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Building permit Q&A

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Q: Do I need a permit?
A: In most jurisdictions, simple repairs, roof replacements and re-siding does not require a permit.  Any renovations that affect the structure of a house, such as expanding windows, replacing bedroom windows, or adding to the square footage of a house, will require a permit, regardless of where you live. The same goes with new construction.
However, if you live outside a municipality,  or within one of the four municipalities we serve (St. George, Saint Andrews, Harvey, McAdam) you may only need what’s called a “development permit,” which at $50 is often less expensive – and less onerous – than a building permit. In non-incorporated areas, you are able to erect small buildings – like chicken coops – without a permit.
The best practice is to call your local planning office before you build/renovate/repair: for St. Stephen, St. George, Saint Andrews, McAdam, Harvey, and all other non-incorporated areas, that's us, the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission's planning office, at 466-7369. More details in this pdf document.

Downloadable Building/Development Permit form

Q: OK, who do I call to find out if I need a permit?
For Blacks Harbour, Grand Manan and Campobello, call your village/town office. For everywhere else, call the Southwest New Brunswick Service Commission - that's us - at (506)-466-7369.

Q: What is a development permit?
A: In non-incorporated areas, if you’re building a camp (less than 625 square feet) or a barn/garage/storage unit that is both less than 2,100 square feet and has a truss span of less than 32 feet, you only need a development permit. It costs $50. I the four municipal areas we serve, small sheds/garages of 600 square feet or less can also be constructed with a development permit.

Q: My, er, friend, started building something without a permit. Now what?
A: First off, just to be on the safe side, tell your friend that it's best to pause construction. Then you, er, that is, your friend, should contact your local planning department.  Again, for St. Stephen, St. George, Saint Andrews, McAdam, Harvey and all non-incorporated areas from Lepreau to Harvey, that's us. If there are no issues with where and what being constructed, we can, in most cases, process a permit application in a day or two and get people back to work. 

Q: I want to use milled lumber. Can I?
A: We know the lumber produced by local mills is solid stuff, but the Canadian Building Code requires that construction use stamped lumber. That said, some buildings do not need to conform to Code, like development permit sheds or small garages in non-incorporated areas. Also, if you're renovating an old home and need to replace some old timbers with milled product of the same size, we may be able to approve that. Ultimately, it’s up to your local building inspector to make the call – ask permission first.
If you are absolutely dead-set on using milled lumber, then you need to have it graded by a licenced grader OR have the construction plans approved by a structural engineer licenced to work in the province.

Q: What does Code require for insulation?
A: For southern New Brunswick, R50 in attics, R17 effective in walls (fibreglas filling a 2x6 wall cavity will suffice), R26.5 in floors over unheated space or cathedral ceilings. Of course, a builder or homeowner can have more insulation. (And when it comes to cathedral ceilings, we strongly recommend it.) In any event, insulation is a wise investment that will pay off in the long run.

Q: I want to build on a concrete slab. That’s OK, right?
A: Maybe - maybe not: residential homes (not minihomes) and some large garages need engineered plans for a slab. In general, garages and small accessory structures can be built without a slab, or on a slab that does not require an engineer's set of drawings. Once more, call your local planning office for specifics.

Q: What does a building inspector do, and why should I care?
A: Building inspectors will look at new construction (and significant renovations) to ensure building conforms to the current national building codes. They are trained to evaluate fire safety, structural safety, appropriate heating and ventilation, proper installation of smoke detectors/alarms, proper installation of carbon monoxide alarms (if needed) and much, much more. In simple terms, their job is to make sure that construction is safe for use. 

Q: Does my new building need to be inspected?
A: Maybe. If you’re building with a development permit, or doing minor renovations, no. If you have a building permit, you’ll have received guidance on what needs inspections, and when. As a rule, new homes require three inspections: before backfilling foundations, before installing drywall, and before final occupancy.

Q: Who is responsible for inspections?
A: Ultimately, it’s the property owner. That said, a good contractor/builder will take care of things. We require three inspections for new construction (sometimes more.) Your permit will tell you when to call us for an inspection.

Q: I'm just putting in a new business into an existing building. I don't need a permit, right?
A: Actually, you may. All building regulations make note of the need for a permit for alterations to a building, which include change of use. In our world, this means changing from a major occupancy to another (such as going from a residential to an office use, or from office to a restaurant.) There are Code requirements for changes of use that must be applied - like exit requirements and so on.