Building Permits

Before breaking ground – or knocking down an interior wall – there’s a valuable piece of paper that you need in your back pocket.

Property-owners in Nova Scotia are required to have a building and renovation permit, as well as book the required number of inspections to ensure their project com- plies with the province’s building code.

Jim Donovan, manager of municipal compliance with HRM, says most folks expect they’ll need a permit for a new build, but sometimes they think a renovation is “no big deal” and they can just quietly do it themselves.

“Renovation permits are almost more important, because you’re usually living in the building while it’s being renovated,” says Donovan. “There are all kinds of potential problems, so you need to be sure you’re go- ing about it safely.”

If it’s your first time building or renovating a home, and you have no idea where to begin, don’t panic – Donovan says to simply call Municipal Services and Information (3-1- 1) and explain your situation.

“We’re here, we’re available. Any of our building officials will be happy to talk you through the process,” says Donovan. “You can also download brochures on”

When you’re ready to obtain your permit, stop into one of the three Power Centres (Alderney Drive, Bayer’s Road, or Acadia Cen- tre in Lower Sackville) to apply. The process itself is quick and straightforward. Donovan says a permit for new home construction is usually issued in five business days or less, and a renovation permit is often much faster.

A permit won’t bust your budget, either. A renovation permit costs just $5.50 per $1,000 of construction value, and the guid- ance it provides is invaluable.

“You’re paying very little to get objective advice from a third-party individual who is there to help you – making sure your project is compliant and safe,” says Donovan. “At the end of the day, a permit that might have cost you $75 is well worth it.”

Once you’ve secured your permit, you’re good to begin the project. Just be sure you know exactly when you’ll need to have a building inspector come by to check on your progress. There are typically seven manda- tory inspections on a new build, and 4-5 inspections for a renovation project.

If you skip the permit process, you might be making critical construction mistakes and putting your family’s lives at risk. Donovan says major problems can arise after the proj- ect is complete, when someone realizes the proper permit was never obtained.

Sometimes homeowners just assume their builder or renovator will take care of the paperwork, but when it comes down to it, the property owner is solely responsible for compliance.

“It’s really important to use professional, qualified builders, because they are aware of the necessary arrangements – and they’ll talk to you, somewhere during the process, about who will be obtaining the permits,” says Donovan.

He says most homeowners find building officials very helpful, and they’re grateful for the wealth of information and support for their decision-making – both at the design stage and during the construction process.

“They see that we’re here to help them.”

For building and renovation permit info in HRM visit

Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke

Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist whose work regularly appears in many Atlantic Canadian newspapers and magazines, including The Chronicle Herald, Metro, Hub Now, Business Voice, Dugger's, Progress, East Coast Living, Bedford Magazine, and Southender Magazine. She also has several corporate clients.