The Community Services Division has modified various processes in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to ensure business continuity. Planning and Building Permit Applications are still being accepted, however please note the following procedural changes.

All Residential Building Permits may be emailed to or couriered to City Hall. Printing fees will be waived at this time, however we would encourage any large submissions (+20 pages) to be couriered. Please ensure all application submissions include the required applications, agency approvals and signed & sealed drawings as required in PDF format.

All Building Application forms are available for download below.

** Please ensure all couriered packages are addressed to either the Planning Department or Building Department.

Please note that as other external department policies may change, this may result in longer review times, however we will be working as effectively as possible to maintain our current service level.

Staff will continue to be working in the office and will continue to respond to emails/calls/concerns and conduct inspections as usual with the exception of the projects mentioned below.

Please note that we will be continuing to limit our inspections of occupied dwellings. Only one occupied dwelling per inspector per day.  Screening Questions by occupants must be answered prior to entry.

To request an inspection click here

December 17, 2020 Update:

The complete notice issued by the Government of Ontario, and the updated regulations, can be found online here.


Please note that because the Closure of Non-Essential Businesses Regulations is a Provincial regulation and we recommend that you seek independent legal advice as to its application because the City of Sarnia is not in a position where we can make a determination, or provide an opinion, as to whether or not your project qualifies for an exemption to the closure requirements as an “Essential Business”.

Property owners must review the list of construction projects deemed by the Government of Ontario to be essential and must satisfy for themselves that they are compliant with the provincial requirements before proceeding with project in order to avoid being found to be in contravention of the law.


Public concerns regarding construction sites are to be referred to the Province’s Stop the Spread Business Information Line by calling 1-888-444-3659 which is open:

Monday to Friday: 8:30am – 9:00pm

Saturday & Sunday: 8:30am – 5:00pm

Or access online: We understand this is a stressful and ever changing situation, and we thank you for your patience and understanding.

What is a Building Permit?

A building permit is a municipal document from the City of Sarnia that provides legal authorization to begin construction of a building project.

Why is a Building Permit Required?

A building permit is required in order to protect the health, safety and accessibility requirements of the public. An application allows the City of Sarnia staff to review the project design before construction begins to ensure compliance with Building Codes and Zoning By-Law regulations.  After the permit has been issued, a City of Sarnia Building Inspector visits the site to ensure the construction meets the minimum standards of the building codes and by-laws.

After the permit has been issued, request an Inspection here

What Construction Projects Require Building Permits?

Listed are some typical projects and whether or not they require a permit.

  • Constructing a new building
  • Any addition to an existing building
  • A detached building over 110 square feet
  • Decks over two feet from ground level and/or decks fastened to main buildings
  • Finishing previously unfinished spaces in a home such as basement developments, attics, etc.
  • Plumbing, heating or air conditioning systems
  • Foundation structural repairs
  • Swimming pools or any device capable of holding over two feet of water
  • Installing a wood stove or fireplace
  • Wheelchair ramps
  • Tents larger than 650 square feet
  • Demolish or remove all or a portion of a building

Projects That Normally DO NOT Need A Permit:

Although a building permit may not be required, it is still necessary for these projects to comply with the Building Code and applicable zoning requirements.

  • Open decks under two feet from ground level not fastened to a main building
  • Replacing stucco, siding, or shingles with the same material
  • Replacing doors and windows with the same size
  • Fences
  • Patching, painting, and decorating
  • Installing cabinets and shelves

What If I Fail To Take Out A Permit?

Work that is done without a permit may not meet the minimum building code requirements and could result in substandard construction that may not be structurally adequate. This could lead to costly repairs in the future to correct the problem or even a complete failure of the construction. Work that cannot be made to comply will require removal. The cost of a permit and variance, “after the fact” will be doubled. Legal action may be initiated to ensure compliance.

Why Permits Protect You, Your Family And Your Neighbours.

If you or a contractor you hired are going to build, add, renovate or alter any part of your residence, or perform work on the electrical, plumbing and/or mechanical system for your residence, ensure that a permit has been obtained prior to starting the work/installation. Permits ensure that the work is in compliance with all codes and safety standards and will be inspected by a City of Sarnia Building Inspector to ensure professional standards are met.

What Information Is Required When Applying For A Building Permit?

  • Two sets of detailed scaled construction drawings
  • Site plans showing: Size and location of all existing and proposed buildings, garages, pools, sheds, et cetera on property
  • All property lines and dimensions
  • Distance between all structures and property lines
  • Drainage Patterns
  • Driveway
  • Letter of authorization from property owner, should applicant not be the owner.

Permanent and Portable Sign Permits

The erection of signs are regulated by Sarnia’s sign bylaw. The purpose of the bylaw is to regulate the location, size, and types of signs that are installed within our city.

The bylaw also addresses aesthetics, lighting and safety, functional and safety issues such as traffic, pedestrian and structural construction. Signs, whether they are small or large, need to be constructed and installed to avoid visibility problems and structural failure due to weather and age.

If in doubt, please contact us by e-mail at or telephone 519-332-0330 extension 3301.