encouraged to review the proposed project with the Building & By-law Division before proceeding. All buildings, accessory buildings, decks and similar structures are required to meet certain restrictions as set out in the Zoning By-Law. These restrictions apply whether a Building Permit is required or not.

When is a Building Permit not required?

A Building Permit is not required for a detached accessory building in a residential zone that is l0 metres squared (107 square feet) in area or less, however, all buildings must conform to the Zoning By-Law; these restrictions apply whether a Building Permit is required or not, so check with the Planning Division. For non-residential zones, check with the Planning Division whether site plan approval is required. A Building Permit is not usually required for the following on single residential buildings, depending on the scope of the work; if your project is listed, or is for a multi-residential or non-residential building, please discuss the details with Building & By-law staff prior to starting construction

  • painting and decorating
  • kitchen or bathroom cupboards
  • landscaping (any grade alteration or planned change of a watercourse requires approval from the Engineering Services Division
  • roof re-shingling
  • replacement of siding
  • eavestrough
  • damp-proofing basement
  • minor repair to brick or block masonry
  • replacement of existing windows or doors

If this list does not include your project and you are not sure whether a permit will be required, you are strongly encouraged to review the proposed project with Building & By-law staff before proceeding.

What about Plumbing?

A Plumbing Permit is a form of Building Permit and is required for the installation of piping, drains, sewers and plumbing fixtures. Similar to building permits, you make application for a Plumbing Permit to the Building & By-law Division. You should discuss your planned project with the City’s Plumbing Inspector before obtaining your permit.

What information is required in support of a Building Permit Application?

Building Permit applications must be accompanied by plans/drawings (drawn to scale) clearly depicting the nature and extent of the proposed work. Typical drawing requirements include floor plans, framing plans, foundation plans, cross sections, elevations and a site plan. The level of detail provided in the plans must be sufficient for staff to review the proposal from the permit submission to determine whether the proposed work conforms to all applicable regulations.

Site plans must be referenced to a current plan of survey certified by a registered Ontario Land Surveyor. A copy of a survey must be submitted with the Building Permit application for any major project. For minor additions and alterations site plans showing outlines and dimensions of the property, driveways, existing and proposed buildings may be accepted.

For new houses, additions, accessory buildings over l0 metres squared (107 square feet) in area, swimming pools and any other project which may alter the drainage of the property, a lot grading and drainage plan is required. It is reviewed by Engineering Services; a copy of the Application for Review may be found at:

For buildings designated in the Building Code Act as requiring to be designed by an architect or professional engineer or both, these documents will be required:

All construction plans must be drawn to scale, fully dimensioned and of professional quality. Sample drawings of the minimum amount of information and quality to be submitted include:

How does the Zoning By-law affect construction projects?

During the preliminary planning stage of your project, you must determine the zoning by-law rules that apply to your property. Zoning by-laws regulate the use, size, location and types of buildings permitted on property in the City. The City of Owen Sound Zoning By-law contains a wide array of land use and development regulations that must be met before a property can be used or a building erected. The regulations address such matters as:

  • Permitted land uses within different parts of the City
  • Setbacks of buildings from property lines
  • Setbacks of buildings from lands zoned hazardous
  • Building heights (usually from the ground in front of the building)
  • Building floor areas (can be defined as minimums or maximums)
  • Lot coverage (usually a maximum percentage of the lot that may be covered by buildings)
  • Accessory uses and buildings (i.e., pools and utility sheds)
  • Home occupations and outside storage
  • Required municipal services (water and sanitary sewer services)
  • Parking requirements


Website by the City of Owen Sound | Website Policy