Backyard building safety

Sunshine, grilled food and patio chairs are a recipe for a good time in summer –but the fun could be spoiled if your backyard is not safe.

With the summer season arrived, the City of Penticton encourages all residents to take measures to avoid unsafe conditions in the backyard – whether you are replacing a patio, building a shed, spending time by the pool or considering landscape options like filling or excavating a part of your property.

“Building permits allow the City to protect both people and the community as a whole. Obtaining permits ensures that the minimum safety and health standards are being met, and this protects the owner and future owners as well,” said Acting Mayor Garry Litke.

The City of Penticton Building Department is here to help people determine what requires permits and inspections are required for a given outdoor projects. There is information online about when building permits are required [PDF - 330 KB] before homeowners undergo their project. Most small project permit fees are under $151, which includes inspections – which go a long way to ensure B.C. Building Code provisions are met and your family's health and safety is protected.

Decks and balconies can collapse as they age if they are not properly built. Building or repairing decks and balconies require a building permit and inspection. Homeowners should make sure these structures are built properly and comply with building codes. Other safety hazards to look for on decks and balconies are:

  • split or rotting wood
  • wobbly handrails or guardrails
  • loose, missing or rusting anchors, nails or screws
  • missing, damaged or loose support beams, attachments to the building and planks
  • excessive movement, swaying or other unstable conditions when walked on.

Structures that are more than 10 square meters (108 square feet) need a building permit and are required to meet zoning setbacks. Controlling roof drainage should also be taken into consideration so neighbours are not affected.

Swimming pools, spas and hot tubs are sources of enjoyment for young and old alike, but can be dangerous for children and others. Security fencing or other barriers around a pool or spa is required, and this includes inflatable pools with depths more than 60 centimetres (24 inches). Other pool safety tips include:

  • Fence gates must have a latch and be self-closing.
  • It's a good idea to remove chairs, tables or objects that allow a child to climb and reach a gate latch or climb over the fence pool to gain access to a pool or spa.
  • Check drain covers to make sure they are not broken or in disrepair, and are anchored firmly over drain openings.
  • Although pool water alarms might detect accidental or unauthorized water access, they are not an adequate substitute for fences.
  • Have professionals install electrical and gas works and ensure the work has permits.

Landscaping changes require you to be careful, too. Retaining walls over 1.2 metres (3.9 feet) need building permits and involvement of an engineer. Permits can be required for new driveways, paving large surfaces, as well as installing irrigation systems and some swimming pools. Zoning regulates work within restricted areas such as water courses and environmentally sensitive zones, in addition to other things like fence heights.

“Building permits for small projects are often overlooked in the building process. Our Building Department has developed an open-door policy and fast-track permit process to help people with questions on building codes and the permit process,” said Ken Kunka, Building and Permitting Manager for the City of Penticton. “If you are planning on building or renovating, please contact us to ensure your project is meeting the minimum health, safety and zoning standards. This benefits everyone in the long run.”

Homeowners and residents who need more information about permits are welcome to contact the Building Department at 250-490-2501 or buildinginfo@penticton.ca.