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Book Your Summer Projects Early!

Spring is a fantastic time of year! The sun is out and you can feel yourself just soaking in the vitamin D you’ve been craving all winter. As the snow disappears from your lawn your creative spirit starts to take hold again and you look at the state of your grass and garden as exciting projects for the year.

The deck, of course, will need some attention and you have ideas about that too. Relaxing on the deck and family barbeques are some of the most treasured times of the year. As you start to get into the outdoor hang-out season, you end up at a friend’s house where they have a sunroom just outside their dining room.

An evening of hanging out with no wind or bugs, sitting in a comfortable chair, and enjoying the atmosphere makes you wonder if you need to change your deck plans. The next day you head outside with your spouse and stand on the deck discussing the experience you had the night before, looking at your deck with all sorts of new and exciting ideas. Maybe this year it’s time to build a sunroom.

How to start? Well, the best way would be to talk to a professional. You google your local sunroom company and, with a pounding heart that can’t believe you’re actually making that call, you tell them exactly what you have in mind. Up to this point, you’ve been full of anticipation and positive emotions. That phone call is where you get a heavy dose of reality. Due to the permitting process, they can’t build a sunroom for you for another 4-6 months. Summer will be over by then!

That’s a phone call I have to take on a regular basis. My name is Richard and I design sunrooms. It’s a pretty cool job to go to someone’s house and help them design a sunroom. It’s usually something they’ve been looking at for a couple of years and it takes a them bit to actually make the decision to move on it.

We can design some pretty cool features that make your sunroom the best spot in the house to hang out. It’s great for relaxing, working, entertaining friends or just getting some time outdoors.

That phone call I was talking about is one that I have with just about every new customer after the month of March. We see a lot of people get excited about spending time outdoors at that time of year so our phone starts to ring off the hook. As much as I would love to build them a sunroom the following week it’s just not a reality in any city in Canada. Here is why: Permits.

Everybody loves the bureaucracy and red tape that go along with permits. In some ways, permits are a complete nuisance, but in some ways and they’re a good thing. Let’s look at building in the city of Edmonton. When building a sunroom in your backyard we have to apply for two permits.

The first is a development permit. Thich is where the city decides if you are allowed to build what you want, where you want it. They look at things like proximity to your property lines, the amount of glazing on the sides of your structure, the height of your structure, and the percentage of the property you’re covering. The development permit usually takes about two months for the city to process. They want to see site plans, elevation drawings and assurances that you aren’t building on an old wellsite.

Next is a building permit. This usually takes about a month and the purpose of the building permit is to make sure that what is being built meets the Canadian Building Code. In the city of Edmonton, any structure that has a roof built by someone other than the homeowner has to have a set of engineer-stamped drawings. This takes the liability off of the city in case anything fails to stand up to our snow-filled winters.

Each city and municipality has its own permitting process to go through which is unique to its area. The rural areas are generally less sticky on the details, charge less and process the applications quicker. Sometimes a permit can take weeks if the county isn’t busy. On the other hand, the city of Edmonton requires properly scaled 2D drawings with an engineer’s stamp on them, and can take up to three and a half months to process the application. When you factor in some time for engineered drawings, waiting for the permit and the time it takes to manufacture custom windows for a sunroom you could be up to 6 months from order to installation.

Living in Alberta, I do of course run into a few people that ask me if we really need permits. There are always a few myth believers who suggest we don’t attach the sunroom to the house because they’ve heard that means we don’t need a permit. I’m afraid that’s an old wives’ tale.

We also get people who think permits aren’t really a big deal and they can do without them. The problem with skipping out on permits is that when you sell the house it can cause quite a few issues down the road. In a buyer’s market, you might find yourself scrambling to get a permit before someone will sign the paperwork on a purchase. Getting mortgages and insurance on a property that doesn’t have permits can also be a nuisance. A totally different issue might be that a neighbour peeked over the fence and didn’t like how you were blocking the view from their deck, a quick phone call to the city would have an inspector breathing down your neck with a stop work order and the cost of the permit might double.

One thing you should probably know is that while many contractors and builders will pull a permit for you, it’s actually you, the homeowner, who is responsible for making sure that it does actually happen. A contractor will build if you decide not to get a permit as well, it’s actually easier for them that way. There’s no 3 months wait for the city to get on board.

The typical process we go through in building a sunroom or patio cover involves 5 steps:

1. An initial consultation and design meeting that ends with a quote.

2. Beautiful 3-D renderings to show the customer exactly what it would look like when finished.

3. CAD drawings, stamped by the engineer.

4. Permit application submitted and approved by the city.

5. Custom windows and other materials manufactured and prepared.

6. And, finally, your project is installed in a professional manner with a clean job site.

Although the process takes a while, the end result is well worth it. Being the person who has to take your phone call when you decide to take the step of investing in your home, I have a tip for you: the earlier in the winter that you start the permitting process the better. If everything is finished and in place, we can tackle your project as soon as we hit the spring saw. That way, when you’re finished working on the lawn or garden, you can relax in your outdoor living room and survey your handiwork. Welcome to a life of outdoor comfort. 



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