Building permit Q&A
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.
In rural areas, small accessory buildings of 20 m2 (about 210 square feet) can be built without having to meet Code. If you live 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. These structures do not have to meet code, and be up to 600 square feet in size. However, this provision will expire by February of 2022, if not sooner, as municipal governments re-write building bylaws to reflect new provincial legislation brought in Feb. 1, 2021.
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.
Q: OK, who do I call to find out if I need a permit?
A: 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: 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. Under current provincial regulations, any small accessory building (not used for sleeping) that is less than 20m2 in area (about 215 ft2) does not have to meet Code - so milled lumber can be used in this situation. 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 in home or other structure under Code, 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 (fibreglass 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 may 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 - but only those less than 55m2 (592 square feet). Minihomes can sometimes be placed on a contractor-built slab as long as they conform to a standard called Z240 MH - which most do. 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: 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. Provincial regulations specifically refer to changes of occupancy requiring a permit. That's because the building codes have different regulations for exits, fire safety and the like, based on what the building will be used for (a restaurant has more safety requirements than an office, for example.) More on changes of occupancy here.