The construction industry in Ontario is a dynamic, competitive sector that can offer both opportunities and challenges to entrepreneurs choosing to start their own construction business. From general contracting to highly specialized restoration, there are many different kinds of construction businesses. Before starting your business, think about the types of construction services your company will provide. Based on your services, there are several steps you will need to take in order to start your business.
When you start a business there are several things to consider before you can sell your product or service. Most businesses in Ontario need to complete a minimum of three basic steps:
Our business start-up guide will give you more information on these steps and other basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario.
Business Start-Up Guide
Your business may need licences and permits from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.
In addition to the information you will find in this guide, you can use BizPaL—an online search tool—to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact the Business Info Line to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and Licences Wizard
Contact the Business Info Line:
Construction and skilled trades are highly regulated. Some common regulations that could apply to your business include:
In order to legally work in certain skilled trades in Ontario, you must have a Certificate of Qualification, which certifies that you have completed the necessary apprenticeship and/or on-site training requirements for your trade.
Contact the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities:
When working with electricity, consult the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), a not-for-profit organization responsible for public electrical safety in Ontario. The ESA provides continuous safety services and advice, equipment/product approval inspections, wiring inspections, general inspections, and information on the Ontario Electrical Safety Code.
Electrical Safety Authority
Your construction work must comply with the regulations and standards set out by the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA). Contact TSSA if you are an operating engineer, or if your construction project will include amusement devices; boilers and pressure vessels; elevating devices; natural gas, petroleum, propane fuels and equipment; or upholstered and stuffed articles.
Technical Standards and Safety Authority - Services
Your new construction project and your workers are required to meet the regulations and standards outlined by The Ontario Building Code. Your business will need to meet standards such as safety, environmental, and technical standards for any construction in Ontario.
Contact the Building and Development Branch of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing:
Ontario Building Code
If your business will be involved in the construction or sale of new homes or condominiums, you must be registered with the Tarion Warranty Corporation.
Contact the Tarion Warranty Corporation:
Tarion Warranty Corporation
You may choose to take part in the EnerGuide program which encourages the retrofitting of existing houses that have the potential to become more energy efficient. Qualified contractors deliver the program while Natural Resources Canada partially subsidizes the cost of the evaluation and quality assures the service.
Contact the Office of Energy Efficiency:
EnerGuide for Houses Program
If you want to build energy-efficient houses that are environmentally friendly, you may be interested in the R2000 Home Program. The program is a voluntary standard administered by Natural Resources Canada that encourages you to use cost-effective energy-efficient building practices and technologies.
R-2000 Home Program
If you hire an independent contractor to work with your business, you must make sure that they have been issued a Clearance Certificate from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). The certificate is issued free of charge and proves that the contractor is registered with the WSIB and has an account in good standing. The certificate also clears you of financial responsibility for WSIB payments.
WSIB Clearance Certificates
You and your employees have the right to safe working conditions. Learn about the health and safety rules and regulations that will apply to your business by contacting the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
Contact the Ministry of Labour:
Health and Safety
If you plan to hire contractors or workers from Quebec, you will need to ensure that they are registered with the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s Jobs Protection Office. Quebec contractors and construction workers are required to register with the Jobs Protection Office and provide proof of competency and fiscal responsibility before they are able to work in Ontario.
Contact the Jobs Protection Office:
Jobs Protection Office
If you have legal questions, contact a lawyer who deals with business regulations. The Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Referral Service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer, based on your needs.
Contact the Law Society of Upper Canada:
Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Referral Service
Depending on your location and the type of products or services being offered, federal, provincial and/or municipal business taxes may apply.
If you sell goods and services in Ontario, you may need a business number to collect and remit the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Most businesses that make less than $30,000 in any 12 month period are not required to charge HST; however, you can register voluntarily and claim input tax credits. Speak with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for more information.
Canada Revenue Agency – Business
Canada Business can help you find government financing options for your business. There are programs that apply to businesses across Canada, and others that apply only to businesses in Ontario. Use the Canada Business financing search tool or browse by type of financing.
You can also access Canada Business information through the ONe-Source online financing wizard. The wizard guides you through 3 easy steps to create a personalized list of results for Ontario business financing programs.
Contact the Business Info Line:
You can find Ontario-specific assistance for your business including advice, financing options, tax incentive programs and more using the Ontario government’s free online directory of support programs for business.
The OBPG provides:
Ontario Business Program Guide
The success of any business starts by setting goals and managing the ups and downs of daily operations. Here are some key factors to consider when starting a construction business.
Marketing can help you determine the value of your product or service and communicate that information to customers. Depending on your market and its size, you can consider using flyers, business cards, brochures, newspapers, radio, TV, the phone book or the Internet. Keep in mind, a satisfied customer or a positive referral is often the best form of advertising.
When preparing your marketing and/or advertising material, there are regulations to follow. When you promote a product or service, your customers need to have enough information to make informed choices. You can get more information on advertising requirements from the Competition Bureau.
Contact the Competition Bureau:
Misleading Advertising and Labelling
Setting the right price is important in ensuring the success of your business. Here are a few questions you may want to consider:
When determining your fees, make sure you include the cost of your labour, the overhead and the expenses that will be incurred.
In the end, the right price for the service is the price that the consumer is willing to pay. Correct pricing decisions are often key to successful business management.
Negotiating is part of doing business. You negotiate with suppliers, distributors and customers. Good negotiations can lead to prosperity, while bad negotiations can damage your business profitability. Before you start your business you may want to learn about negotiating.
The use of business support services can be essential to the success of a small business. Professionals can provide knowledge and expertise to ensure your business is operating efficiently.
As an entrepreneur, there are several types of professional business services you can consult:
Having the correct business insurance can provide peace of mind. Contact an insurance agent to discuss your business insurance options, or to develop a plan that is right for your business.
You may also wish to contact your local chamber of commerce or industry association, as some organizations offer members lower rates on their business insurance.
The following list is included to remind you not to overlook the complex areas of business insurance. It is best, however, to discuss your specific requirements with your insurance agent.
Insurance for Your Small Business
There are many associations that may be of interest to you. It is not necessary to join an association, but some of the advantages include:
Examples of associations for a construction business include:
If you choose to specialize in non-residential construction and would like to access shared information and resources, you may be interested in CCA membership. CCA aims to be the national voice for the Canadian construction industry.
Canadian Construction Association
If you are building new homes, you may choose to become a member of the Canadian Home Builders Association, an organization that aims to represent and serve the interests of the home construction industry throughout Canada.
Contact the Canadian Home Builders Association:
Canadian Home Builders Association
HSO can help you with training, consultation, information, problem solving and research related to safety for you and your employees.
Health and Safety Ontario
You and your workers may consider working with the IHSA to eliminate occupational injury and illness in the construction, electrical, natural gas, ready-mix concrete, transportation, and utilities industries.
Infrastructure Health and Safety Association
If you will be working with unionized workers, you may wish to look into the OCS. The OCS promotes and represents Ontario’s unionized industrial, commercial, and institutional construction industry.
Ontario Construction Secretariat
If you are looking for webinars, networking opportunities, education opportunities, advocacy and representation within the construction industry, you may be interested in joining the OGCA
Contact the OGCA:
Ontario General Contractors Association
For other information that relates to starting your business, you can read the following guides:
Additional resources that may be of interest to you include:
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Canada Business Ontario (CBO) community partner, contact us through the Business Info Line at 1-888-745-8888.
Information contained in this document is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute advice for any specific situation. Users concerned about the reliability of the information should consult directly with the source, or seek legal counsel.
Some of the organizations listed above are not subject to the federal Official Languages Act or the French Language Services Act of Ontario. Their services may not be available in both official languages.