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What is the Ontario Building Code and what does it mean for building backyard sheds?

Posted By On 16-03-2023


What is the Ontario Building Code and what does it mean for  building backyard sheds? The Ontario Building Code provides standards to protect the public health, safety, and general welfare as they relate to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures. It is a mandatory document used by architects, engineers, designers, builders, suppliers and manufacturers with regard to construction projects.


Your municipality is governed by the Ontario Building Code and each city implements building regulations in their jurisdiction for:

  • how land can be used
  • where buildings and other structures can be located
  • what types of buildings are permitted and how they may be used
  • building heights, size and setbacks from the street and/or property lines and/or existing buildings.

Under the Ontario Building Code, backyard sheds are considered ‘accessory structures’. Any backyard shed, garden shed, or storage shed is considered an ‘accessory structure’.  Accessory structures are separate from your main home, but must be on the property. Other examples of accessory structures are: detached garages, swimming pools, gazebos and play equipment. Depending on the size of your backyard shed, garden shed or storage shed, you may require a building permit before construction can begin.

What is a building permit?

A building permit is an approval issued by your local municipality allowing you or your contractor to proceed with a construction project on your property. It ensures that all building activity follows the applicable legislation, laws, bylaws and zoning regulations as set out by your local municipality. These standards are intended to ensure the safety of current and future owners and occupants of the property.

Will I need a building permit for my backyard shed?

In the summer of 2022 the Ontario Building Code increased the allowable ‘non-permit’ size for backyard sheds from 108 square feet to 160 square feet. If your backyard shed, garden shed, or storage shed is less than 160 square feet (or 15 square meters) you can construct it WITHOUT a building permit.

A Building permit is required for any shed over 160 square feet. Building permits are always required for accessory structures that contain plumbing.

Other restrictions to consider are set backs from property lines and the overall height of your backyard shed. A standard variance is 2 – 3 feet from any property line but height restrictions can vary by municipality. Some cities allow a maximum of 8 – 9 feet tall whereas other cities allow a maximum of 13 feet. Height is measured from the ground to the highest point of the building.

All cities in Ontario have similar restrictions but have their own set of regulations. What is permissible in Toronto, Hamilton or Brampton may not be permissible in Grimsby, Niagara or Brantford. The difference could be as little as a couple of inches to a foot or two.

How long does it take to get a permit?

Well that depends on which city you live in. Always check your city’s website under their building, by-law, zoning or permit tabs. If you don’t see the information you’re looking for, or are not entirely sure where to find it, give In The Back Yard a call at 905-664-4224 and we will help you find the answers.


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