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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions - Building Inspections

General
What does a Building Permit cost?
How long does it take to process a Building Permit?
How long is a Building Permit active?

Homeowner Questions
When do I need a Building Permit?
Getting a Building Permit (Video)

Woodstoves
How do I get my woodstove inspected?
How far does my woodstove have to be from the wall?
How is the clearance measured?
What if my stove doesn't have a label?
Where is the non-combustible pad under the appliance required?
Can I use my existing chimney?

Demolishing/Moving Buildings
Do I need a permit to demolish a building?
What is required for a demolition permit?
What do I do with the sewer and water connections when I demolish a building?
How do I move a house within or into the City of Nanaimo?

Garages, Accessory Building, and Sheds
What information is required for an accessory or garage building permit?
Do I need to apply for a Building Permit for a shed?
Will I need a conventional foundation supporting my garage?
Where can I locate my accessory building?
Do I need a Building Permit for a deck or deck railings?
What information is required for a Building Permit for a Deck?
Do I need a Building Permit to replace my deck railing?

Commercial Projects: New Construction
What information is required for a Commercial, Industrial or Multifamily Building Permit?
When is a geotechnical report required?
When does a building require sprinklers (for fire suppression)?
When are Development Cost Charges (DCCs) collected?
What types of projects are exempt from Development Cost Charges (DCCs)?

Commercial Projects: Alterations / Tenant Improvements
When do I require an architect?
When do I need an engineer for changes to an existing building's sprinkler system?
When is Public Health approval required?
What do Building Inspections and Planning & Design review in applications for Business Licences?

General

What does a Building Permit cost?

The main portion of the permit fee is based on the value of construction. See our Guide to Residential Building Permit Applications .

How long does it take to process a Building Permit?

We are committed to a maximum 3-week processing time for residential permits (new houses, additions, alterations, and accessory buildings) provided you make a complete application. In slow periods, these may be processed much faster.

Tenant improvement permits also have a 3-week maximum processing time.

Smaller commercial permits without development permit or off-site works and services take 3-5 weeks, provided the application is complete.

Large commercial permits, including development permits and/or off-site works and services, vary from one project to the next. A pre-application meeting with our Planning and Building representatives can be arranged by calling 755-4429. During this meeting, the processing time for the permit can be estimated.

How long is a Building Permit active?

The application remains active for 12 months from application date. Once a permit is issued, it remains active for 2 years, subject to the first inspection being made within 6 months from permit issue date and the construction not being suspended for more than 12 months.

All permits expire 2 years after the date of permit issuance.

It is possible to renew a permit for an additional 2 years. Again construction must not be suspended for more than 12 months, (i.e. the process does not begin again).

Homeowner Questions

When do I need a Building Permit?

Building Permits are required for the construction of:

  • any detached building over 107.64 ft2 / 10 m2
  • any structural alterations, additions, demolitions, or layout changes
  • any construction that will result in a change of use of a portion of the house

Getting a Building Permit

Woodstoves

How do I get my woodstove inspected?

If inspection of an existing wood burning appliance is desired or required, it is recommended the inspection be done by a WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) certified inspector. New installation must be done by a WETT-certified installer if the appliance is part of a new home or renovation to be approved by Building Inspections.

A list of WETT-certified professionals is located on the WETT web site.

How far does my woodstove have to be from the wall?

Clearances are regulated by CAN/CSA-B365-M91, Installation Code for Solid-Fuel-Burning Appliances and Equipment.

Appliances are tested and certified by CSA, Wharnock-Hersey or Underwriters Laboratory of Canada. A label showing the distances from combustible materials of which the appliance was tested is usually attached to the appliance, most often at the back.

The appliance must be installed in accordance with the specifications on the label. It may be possible to install brick, ceramic or sheet metal shielding on your walls or ceiling and reduce the required clearance.

How is the clearance measured?

Clearance is measured from the wall surface. If a shield is installed to protect a wall that is considered to be combustible, the clearance is still measured from the wall.

What if my stove doesn't have a label?

A wood-burning appliance without a label cannot be approved as meeting the installation guidelines as the appliance has no proof of certification.

Where is the non-combustible pad under the appliance required?

The pad under the stove is required to protect the floor from embers when you open the door. The pad must extend 18 inches from the appliance at the loading side and 8 inches on the other sides.

Can I use my existing chimney?

A solid-fuel-burning appliance must be connected to either a masonry chimney conforming to the BC Building Code or a factory-built chimney conforming to ULC standard S629.

In many cases, the existing chimney (masonry or metal) may not conform to current standards. An inspection by a qualified mason/installer prior to considering installation of a solid-fuel-burning appliance is recommended.

For more information contact the Building Inspections Section at 250-755-4429.

Demolishing/Moving Buildings

Do I need a permit to demolish a building?

A separate Demolition Permit is required to demolish a building, unless you already have an active Building Permit for reconstruction that includes the demolition work.

What is required for a demolition permit?

  • An application from the building owner or his/her agent.
  • A security, of $750.00 for residential or $1000.00 for commercial buildings, against damage to City property during demolition.
  • $100.00 fee for disconnection of water.
  • $40.00 fee for single family dwellings and $100.00 fee for all other buildings.

Please see our Demolition Information on the Publications & Forms page.

What do I do with the sewer and water connections when I demolish a building?

The City of Nanaimo Public Works Department will come to cap the water service and remove the meter. The property owner should specify the disconnection time frame at permit issuance.

You are responsible to cap the sanitary and storm sewers at the inspection risers and call the Plumbing Inspector for an inspection before you cover the pipes.

How do I move a house within or into the City of Nanaimo?

Not all buildings will be appropriate for relocation within Nanaimo.

There are requirements to be addressed through building permit for structural adequacy, building value, foundation, additions, decks, porches, etc.

See our Dwelling Relocation Permit guide.

Garages, Accessory Buildings, and Sheds

What information is required for an accessory or garage building permit?

Applications must include the following:

  • Building permit application form
  • 2 sets of plans on 11x17” minimum paper size (graph / lined paper is not accepted):
    • Site plan (survey by a British Columbia Land Surveyor (BCLS) may be required for setbacks and / or height depending on design)
    • Foundation / Floor Plan
    • Elevations views (4)
    • Cross-Section view
  • Truss layout including point loads & engineered beams (if applicable)

A sample set of plans is included in our guide, Accessory Building Requirements and Sample Plan. The sample plans are an example of the expected level of detail & information required for a building permit application.

Do I need to apply for a building permit for a shed?

Detached buildings under 10 m² (107.64 ft²) do not require a building permit, but must comply with the setback requirements set out in the Zoning Bylaw 4500 for accessory buildings. All construction and additions to existing buildings require a building permit prior to commencing construction.

Will I need a conventional foundation supporting my garage?

Buildings less than 55 m² (592 ft²) in building area do not require a conventional foundation. Larger buildings require a conventional footing and foundation wall design as per BC Building Code 9.15. An example foundation is included with the example plans on the Cross-Section drawing in our guide Accessory Building – Construction Requirements.

Where can I locate my accessory building?

The location of an accessory building is subject to setback requirements, which is regulated through Zoning Bylaw 4500. Refer to our guide, Accessory Building Requirements and Sample Plan, for more information.

Do I need a Building Permit for a deck?

A Building Permit is required to build a new deck and to rebuild an existing deck. In the following circumstances, a Permit is not required:

  • the deck is not part of the principle entrance into your dwelling; and
  • the deck is not more than two feet above grade within four feet of the edge of the deck; and
  • the deck is not covered with a roof; and
  • the deck is not attached to the dwelling; and
  • where an existing deck (previously approved under a building permit) requires only minor repairs.

Restrictive covenants (registered on title), water course and riparian setbacks, utility right-of-ways, and distances to property lines may affect the location of your deck, whether a Building Permit is required or not. Determining if any of these factors will affect the location of your deck is the responsibility of the home owner.

Do I need a Building Permit to replace my deck railing?

A Building Permit is not required to replace deck railings previously approved under a Building Permit. The current 2012 British Columbia Building Code is applicable to all structures built in the province and the home owner is responsible to ensure the railing meets the requirements of the Code. See Deck Addition Example for an example of a Code-compliant railing.

Can I place a container on my property?

Yes, but there are restrictions. Please refer to Zoning Bylaw 4500 for more information.

Can I place a fabric-covered shed on my property?

Yes, see Zoning Bylaw 4500 for more information.

What information is required for a Building Permit for a deck?

Applications must include the following:

  • Building Permit application form
  • 2 sets of plans on 11x17” minimum paper size (graph / lined paper is not accepted):
    • Site plan [survey by a British Columbia Land Surveyor (BCLS) may be required for setbacks depending on design]
    • Foundation / Floor Plan
    • Elevation view
    • Cross-Section view
  • Layout including point loads and engineered beams (if applicable)

See our guide Deck Addition Example for a sample of the expected level of detail and information required for a Building Permit application.

Can I place a container on my property?

Yes, but there are restrictions. Please refer to Zoning Bylaw 4500 for more information.

Can I place a fabric-covered shed on my property?

Yes, see Zoning Bylaw 4500 for more information.

Commercial Projects: New Construction

What information is required for a Commercial, Industrial or Multifamily Building Permit?

See our Commercial/Multifamily/Industrial Part 3 Building Permit Application Checklist and our Commercial/Multifamily/Industrial Part 9 Building Permit Application Checklist.

When is a geotechnical report required?

The Local Government Act states that "a building inspector may require an engineering report when construction is proposed on land that may be subject to flood, mud flows, debris torrents, erosion, landslip, rock falls, subsidence or avalanche". In Nanaimo, we most often encounter a risk of subsidence due to abandoned coal mine workings and a risk of landslip on steep sites.

The report will identify hazards, provide recommendations to address the site conditions, and certify that "the land is safe for the use intended".

The City will rely on the permit when making decisions regarding development of the land and the report may be registered on the title of the property with a covenant to advise any future purchasers of the potential risks and the remediation that has taken place.

See our Guidelines for the Preparation of Geotechnical Reports for more details.

When does a building require sprinklers (for fire suppression)?

All new construction to a building requires the owner to install an automatic sprinkler system throughout the entire building, with the following exceptions:

    • Construction or location of no more than a total of two residential units on a parcel.
    • Construction of more than two single family dwellings on one property, provided the single family dwellings are separated by a minimum 40 m (131.2 ft).
    • Alterations where the value of construction is not more than 50% of the assessed value of the building as determined by the BC Assessment Authority.
    • Additions to an existing building not exceeding 25% of the existing floor area or 200 m2 (2152 ft2), whichever is less, and for buildings of non-combustible construction additions not exceeding 25% of the existing floor area or 600 m2, whichever is less.
    • Construction of a detached building less than 100 m2 (1076 ft2) in area.
    • Unoccupied mechanical buildings, i.e. telephone-switching equipment buildings, not exceeding 300 m2 (3229 ft2).
    • Non-combustible carwash buildings not exceeding 300 m2 (3229 ft2).
    • Non-combustible buildings used only for storing and processing steel or rock products.
    • Fabric-covered buildings in I-1 to I-4 Industrial Zones used only for storage of goods with a low fire hazard, as established by a registered professional specializing in building codes and fire science in a report.
    • Non-combustible canopies over gas pumps or similar flammable liquid handling areas.

Note: For the purposes of the sprinkler requirements, construction includes any construction for which a permit was issued within the 24 months preceding a permit application, i.e. construction is cumulative unless 2 years has passed since the last permit was issued for work at the building.

When are Development Cost Charges (DCCs) collected?

Single-family charges are collected when a subdivision is created and are based on the number of new lots.

Mobile home parks and campground charges are collected when a building permit is issued for servicing and are based on the number of sites created.

Commercial, multifamily (over 1 units) and industrial charges are collected at Building Permit stage and are based on the floor area of the building.

See our Development Cost Charges guide.

What types of projects are exempt from Development Cost Charges (DCCs)?

  • Where the value of the work under the Building Permit is less than $50,000.00.
  • Where an interior renovation does not add to the City's capital cost.
  • Churches and other buildings for the purpose of worship.
  • If the project involves demolition or partial demolition of an existing building, the DCCs are calculated on the net increase in floor area only, (i.e. the old area is a credit).

Commercial Projects: Alterations / Tenant Improvements

When do I require an architect?

The BC Building Code specifies that where the building area exceeds 600 m2, or three storeys in height, or contains an assembly (restaurant, theatre, gym, club, church) or institutional occupancy (hospital, care facility), supervision by a registered professional (Architect or Engineer) is required.

When do I need an engineer for changes to an existing building's sprinkler system?

When you are adding 8 sprinkler heads or relocating up to 20 heads (including the 8 sprinkler heads to be added). Adding pendant heads to existing uprights when a concealed space is created by the addition of a t-bar ceiling does not count as new heads.

If the changes are being made in the original sprinkler system's design area, revised hydraulic calculations are required.

When is Public Health approval required?

Drawings submitted for Building Permit must be first approved by Public Health when they include a restaurant, beverage service, food store, bakery, food processing, water bottling, tattoo and piercing services, spa services, slaughter house, day care, a group home, a community care facility, public swimming pool or hot tub in apartment buildings, recreation centres or care facilities.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority's inspectors can be reached at (250) 755-6215.

What do Building Inspections and Planning & Design review in applications for Business Licences?

Planning & Design reviews your Business License application for parking and permitted use. The use is relative to the site, (i.e. is your use permitted in that particular zone).

Building Inspections reviews the building for conformance with the Building Code for the proposed occupancy.

Changing the occupancy of an existing building triggers BC Building Code requirements regarding seismic stability (ability to withstand earthquake), fire separation between suites, building construction (combustible vs. non-combustible), handicap access and fire alarm. Renovations may also trigger building bylaw requirements for fire sprinklers. Occupancies are classified as follows:

  • A2 - Assembly; schools, recreation facilities, clubs, daycare and restaurants subject to number of occupants.
  • E - Retail; shops, stores and supermarkets.
  • D - Service; offices, banks and hair salons, A2 occupancies with an occupant load of 30 or less.
  • F2 - Medium-Hazard Industrial; warehousing, storage, factories

Very rarely is a building entirely unsuitable for occupancy, but these requirements may create expenses that the building owner or tenant need to consider.

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