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Canada - Building Your Own Home

Once you relocate to Canada you may decide to build your own home rather than rent or buy an existing property. This can be done several ways. You can buy a piece of land and employ an architect to design your dream home and have a builder complete the process. This way you get the home you want exactly as you like it. Alternatively you can buy a home from a developer. This is called buying off plan. Choosing to do it this way means you are perhaps constricted by the plans already in place in the home such as the location of walls and size of the rooms, however many developers allow their buyers to pick their own fixtures and fittings, tiles and accessories in order to make the home theirs. Either way there are regulations and building codes that must be adhered to.

Building codes are standards put in place to ensure that all buildings are constructed to a certain level. This is done for a variety of reasons. Complying with the building codes means that your property will meet all safety standards put forward industry wide, including making it as safe as possible from fire. It also means the building has been constructed to a standard that will withstand certain natural disasters such as earthquakes up to a certain magnitude and high winds and storms should have no detrimental effect on your property if the construction is compliant with the building codes. It also means that your property should pose no health hazards. This can include the materials used in construct, such as ensuring they do not contain asbestos or making sure the ventilation system works properly to reduce the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Each province has their own additional codes as well as those set out nationally. It could be that some areas are more susceptible to natural disasters such as flooding, and so each area needs to be individually regulated. Employing the services of a reliable builder and architect will ensure that your property is designed and constructed to perfectly suit the area it is being built as they will be fully aware of all the local regulations as well as the national standards. All codes are enforceable by law and heavy fines can be given for any building that does not meet the set standards.

Prior to building your property you will need to obtain a permit. It is against the law to start any kind of construction or even demolition of existing buildings without already having a permit. The permits are issued by the local building department and will state that approval has been given for the planned works to go ahead. Each has a unique document number that is recorded with the local building office. This document should be clearly visible on the construction site, such as by being posted on the main entrance to the construction site or on the builders office door (if one is situated on site). This document is also required if the intention is to renovate an existing building on site and not actually construct a whole new building.

Obtaining the permit is usually the responsibility of the builder or architect so you must make sure that this is done prior to the work commencing. If you are undertaking your own construction work or simple renovation jobs then you must apply for this permit yourself. To obtain the permit you must submit a form complete with plans or designs for the renovation work (blueprints or schematics). Simple plans usually get approved within a day or so, but the more complicated the plan the longer it will take, sometimes as long as several months. This is because they need to ensure that the design complies with the strict building codes. There is usually a fee for applying for a permit however it is not guaranteed that a permit will be issued.

The local building inspector will make regular often unannounced visits to the construction site to ensure that the building work complies with the regulations and to ensure that all works being carried out comply with the approved drawings. The building inspector has the power to stop the construction work and issue fines in some cases where permits are not submitted or properly displayed and where building works do not meet the codes. Even if the builder or architect has stated that they will apply for the work permits it is the ultimate responsibility of the owner to ensure that this has actually been done. Any fines received because of this will also be the owner’s responsibility.

Finding an architect to take on the design of the project is usually straightforward. The Royal Architectural institute of Canada has its own website and from there you can find a directory of architects. Just complete the form and the information will be sent to you. You can also search using a business telephone directory or you can even try asking around. If there are other expats in the area, or even locals who have had their own building works done, they may know of an architect they can put you in contact with.

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