It is increasingly popular for homeowners to add a basement suite to their primary residence. Calgary homes with a basement suite can be rented to someone else to help reduce mortgage costs, and they're one of the best properties for multi-generational homes. No matter the reason for adding a basement suite, it will need several permits required to make a legal basement suite in Calgary. Additionally, basement suites containing a kitchen and bathroom that were built before March 12, 2018, will require the same permits to bring it up to the most recent codes. Here's everything you need to know about the permits required for basement development in Calgary.
Examine the Scope of Your Basement Development Project
If a basement already has cooking and bathroom facilities, it still requires secondary suite permits—this applies even if the owner has no intention of renting out a basement apartment. If renovating an existing secondary suite or adding a basement, homeowners must obtain a Development Permit. Once that is granted, they will need to obtain a New Basement permit or one for a renovation of an existing basement. Knowing the scope of the project ahead of time will give an indication of which permits are necessary.
Find the Right Calgary Permit Type for Basement Developments
A Building Permit is required if an existing basement is being developed into a secondary suite. When the owner plans to do some or all of the work themselves, they can apply for a homeowner's permit. If a contractor is doing the work, then the Building Permit will be a contractor's permit. However, if an entirely new basement is being constructed, that requires a different type of Building Permit. Basement suites will also require all the same amenities as a regular apartment, so there are three additional required permits:
- Electric permit
- Plumbing permit
- Gas permit
Permits can be approved in as little as 30 days. However, the process can take up to 90 days for approval and inspections for larger projects.
Calgary Building Permit vs. Development Permit
The Development Permit is the first permit in the process. This permit allows land use bylaws to be relaxed so that a home can be renovated. All owners must complete a building permit application before building a new basement or renovating an existing one. You'll need to retroactively obtain construction permits if you're buying a home with non-approved work. In either scenario, the owner will need to visit the municipality office with a copy of their site plan, which should include all the following:
- Square footage of the basement/proposed basement
- Room designations
- Proposed smoke detectors & CO2 detectors
- Sizes of proposed windows
- Minimum door sizes
- Proposed electrical locations for lighting & outlets
Calgary requires two inspection types for secondary suites. The first is of the framing, which will be conducted before any drywall or insulation. The final inspection occurs when the suite is ready for tenants.
Calgary Electric Permit
Any new wiring that will take place in a basement renovation is going to require an electrical permit. Extending or altering electrical branch circuit wiring would also require the same permit. So long as no physical changes are being made to the main panel, the homeowner is allowed to do that work themselves. They can also add an existing subpanel, so long as there is a main breaker. Most other forms of work on the electrical system need to be done by a licensed electrician.
Calgary Plumbing Permit
Calgary plumbing permits are required whenever a home's plumbing system is built, extended, or changed. This includes when water and sewer lines are replaced in the home or on the homeowner's property. In some cases, a plumbing permit can also be required when replacing a hot water tank. For example, a permit is required if there are changes to the venting system or the type of hot water tank. Repairing plumbing leaks and replacing existing faucets do not require a permit.
Calgary Gas Permit
A gas permit for a basement suite can only be pulled by a licensed contractor who is a gasfitter. Unless the homeowner is a gasfitter, they cannot obtain a permit to install or alter an existing gas line.
However, the homeowner can get a gas fireplace installation permit. The proper vent and mantel clearances must be met to ensure proper fireplace safety. When connecting the fireplace to the gas line, the services of a qualified gasfitter must be used. This requires a separate gas contractor's permit.
Legalizing an Existing Basement Suite
If an existing basement suite has a bathroom and a kitchen, the owner must apply for a Secondary Suite permit, even if they have no intention of renting the unit. If the basement is developed but does not have a kitchen, the owner must apply for a New Secondary Suite permit to build one. Suppose the basement has all the existing requirements for a basement suite, including kitchen, bathroom, gas, electrical, and water hookups, and was built before March 12, 2018. In that case, the owner can apply for a Suite Registry permit to have it legalized.
Legal Basement Suite Checklist
To qualify as a legal basement suite and receive approval, the following features must be present:
- Ceiling and Door Heights: Ceilings must be a minimum of 1.95 meters, and doors must be a minimum of 1.89 meters.
- Separation of Suites: Doors between dwellings or common spaces must be solid core wood, and soundproofing must be applied between rooms.
- Entry and Exit: The suite must have its exterior exit.
- Egress Windows: The bedroom must have at least one window that can fully open for escape during an emergency.
- Exterior Stairway: Tenants must be able to exit the unit during a fire or other emergency safely.
- Plumbing: Hot water supply, at least one kitchen sink, a toilet, and a tub/shower are required.
- Electrical: Both the main house and suite can use one electrical primary, so long as branch circuits are not shared between the two.
- Furnace or Gas Fireplace: A basement suite must have a heating, ventilation, and duct system.
Add a Basement Suite for Increased Home Value
Turning your basement into an apartment can add value to the price of the home, no matter the intended use for the suite. Having all the proper permits before starting the work is crucial so the project can be completed legally and on time.