The guide to finishing a basement – advice from the City of Peterborough

A great winter project undertaken by many is the finishing of the basement. It adds great value to the home and to your own personal enjoyment of the property. This blog post is courtesy of your very own City of Peterborough. You can grab flyers and guides that are meant to guide you reading building permits and Ontario Building Code requirements. Please understand, when you are changing something structurally to your house YOU NEED A PERMIT FROM THE CITY OF PETERBOROUGH. This also applies to plumbing. Also understand, TO SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP FROM QUALIFIED CONTRACTORS. Interview them and if they are reluctant to get a permit or tell you “don’t bother it’s an unnecessary expense” get rid of them.

Let’s start off with some Frequently Asked Questions, as posed in the “Basement Finishing Guide” published by the City of Peterborough. The excerpts are taken word for word from the Guide. I am the medium by which you find the information, I do not take responsibility or credit for the content. I have added content to answers to make it relevant to 2016 updated pricing.

Q: When do I require a building permit my basement project?

A: A building permit is required for any construction in your basement project unless you are only painting or decorating. Any other work requires a building permit, including drywall work or installing new plumbing fixtures (even in an already roughed in bathroom).

Q: How do I get a building permit for my basement project?

A:  A building permit is easily obtained from the Building Division at City Hall by submitting a complete application (see next question). A permit will be issued within 10 business days if drawings comply with the Ontario Building Code, are sufficiently detailed, and the application is complete.

Q: How can I check to see if my contractor is licensed?

A: At this time the City of Peterborough does not require licensing or most of the construction trades. Some trades are required to be licensed, such as plumbers. We can help to check if your plumber is licensed. (Editor’s Note: you can check here for licensing information on tradespersons. Enter the name of the tradespeople working on your site under “Find a Member”)

Q: How much does the building permit cost?

A: Building permit fees are determined by City Council each year. For 2016, a building permit for the finishing of a basement costs $19.96 for every $1,000 of estimated construction value above $10,000. (Editor’s note: I called the City’s building division – here’s how the cost of the permit works. If your project has an estimated cost (as derived by your general contractor) is $9,999 or less, you pay the minimum as set by the City which is $204.00. If it is more than $10,000, you pay the $19.96 for every thousand).

Q: Is it okay to start framing while you review my plans?

A: No. Construction cannot start until a building permit has been issued.

A complete building permit application can be found at  (I have already expanded the web page for you) and select “Application for a permit to construct or demolish.” In addition to this form you will need the following (two (2) sets of drawings):

  • Room names and areas
  • Door sizes (width and height)
  • Window sizes (width and height) and operation type (casement, awning, slider etc…)
  • Walls (no single line drawings)
  • Bathroom layout (if applicable)
  • Existing stair location
  • Ceiling height (including areas where the ceiling height changes, such as under bulkheads and beams)
  • Any new beams or structural supports
  • Location of existing (or relocated) mechanical equipment, such as furnace, HRV (heat recovery ventilator), hot water heater, clothes washer/dryer
  • Location and sizes of existing duct work (including supply and cold air returns)
  • Plans will be accepted in either metric or imperial measurements.

As always, get the advice of professionals, don’t risk doing it yourself. You and I both realize so many people do it themselves many times without issue. But if there ever was an issue, such as upon the completion of the sale of your house – you don’t want that kind of headache!

Mark Million is a Realtor with Bowes and Cocks Limited, Brokerage in Peterborough. If you would like a free opinion of value or ways to market your home differently contact me. If you want free advice on any real estate question or scenario you may have, by all means contact me. All information or conversation disseminated through WordPress or any other means of correspondence between myself and you is not intended to solicit those currently under contract.



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