Renovating or Extending a House

Renovating or Extending a House

House with a front extension under construction.The following information pertains to carrying out work on a single-family home. If you are creating or adding apartments, see the Adding an Apartment section.

Hire a reputable contractor; you get what you pay for.  A cheap, ‘part-time' contractor may seem like a good deal at first, but experience has shown that to avoid mistakes, deficiencies and subsequent cost overruns and headaches it's always best to stick with professionals.

An application can be made through the Department of Building and Property Management. All applications are received and permits issued at the Access St. John's Customer Service Centre, first foor, City Hall. Required plans include:

  • Structural details and sections;
  • A survey plan;
  • Floor layout (existing compared with new);
  • And for extensions, elevations and site plans if the plan is to increase the house ‘footprint' or space it occupies relative to the lot dimensions.

If a house is being extended, then consideration must be given to required yard setbacks or easements. For example, in a particular zone a proposed extension cannot project into a sideyard restricted area of 1.2 metres from your side property line or a rearyard restricted area of 6 metres from your rear property line, neither can it extend into an easement. Staff at the Department of Building & Property Management will be glad to provide information on your zone and setback requirements, but you must check your legal property survey to determine if there are easements.

With any interior renovations care must be taken to ensure that walls, columns or beams which are load-bearing are not tampered with or the loads adequately transferred if such members must be removed. Sometimes a preliminary inspection is required to look at existing construction prior to a permit.

Only Electrical and Plumbing Contractors licensed to operate in the City of St. John's may pick up Electrical and Plumbing permits, carry out work, or request electrical and plumbing inspections.

Stages of Builidng Inspections
Once a permit is issued inspections must be requested at the following stages, where applicable.

Excavation
Prior to any footing or foundation work. This is to ensure that the soil conditions are adequate for house construction. If fill is to be added to the foundation site , proper compaction and certification by an Engineer is required.

If there is to be a water and sewer connection to the city system, the service laterals must be inspected by the Department of Public Works & Parks, Streets Division personnel. If a private system is being built, it must be inspected by Government Service Centre personnel prior to backfilling.

Once the footing and foundation is constructed, you must get your surveyor to prepare a location certificate, which must be submitted to the inspection division and approved before you request the next stage (backfill) inspection, to ensure that your house is being constructed in the proper location.

Backfill  
Prior to backfilling the foundation an inspection ensures proper placement of drain tile and foundation waterproofing, as well as to examine the footing and foundation construction.

Before requesting the next stage (framing) inspection, plumbing and electrical rough-in inspections must be completed and approved. This is to ensure that critical framing members are not altered (notched, cut or holed) by subcontractors beyond what the Code permits. As well, the roofing and siding must be complete to ensure that insulation is not damaged by moisture.

Framing
Prior to installing insulation and vapour barrier. This inspection is the most critical and time consuming as all aspects of the structural framing and members must be examined to ensure the house is structurally sound and built to Code. Note that all framing members must be new, grade stamped lumber to ensure quality; we do not accept unstamped "local" lumber or used lumber. It is usually at this stage that the ventilating equipment detailed below is inspected.

Fireplace/Chimney
Prior to insulation, where applicable. This inspection ensures proper construction and clearances to combustible materials to minimize fire hazards and assure safe operation. Note that propane or oil heating equipment must be certified by the installer.

Slab polyethylene
Prior to installation of basement floor/slab. To ensure polyethylene damproofing is in place as required to prevent ground moisture from entering the floor.

Insulation and Vapour Barrier
Prior to installation of drywall. This inspection ensures that adequate insulation and proper vapour barrier is installed to maintain acceptable comfort, temperature retention and prevent inside generated moisture from entering wall/attic spaces and damaging components.

Ventilating Equipment
This inspection is to ensure that heat exchangers, air exchangers and associated equipment as well as supplementary venting such as exhausts for bathrooms and range hoods meet Code requirements. Written certification by a HRAI certified installer is necessary for the HRV's. Note that the National Building Code now requires that all new houses have a primary exhaust vent with heated air intake. This essentially means a heat exchanger or HRV (Heat Recovery Ventilator).

Final
Prior to occupancy, the final electrical and plumbing inspections must be completed and approved. All construction must be completed. At this point there may be other outstanding items such as ensuring that finish yard grading is completed as per requirements noted above.

As stated before, each stage must be inspected and approved prior to starting the next stage. If the Inspector discovers deficiencies, a Field Notice will be left after each inspection which either indicates approval or lists the deficiencies which must be corrected before calling for the next inspection. If there are outstanding deficiencies after the final inspection then occupancy may be refused or a Conditional Occupancy Certificate may be issued which lists the items to be corrected by a certain date. A fee may be required for an amount which would pay for the corrective action if it becomes necessary for the City to carry out the work.

Occupancy Certificate
As noted above, a Conditional Occupancy Certificate may be issued if there are outstanding items to be corrected. A final Occupancy Certificate will be issued when all inspections are complete and the house fully meets requirements. It is important to note that the inspection service provided by the City is intended to ensure that your house meets the minimum standards of the National Building Code of Canada. We do not inspect or provide any assurance for ‘fit and finish' items.(Things like, nailing, finish and fit of trim and mouldings, cabinets, etc.) These items should be covered by your Builder's warranty or other warranty programs. Your Occupancy Certificate is a legal document that will likely be required by your lawyer or financial institution.

Cost of Permits
Building permits for the renovation or extension to a house are based on the cost of the work being carried out; you'll be asked to provide an estimate to determine the permit cost.

Please refer to the Schedule of Rates page for information on permit costs.