Are Permits Required to Build My Shed, Studio or Backyard Office? Sadly, in some instances, YES!

Most municipalities have not added the extra burden and costs by requiring storage sheds or studio sheds, (heated and insulated), to require permits as long as their construction completely complies with tree bylaws, zoning and other municipal regulations.

However, Vancouver and Surrey differentiate between storage sheds and studio sheds, (office, hobby, workshop, exercise room, etc). In these municipalities studio sheds or sheds that are heated and insulated are require a building permit and go through a process similar to building a garage. Other municipalities seem to be moving in this direction. In areas that don't require permits for a studio shed, we recommend to all potential clients that they have us do a zoning check for them or at the very least that they speak with their municipality about the specifics and details of their project.

There is nothing more frustrating than having the city order the removal of your beautiful, newly-built storage or studio shed because some neighbour complains. Then a bylaw officer informs you that your shed does not comply with one of the many zoning requirements.

Tree Bylaws. In most municipalities an arborists' site inspection/consultation and/or report is required before building a shed. If there are trees in your yard or your neighbour's yard that potentially have roots passing through or entering your proposed shed location you will need an arborist on board with your project. Most arborists will be happy to come by and look at your site for a small fee (often $150-$200).  Should an arborist's report be required, expect to pay between $1000 and $2000. Should the arborist request work to be done to protect or prune the roots or tree branches, there will likely be additional costs. Many contractors and home owners have been fined hefty fees for cutting tree roots without first receiving permission from the city. The fines are normally charged in $1000 or $10,000 increments. NO JOKE.

Zoning, Regulations and Bylaws (size, height, setbacks and right-a-ways

There are a couple of things that need to be understood regarding zoning, building permits, and the purpose or use of a shed. The first thing to understand is that even if your municipality doesn't require a building permit, your shed or studio must still comply with all zoning regulations related to your property. The most common zoning regulations pertain to shed size and setbacks from property lines and other buildings. One must understand that different municipalities have different rules. A municipality may be satisfied with a storage shed not having a permit, but in contrast may require a permit if the shed is going to be used as an office or a workshop.

Most municipalities do not require a building permit for a shed that is under 10 square metres (107.5 sq. feet) providing it is only being used for storage. However, even though this shed does not require a building permit, its construction must follow all zoning and bylaw regulations such as: maximum size, property line setbacks, roof height, fire separation, and setbacks from any dwellings, (homes, laneways and coach houses).

Also, a shed may not be permitted because the property does not have enough FSR (floor space ratio), or un-permeable ground available in the ratio. Prior to construction, our designer can check all of these regulations to confirm whether or not your shed is allowed to be built.

Unfortunately, like many properties, yours may contain a sewage, drainage gas, electrical, or communications right of way that stretches across your backyard or possibly down a side yard. Most cities will discourage or prohibit you from building on a right of way, as the city may need to have access in the future to dig up any of these lines should they require maintenance or repair. It is very rare that a city will excavate a right of way in your backyard because the excavation will not only upset your potential shed,  it will also destroy existing fences, trees and landscaping. However, it is still something to be aware of.

Electricity or Plumbing

Regardless of what a shed's declared use is, any shed with electricity will require an electrical permit and any shed with plumbing will require a plumbing permit. Furthermore, most municipalities will not allow much more than a sink in a shed as they are concerned about it being used as an illegal dwelling. Cities take a very dim view on this and will not permit anyone to live in a shed. The primary concern being that if someone has a medical emergency such as a heart attack or if a fire breaks out, how do the emergency responders know where to go if the shed does not have its own separate address?