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Do You Need a Permit to Finish a Basement in Ontario

Renovating your home can be an intense but exciting project to undertake. Finishing your basement can have many favorable impacts on the functionality and resale value of your home. However, if you want to avoid fees, penalties, and headaches that come along with dealing with municipal officials, it is in your best interest to research whether you will need a building permit or not. But that’s why you’re reading this article, so you are heading in the right direction!

Some cities do not require building permits for finishing your basement, however, most do (just like most states require permits for these projects). This article will outline all you need to know if you are considering finishing your basement in Ontario.

Finishing your basement is classified as a renovation. In Ontario, all renovations should be permitted, so you will need a permit to finish your basement in Ontario. Each municipality has the specific details for obtaining a permit in that city.

Renovations Require a Building Permit

Building permits are there to protect you and your neighbors from any potential health and safety hazards. Your city’s municipality will go over your building plans to ensure they are up to code and comply with specific regulations.

The province of Ontario requires a building permit for any renovations, additions, repairs, and alterations to a home. This is the general rule for Ontario and finishing a basement is considered to be a renovation.

Building permit Written on Blue Key of Metallic Keyboard. Finger pressing key

Related article: How to Get Permit for Already Finished Basement

General Application Information

Just the thought of filling out any government application is enough to trigger anxiety in any person, let alone those predisposed to this mental state!

Take a deep breath and relax; the government of Ontario has created a really informative website that will guide you every step along the way.

Let’s look at the general process that you can expect to follow.

  • First, you will need to download your specific city’s application from your municipalities website and fill in the relevant information. Your application will also outline what documents you might need to attach, for instance, your building plans, as well as how much your permit will cost.
  • After you submit your application, your municipal office will review it. They will go over your renovation plans in-depth to ensure they are up to code and abide by the city’s rules and regulations. You can expect to hear whether your permit to finish your basement is accepted or declined in under two weeks.
  • If all is up to the correct standard, your permit will likely be granted and you are A-for-away! However, sometimes your permit can be refused.
  • However, you won’t be left wondering what happened, as the municipal officials will outline exactly why your application was declined. There could have been issues with compliance to building codes, or compliance to specific laws. Either way, you will be granted the opportunity to appeal their decision with a higher authority.
  • Once the permit for finishing your basement has been granted, you will be expected to make an appointment with a municipal inspector. He or she will make a visit to your home to ensure that your basement renovations are in line with the plans you submitted, and you have not made any unauthorized changes.
Typeface text on a keyboard keycap that reads "Know The Rules"

Municipality Determines Process and Requirements

Although your application and renovation plans will be subject to the laws and regulations set out by the government, each city’s municipality will determine their specific process and requirement for attaining building permits.

There will be clear instructions on how much you can expect to pay for a permit, how long it will take to receive feedback, who can apply for what permits, and what penalties you can expect for failing to comply.

I’m going to take you through two cities in Ontario: Ottawa and Toronto. If you stay in either of these cities, then great! You will have all the information at your fingertips. If you live in another city, I hope that this at least gives you an indication of what to expect and where to look for information that is applicable for you.


The city of Ottawa has its own specifications and requirements when it comes to applying for building permits.

Cost of Building PermitCost is determined by multiplying $10.75 per thousand dollar value of your entire construction value (total cost of labor, materials, and other fees).
Feedback TimeYou can expect to hear about the outcome of your application in as little as 5 days.
Required DocumentsThe completed application, proof of paid fee, and two complete sets of clear drawing plans. Here is a checklist for precisely what you need.
InspectionsYou will be required to contact the inspector to assess your construction at various phases of your renovation.
Methods for Submitting ApplicationYou can either hand deliver your application and the necessary documents in person to a handful of offices, but for your basement renovation, you can submit your application via email to
Flags of Ottawa and Toronto over a building under construction


In Toronto, you only need to apply for a building permit for your basement renovation if you plan on making any kind of structural changes to the basement. This includes altering or adding any plumbing, heating, and electrical systems as well as fixing the foundation or adding an entrance to the basement.

Below you will find a table outlining exactly what you need to know when you are required to apply for a building permit.

Cost of PermitsYou can expect to pay around a minimum of $300 for all the permits you will need to finish your basement
$8.60 to certify your plans
$14.60 to obtain a permit for the plans
$5.73 for a permit to finish a basement
$250.22 for new HVAC work done.
$21.45 for plumbing work.
Required DocumentsYour completed application, all detailed drawing plans, and the required fees.
Methods to ApplyYou can apply via email, or in person with your required documents on a USB–no paper applications are accepted.
InspectionsYou will need to contact your municipality’s inspector so that he or she can come to your home at the required inspection stages.
Feedback TimeYou can expect to hear back from the Toronto Building Department in about two weeks after submitting your application.

If you are still trying to decide if you should finish your basement, why not read a bit about the potential benefits and drawbacks related to specific uses of finished basements:

Related article: Do You Need a Permit to Finish a Basement in Alberta

Related article: Do You Need a Permit to Finish a Basement in Maryland


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