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How to Start a Construction Business in Ontario

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Ontario's construction industry is diverse, dynamic and dominated by small businesses. Close to 90 percent of the 35,000-plus contractors in the province have fewer than eight employees. Starting a construction business requires significant research and familiarity with government regulations and licensing, as well as financing for equipment and materials. To start your own construction business in Ontario, plan carefully, make sure you fulfill your legal responsibilities as an employer and seek assistance from others in your industry.

Develop a solid business plan. This will help guide your decision making and is crucial if you will seek funding from financial institutions or investors. A business plan will include information on your business, competition, day-to-day operations and financing. Large banks and credit unions have business planning information and templates available, often online. You can also get business planning assistance from one of the provincial Small Business Enterprise Centres located across Ontario.

Familiarize yourself with industry regulations and licensing. The government operates BizPaL, a free online system that will tell you what federal and provincial permits and licenses you require. To obtain information about municipal permits and licenses, search BizPaL or contact your municipality directly. The construction industry itself is also subject to a number of national and provincial policy trends, including energy efficiency and smart growth. It could be a strategic advantage to learn about these, too.

Investigate specific warranty programs that may apply to you. For example, all builders and sellers of homes and condominiums must be registered with Tarion Warranty Corporation. Other programs include the R-2000 Home Program, EnerGuide for Houses and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

Successfully pass the provincial qualification exam to obtain a certificate of qualification in a skilled trade from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. To take the exam you will have to show proof of experience in the skilled trade, such as an apprenticeship contract or evidence of employment in the trade.

Familiarize yourself with safety regulations, legislation and your health and safety obligations as an employer. A good place to start is the Ontario Ministry of Labor's Guide to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Depending on the kind of construction work you will be doing, you may need special safety licenses or permits. Contact the Technical Standards & Safety Authority and the Electrical Safety Authority for more information.

Assemble a team of business experts. This includes a lawyer, accountant, insurance agent or broker and banker. They will provide advice on matters such as taxes, regulations, bonding, financing and insurance to protect your personal assets.

Decide whether you will incorporate or operate your business as a sole proprietorship. A lawyer can provide useful advice on this matter.

Register your business with the Government of Ontario. If your business is a sole proprietorship, you can perform a name search to determine the availability of your business name, complete paperwork and pay the required fees quickly and easily online. If you are incorporating your business, your lawyer and accountant will help you with the steps.

Find outside financing if necessary. Options include family and friends, loans from a financial institution, grants and loans from government agencies and private investors. Your business plan will be a valuable tool for seeking financing.

Join relevant associations for advice and support. These include the Canadian Home Builders' Association, the Council of Ontario Construction Associations, the Canadian Construction Association and the Ontario General Contractors Association.


Jennifer Dawson is a Canadian researcher and writer who started freelancing in 2007. Specializing in environment and health topics, her work has appeared in “The Health Journal,” "Nutrition and Your Health," "Alternatives" and “Together Family.” Dawson has a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Arts in anthropology from McMaster University.