This is a question that sometimes gets asked when extensive garage renovations are being undertaken. It’s a valid and pertinent question and one that, despite some of the differing nuances in language and minor specifications in the various municipalities that make up the Lower Mainland, has basically the same answer no matter where you live.
Because nicer weather is beginning to drive home owners out to their garages, be it for building and tinkering purposes or simply for hanging out, it’s the time of year that garage renovations pick up steam. Tailored Living does all kinds of different garage transformations, from Man Caves to workshops to basic all-purpose rooms for parking the car and storing tools and sporting gear. In the vast majority of garage renos that we are involved in here in the Greater Vancouver area, no building permits are required.
We strongly urge home owners to do their due diligence and check with their city office if they suspect that they may be doing renovations that require a permit. That being said, there are some general rules of thumb that you can apply when planning your garage reno (or any other home renovation for that matter). You will most likely need a building permit if:
* You plan to add onto an existing structure.
* You want to move any walls or partitions.
* You must move any lines such as plumbing, gas or electrical.
* You are making repairs or changes to the structure itself.
* You are adding, removing or moving doors or windows.
* You are changing the primary use of your garage space, i.e. converting your garage into a permanent living space (rather than a place to park and store household items).
You may also be required to get a trade permit along with a building permit. Trade permits are often required for alterations on or significant changes to electrical systems, gas systems, plumbing systems and sprinkler systems.
Another thing you need to be aware of when planning a garage renovation or other room or home renos is that, in order to undertake certain kinds of renovations, your municipality may require you to install entirely new systems or components you weren’t planning for. Sometimes these installations may even apply to other parts of the house that aren’t part of the space you are renovating. For example, one Greater Vancouver home owner wanted to make renovations to his family room area, including an addition. However, in order to comply with local code, the homeowner would have had to install a sprinkler system in his whole 1970’s-built home in order to comply. This requirement would have cost the home owner more than double what the basic renovation to the room would have cost and simply made the project unfeasible. Instead, he made significant changes to his plans and decided to forgo the addition in order to be able to get a cosmetic upgrade without having to install the sprinkler system.
In general, it can all be boiled down to a basic rule of thumb: if the changes that you are making to your garage are “cosmetic” and not structural, you will not be required to get any permits. If, however, you are adding to, upgrading, repairing or changing the basic structure or those crucial systems mentioned previously, this will likely require you to get a permit and, subsequently, an inspection to ensure that all new work is up to the current code in your municipality. As we already mentioned, most of the garage renovations that Tailored Living does in Greater Vancouver are considered “cosmetic” and do not require any permits. However, it’s always prudent to check with the municipal authority, just in case.