When Do I Need a Permit to Renovate My Convenience Store Interior?
As an independent convenience store owner, you generally know when it’s time to update or modernize your space. You start hearing the whispers from customers. Little signs of wear and tear become impossible to ignore. Worst case, customers may begin choosing a newer store just down the block.
The question is: can you get away with a simple cosmetic update, or will you need a building or trade permit to renovate your convenience store interior?
The purpose of building permits
A building permit is a document issued by a municipality. Its purpose is to protect the interests of the public and the community by ensuring any construction, renovation, or demolition project adheres to the applicable provincial Building Code, zoning bylaws, planning controls, and other applicable legislation (such as the Environmental Protection Act). It establishes requirements in areas including fire protection, health safety, energy efficiency, accessibility, and beyond.
Each province has their own version of the building code. The Provincial Code is based on the National Building Code of Canada. It serves the same purpose while addressing issues unique to the province.
A licensed engineer or architect will need to submit a design package and review construction work to ensure it meets the permit requirements before granting approval.
Cosmetic updates – no permit required
There are many things convenience store owners can do to refresh and reinvigorate their interiors without the need for a permit. And without breaking the bank.
A fresh coat of paint can breathe new life into the look of your location and make it feel cleaner and more contemporary. Choose high-quality scuff and scratch-resistant paint that’s easy to wash without fear of fading.
Tiling and Flooring
Replacing backsplash tiling and flooring involves a relatively small investment but can have a huge visual impact. With surfaces (especially flooring), it’s important to avoid slips. Building code will require that all surfaces are slip-resistant. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) recommends a Coefficient of Friction value of 0.60 (0.42 in areas that are wet, like showers). Flooring is then tested using ASTM and ANSI testing methods. ANSI A1371.1 has recently been included in the International Building Code but has not yet made it into the Canadian Building Code.
Countertops and Cabinetry
Counters and cabinets can be replaced with minimal effort. Solid surface countertops are available in an array of attractive finishes and must meet the code requirements for easy-to-wipe, antimicrobial surfaces that inhibit the growth of bacteria mold, mildew.
Fixtures and Hardware, Toilets & Sinks
If there are no modifications to the plumbing or electrical, a permit is not required to replace a toilet, sink, or wall-dryer using existing connections.
Staging construction so you can keep your store open during renovations? You will need to contact the municipality to inform them. They will have requirements to ensure your plans are done in a way that will keep the public safe. Sometimes a permit is required. Have questions? Contact us.
Minor renovations – trade permit required
If you are planning to make minor upgrades, a full-blown Building Permit is not required. Often a Trade Permit or less stringent permit to approve minor operations is all that is needed. For example, the City of Calgary has a separate Interior Alterations Permit. Typically, the tradesperson contracted to do the work will apply for the permit. Examples include:
This would cover the installation of new electrical services or extension/ alteration of any existing electrical branch circuit wiring. Examples replacing fluorescent lighting with LED, installing new outlets or new touchless features in a washroom, and electrical panel upgrades (ie. new breakers).
A plumbing permit would be necessary when a plumbing system is constructed, extended, or altered. Many municipalities require a plumbing permit to replace a hot water tank. This permit also includes heating and ventilation, although many jurisdictions will issue a separate HVAC permit.
Required any time a gas line is added, rerouted, or extended.
Major renovations – building permit required
Sometimes, to stay competitive, a convenience store may require renovations that go beyond simply cosmetic or minor trade upgrades. Building permits are generally required any time you are:
• Building or removing walls
• Expanding space (additions)
• Conducting major construction/service upgrades
• Adding a new building or structure
• Installing or modifying a sewage or HVAC system
Any interior alteration that impacts the building exterior MAY also require a development permit. It is always recommended that you determine if this is the case before moving forward. Municipalities refer to any exterior alterations as changes to “form and/or function”.
When you plan a major renovation, you will need to get the appropriate municipal permits before proceeding with construction.
In the case of an addition or change of use (such as adding food service and seating), occupancy may be affected. This may trigger a new requirement for stricter fire protection, such as a sprinkler system. It may also impact health service requirements, and involve the installation of a new sink or hood fan.
Other implications to consider
If the store is older, it may be grandfathered from newer building code requirements that have since been introduced.
However, for a new permit to be issued, the municipality may request that the owner address other code requirements that have changed since the store was built.
For example, if you apply to add a urinal to a bathroom, the permitting department may request it be modified to meet accessibility requirements for a wheelchair.
For this reason, it is important to understand what you may be getting into before planning a renovation. Speaking with an engineering and design firm can help prepare you for what to expect.
When investing in an update, do it right
As you can see, you don’t necessarily need permission to refresh your store to look great. But even cosmetic design updates require a trained eye and experienced professional. Designers have in-depth knowledge of design strategies and psychology proven to increase sales. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the entire point of a design refresh!
Recommended posts: The Challenges and Rewards of a Convenience Store Redesign and Renovation