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How to start a construction business in Ontario
Table of contents
The construction industry in Ontario is a dynamic, competitive sector that can offer both opportunities and challenges to entrepreneurs. 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:
- Find out what licences and regulations apply to your type of business
- Choose a business structure and register or incorporate your business
- Determine if you will need to collect and remit HST
Our Starting a Business guide will give you more information on these steps and other basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario.
Starting a Business
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 to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact us to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and licences search
Construction and skilled trades are highly regulated. Some common regulations that could apply to your business include:
Industry regulations and safety
Certifications and specialized trades
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.
Note: The Ontario skilled trades and apprenticeship system is changing. You can find more details about these ongoing changes on the ServiceOntario website: Skilled trades and apprenticeship system changes
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
Technical standards and safety
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, ski lifts, boilers and pressure vessels, elevating devices, natural gas, propane fuels and equipment, and petroleum.
TSSA - services
You must have all underground utilities located and marked prior to starting any excavation work. Ontario One Call (ON1Call) is the single point of contact to request the location of underground infrastructure in Ontario. ON1Call is responsible for administering the Ontario Underground Infrastructure Notification System Act, 2012.
ON1Call - Contractors
Building and fire codes
Ontario building code
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, fire prevention, 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
Warranty and energy efficiency programs
New home warranties
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 - builders
Energy-efficient new homes
As a new home builder, you may be interested in the energy efficiency programs, standards and incentives offered through Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to encourage energy-efficient homes. These include the EnerGuide Rating System, R-2000 Home Standard, Energy Star® and other grants and incentives.
Energy-efficient new homes - industry professionals
Labour regulations and workplace safety
If you carry on a business in the construction industry as a contractor, sub-contractor, sole proprietor, partner in a partnership or an executive officer in a corporation, you must register with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) for mandatory insurance coverage. There are some exceptions to the mandatory coverage.
WSIB - mandatory coverage in the construction industry
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
Occupational health and safety
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:
Working at heights training
Before working at heights, workers need to complete an approved training program. As an employer, you must ensure workers who use any of the following methods of fall protection while working on construction projects are trained:
- travel restraint systems
- fall restricting systems
- fall arrest systems
- safety nets
- work belts or safety belts
Contact the Ministry of Labour:
Working at heights training
Contracting with Quebec contractors
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
You can contact Pro Bono Ontario’s free legal advice hotline to enquire about getting help with your everyday civil legal needs (no family law or criminal law). The service is generally aimed at those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Note that service is not guaranteed and you will be asked questions as part of the qualifying process, such as the amount of personal income earned by your household, your name, postal code and age range.
Contact Pro Bono Ontario’s Free Legal Advice Hotline:
You can also contact the Law Society of Ontario's Law Society Referral Service if you have legal questions of a business nature. The service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer or paralegal, based on your needs.
Law Society 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
Grants, contributions, subsidies and loan guarantees are available from various government sources. Use Innovation Canada’s online search tool to look for programs and services that may apply to your business.
Grow your business
From day-to-day operations to long-term planning, learn how to manage your business efficiently.
If you are interested in finding an association, use our secondary market research service request and have us search for one based on your needs.
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Small Business Services (SBS) community partner, contact us at 1-888-576-4444.