Small Cabin Building Permit - Do You Need One?Many municipalities will allow you to construct a structure (small cabin, shed, veranda, gazebo, etc.) under a certain size without requiring a construction/building permit. The typical size limit is 100 sq. feet (or 10 sq. meters = 107.639104 sq. feet).
In other words, if your cabin is 100 sq. ft. or less, you generally don't need a building permit. For waterfront properties, some municipalities have specific regulations regarding structures built close to the water - for example, a minimum required distance between your cabin structure and a "high water mark". There could be other restrictions if your area is considered to be environmentally sensitive. Usually there is a minimum distance required between your structure and the property edge.
Utility hookups will be required as well, leading to another set of monthly bills.
The bottom line: You need to decide between two options: stay within no-permit limits (if this is an option, up to 100 sq. ft. cabin in most cases), or go for the permit and build a larger, more expensive cabin. Your choice will depend on your intended use of the property, personal preferences, and municipal regulatory requirements. Here are some building permit-related summary points to consider:
|Criteria||No Permit Route||With Permit Route|
|Initial construction costs - materials, labor, paperwork||Low||High|
|Ongoing costs - property taxes, utility bills, etc.||Low||High, paying for services used occasionally|
|Flexibility in cabin size||Limited||Not limited|
|Requires professional help (i.e. certified workmanship - electrician, plumber, etc.)||No (optional)||Yes|
|Reasonable undertaking to build cabin on your own||Yes (generally)||No|
|Off-grid option vs. utility hookup||Your choice||Full hookup required in most cases|
I have chosen a "no permit required" route.
Tip:Two other points:
If you decide to go the no-permit route, the use of your property should be stated as occasional recreational (it's a section in some legal papers).
- Later you can construct multiple smaller size structures to provide a more pleasant homelike recreational environment.
(Keep in mind that there is probably a minimum space requirement between structures for them to be considered separate).
See later section on choice of Other / Auxiliary Cabin Structures.
- Consider building your small cabin in a manner and in a location where, if you later decide to extend the structure, your existing cabin will become a natural part of the new, larger structure.
For example, the small cabin you built first will become a bedroom in a larger cabin or cottage.