Canadian Contractor

By Canadian Contractor staff   

CFIB study reviews bathroom permitting costs across Canada

Canadian Contractor Permits & Legal Kitchen & Bath

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released their Flushing out the nonsense report, as part of the company’s 15th annual Red Tape Awareness Week.

The case study “reviews the permitting costs and requirements associated with converting a simple powder room into a full bathroom in 12 municipalities across Canada.”

It highlights best practices in a selection of Canadian municipalities which could be adopted across the country to increase efficiency and transparency around the permitting process, while identifying areas for improvement.

The proposed standard renovation requires the removal of a nonload-bearing wall, the addition of a shower bath, structural changes to the existing plumbing, and electrical work. The estimated cost of the project is $20,000, on non-historical homes form the 1980s and had to occur within existing square footage across Canada’s major cities.


The report finds “out of the 12 municipalities examined, the average combined cost of acquiring all permits required for a simple bathroom renovation across Canada was $506.25, mainly fuelled by the high permitting costs in Vancouver. The combined cost associated with permitting required for a simple renovation (such as building, plumbing, and electrical permits) ranges from $180 in Charlottetown to $2,029 in Vancouver.”

On average, seven documents are required for a $20,000 bathroom renovation project. Ranging from five in Edmonton, Calgary, and Charlottetown, to eleven in Vancouver, a recent CFIB survey of small business owners found that more than two in five find it difficult to obtain permits and licences overall.

Out of the 12 municipalities studied, the renovation processes in Toronto and Vancouver were the two with the most “red-tape” in terms of documents required in an application.

The case study found that “a bathroom renovation in Vancouver would cost $2,029 in permitting on top of the cost of performing the renovation as well as the application costs associated with hiring professionals.”

The added $2,029 in combined permit expenses in Vancouver would result in a 10 per cent increase on top of the $20,000 renovation project costs, states the case study.

Edmonton’s associated costs were $673, while in St. John’s, NL, costs sat at $579 – both above the national average of $506.25. The municipalities that require the most documentation before beginning work are Moncton, Montreal, and Winnipeg, which all require seven documents.

Leveraging best practices

The report outlines three best practices that municipalities around Canada can follow to improve their red tape scores, providing examples of cities using these practices.

These include automation and digital practices, ease of access to information on the website and by phone and improved service standards and processing times.

For example, the City of Richmond, B.C., developed an online business licensing service called “My Business,” which allows for real-time tracking of permit applications.

Moncton, N.B., developed a printable, step-by-step checklist PDF. Edmonton has implemented a Residential Permit Guide, which asks preliminary questions to “guide users and provides a summary of necessary permits and estimated fees.”


The Flushing out the nonsense report also provides recommendations at the municipal and federal and provincial level.

Recommendations on the municipal level include:

  • Launching a review of the permitting and approval process.
  • Establishing publicly available, service standards for permit processing.
  • Improving the ease of access to information on building permit requirements.
  • Digitizing the permit application and review processes.

CFIB encourages the following recommendations to federal and provincial governments:

  • Tie some future funding for housing and infrastructure to requirements for low administrative burden.
  • Ensure reporting requirements match provincial permit processing service standards.
  • Champion best practices.

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