Are Permits Required to Build My Shed, Studio or Backyard Office?

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 still must 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 workshop.

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

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.  All though 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,  it is still something to factor in.

Shed use: Storage Shed or Office Shed

We are currently not aware of any municipalities that require a permit for a shed this will primarily be used for storage, provided it complies with zoning and bylaw regulations. The municipalities of Vancouver and Surrey have both decided that the use or function of a shed now determines whether the studio shed needs a building permit. Vancouver and Surrey now require a building permit if your shed is used for anything but storage. Specifically, if your shed is going to be used to work from home or as a workshop, a reading room, or any place where you'll spend a significant amount of time, they now require a building permit and sometimes even a development permit. One of the factors that both Vancouver and Surrey use to determine whether a shed is classified as a storage shed is whether it is insulated and heated. If a shed has heat and insulation it will likely require a building permit.

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 permit much more than a sink in a shed as they are concerned about it being used as an illegal dwelling. Furthermore, 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?