Creating or Authorizing a Secondary Suite

Before making plans to create a secondary suite in a new or existing house or to renovate an existing suite, contact the Planning Division to confirm that the property has the right zoning.

Secondary suites must meet the regulations in the Building Code and Zoning Bylaw. Zoning regulations for secondary suites, including regulations for size, parking, and flood construction levels, are provided for convenience in the Secondary Suite Guide. Plans must be approved by the Building Division before a Building Permit can be issued. A Tree Permit is also required.

Secondary suites must also meet the City’s design standards to ensure they provide safe, healthy and good quality housing. Different design standards apply for houses built before July 1998 and for houses built after July 1998.


Secondary Suites and Laneway or Carriage Houses

Most single detached dwelling properties are allowed both a laneway/carriage house and a secondary suite, provided each unit can meet the requirements of the Zoning Bylaw, the Laneway and Carriage House Development Permit Area guidelines, and the Building Code.


Creating the Opportunity for a Future Secondary Suite

If you are building a new house or renovating your basement and do not wish to build a secondary suite at this time, but think that you may like to add one later, the following steps will make the process easier in the future:

  1. Install hard-wired smoke alarms that are interconnected with smoke alarms in the rest of the house (i.e. when one smoke alarm goes off, they all go off simultaneously).
     
  2. Prepare your heating system. If your house is heated through a forced-air system, the heating ducts in the area where a future suite may be added should be closed. Electric baseboards or some other kind of heating would then need to be installed.
     
  3. Protect your gas furnace. If you have a gas furnace that will be inside or near the area where a future suite may be added, the furnace room should be protected by adding 5/8” Type X (Fireguard) drywall inside and out, including the ceiling. The access door to the furnace room should be a 45-minute fire rated door with a self-closing mechanism.
     
  4. Ensure fire safety between the two units. Install 5/8” Type X (Fireguard) drywall on the ceiling of the area where a future suite may be added and on any walls that are shared by the principal unit or a common area (such as a shared laundry room).
     
  5. Ensure access access points between the two units are fire safe.  For access points between the future suite and the principal unit or a common area, the door connecting the areas should be a 20-minute fire rated door with a self-closing mechanism.
     
  6. Ensure that each bedroom contains a window that has an openable area of at least 3.8 sq. ft. (0.35 sq. metres), has no openable dimension less than 15 inches (38 cm) and whose window sill is no higher off the floor than 4 ft. 11 inches (1.5 metres).


Completing this work at the time of building or renovation will not be a significant additional expense and will greatly reduce the expense of creating a suite in the future. Contact the Building Division regarding questions about preparing for a future secondary suite.


Adding a Secondary Suite to an Existing House

When adding a secondary suite to an existing house, the following items will need to be reviewed for Building Code compliance: 

  • Access and entrances,
  • Ceiling height,
  • Window size and area,
  • Fire separations,
  • Heating and ventilation systems,
  • Electrical and gas systems, and
  • Fire and carbon monoxide detectors.

 

Significant changes or upgrades to a house may be required by the Building Code in order to create a suite.  Property owners are encouraged to discuss required upgrades with their contractor or design professional early in the renovation project. Contact the Building Division regarding questions about adding a secondary suite to an existing house.