If you’re planning to start a building project on your property, it’s important to do some research before you break ground, taking into consideration things like permits, insurance and guarantees. Here, Dwayne Job, president and owner of System Fencing Ltd. explains the fine print.

If you are looking at building  a structure over 108 sq. ft. (12’ x 9’) there are several things  that you need to be aware of before starting to build, or even hiring a contractor or sub-contractors.

Building Permits

In a lot of municipalities you will need a building permit to legally be able to erect a structure over 108 sq. ft. The size and intended use of the building will determine what approvals you need to get before a building permit can be issued. You need to consider the following:

  • Zoning approval: may require a zoning change, use change, or variance (i.e. residential to agricultural)
  • Site plan approval: where can you put the building, i.e. minimum setback locations from neighbouring properties, roads, driveways, wells, septic, waterways, etc.
  • Conservation authority approvals – will they allow a building in that area?
  • Drainage use: where will the water go?
  • Land use: if are you housing animals, you need a nutrient (manure) management plan
  • Building permit with full set of drawings
  • Building inspections once construction is underway

Getting the proper approvals depends on the municipality and the land that you are building on. Expect the process to take anywhere from two weeks to three years.

Hiring a Contractor

It is very important as part of the process to hire a contractor that can do the job properly. Make sure you get referrals from the companies that you are getting pricing from. Ask the referrals how many times did the company need to come back and adjust items on the build; did they leave the site and come back multiple times; was the worksite clean when they were building; were there any injuries on-site while building?

Some other questions that you need to ask before you choose a contractor:

Do they have Workers’ Compensation insurance? All companies working on your property need to have Workers’ Compensation Insurance (WCI) – a province-mandated plan that provides health coverage to a worker who is injured in a work-rated accident, while protecting employers from lawsuits.

If you are hiring a general contractor that will hire all the sub-trades (foundation, electrical, framing, etc.) then they are the ones that need to carry Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) insurance. If you are going to act as the general contractor and hire your own sub-trades, then you need to make sure each company working on-site has WCB insurance. If a worker gets hurt or killed on your property and you do not have a clearance certificate, then you are liable for all costs associated with the injury or death. This is very important to understand; make sure you know what the law involves in your particular province regarding WCB and workplace accidents.

Do they have a materials and workmanship guarantee? Most contractors will offer a guarantee on materials and workmanship. Do not be afraid to ask questions and understand the materials that they are putting into your job. Quality materials from reputable companies should ideally last a lifetime. Most companies will offer anywhere from one- to ten-year guarantees on workmanship. Make sure you understand what is covered and what is not.

Building or renovating a horse barn or farm property can be a rewarding experience if you hire the right contractor, make sure they provide a weekly update on the build, and you aren’t afraid to ask questions.