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Home renovations & basements

 

Important terms

Basement: the portion of a building below the first floor and is either partially or completely below grade.​

Secondary suite: a self-contained dwelling unit within the main residence that has separate living, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. These are commonly refered to as basement suites or in-law suites.

Before you start

Application requirements for a basement development vary from those of a secondary suite. If you would like to construct a secondary suite, please refer to secondary suites.

Note: A recent change to the Alberta Building Code has updated the requirement for window wells, to provide a clearance of 760 mm (30") outside of a bedroom window. This change requires any proposed basement developments replace window wells which do not meet this requirement. As this change is considered an exterior renovation, a site plan is also required with your application to determine if the window well meets bylaw requirements. See the Egress Window Guidelines​ for more information.

What permits do I need?

The scope of work being performed will dictate what permits are required. If a development permit is required, this must be applied for and approved prior to building permit and trade permit applications.

When is a building permit required?

A building permit is required when you are:

  • Developing a new basement or renovating an existing basement that was previously developed.
  • Making alterations more extensive than cosmetic upgrades.
  • Adding, moving or removing walls.
  • Making structural changes.

When is a development permit required?

A development permit is required when you are:

  • Making exterior alterations and are located in the floodway or within 6.0 m of the floodway.
  • Proposing a new exterior projection that impedes a required free and clear side yard.
  • Proposing a development which does not comply with the Land Use Bylaw.

See the bylaw and code considerations section for examples of different scenarios where development permits are required.

When is a trade permit required?

As the homeowner, you are able to obtain homeowner’s plumbing, electrical and gas fireplace installation permits. To apply for a homeowner’s trade permit, you must be performing the work yourself, you must own the home with proof of ownership (in cases where the property has been purchased recently) and live in the home. If you are hiring a contractor, they must have a valid City of Calgary business licence and obtain the proper permits. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to ensure these permits have been obtained.

You cannot apply for a trade permit on behalf of a contractor. If your contractor is performing the work, they must apply for the applicable trade permit.

Risks when a permit is not obtained

If you, as a homeowner or contractor, do not have permits for work that has been started or completed, there could be consequences if you do not take action to correct the situation, such as:

  • Enforcement action issued by a City inspector.
  • A fine for building without a permit.
  • Having to undo work that has been completed.
  • Future legal and financial issues when selling your property or making an insurance claim.
  • Having to do more work than was originally planned and budgeted.

Note: As a homeowner, you are responsible for paying any penalties, even if you hired a contractor who assured you permits were not needed. If you are unsure if you need a permit, call the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311. Find out if your contractor has a City of Calgary business license with our Licensed Trade Contractor List.

Existing structures requiring relaxation

If a structure has already been built and does not comply with the rules of the Land Use Bylaw, a relaxation application is required. The applicant applies for a development permit application to weigh the impacts of the non-compliant structure and evaluate whether a relaxation is appropriate. When making this type of application, use the requirements list for Relaxation of an Existing Structure.

Timelines

We’re committed to providing you with a timely response on your permit application.

Development permit timelines vary, based on the type of application and the impacts to the community.

Most building permits for home improvement projects can be issued the same day as the application. However, sometimes a plans examiner will require a more in-depth examination of the application and the building permit is generally issued within a week.

Bylaw and code considerations

Inquiries about building, plumbing, gas, electrical or HVAC code or construction methods, building safety and fire regulations, please contact the Technical Assistance Centre​. For all other inquiries (i.e. Land Use Bylaw), please call 403-268-5311.

Note: It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the work being carried out conforms to any restrictive covenants, caveats or other restrictions that are registered on the land title.

New window or enlarging a window

If you are adding or enlarging a window in your basement, a building permit is required. If the proposed window is located within a bedroom, egress requirements in the Alberta Building Code must be met. For a comprehensive explanation of these requirements, please see Egress Window Guidelines.

Note: Engineering may be required for structural alterations. Contact our Technical Assistance Centre for more information.

A development permit may be required if your proposed window does not meet Land Use Bylaw requirements. To meet these requirements:

  • One side setback must be clear of all projections (air conditioning equipment, window wells, cantilevers and bay windows).
  • A window well can only project to a maximum of 0.8 m into a side setback.
  • Window wells must not project into the 3.0 m side setback required on a laneless property.
  • A 3.0 m side setback from the back of walk is required for a corner property.
new window or enlarging a window
New window or enlarging a window

New basement entry

A new basement entry requires a building permit.

Note: Engineering may be required for structural alterations. Contact our Technical Assistance Centre for more information.

A development permit may be required if your proposed entry does not meet Land Use Bylaw requirements. To meet these requirements:

When your proposed entry requires a landing, the landing must:

  • Not exceed 2.5 m².
  • Not be located in the 3.0 m side setback area required on a laneless property.
  • Not be located in a side setback area that is required to be clear of projections unless the landing is accessible from the rear and the front.
landing example
Landing example

Smoke and carbon monoxide detector requirements

Smoke detectors are required in all bedrooms and hallways servicing bedrooms. They must be hard-wired and interconnected throughout the house. If there are no hallways servicing bedrooms in your basement, smoke detectors are required within common areas.

smoke and carbon monoxide requirements
Smoke and carbon monoxide requirements

Mechanical/furnace room requirements

Your mechanical/furnace room or laundry room is required to have at least one door with a minimum 32 inch opening. One pathway that leads from these rooms to the exterior of the house is also required to be 32 in.

Wetbars/kitchens

If you are intending to have a kitchen and bathroom in your basement, you must apply for a secondary suite.

A wetbar may be included in your development but it cannot have a means of cooking (i.e oven, stove, cooktop, microwave).

Obtaining permits after the work is complete

If your basement has previously been finished without proper permits, you may still apply for the permits after renovations have been completed.

The building permit application can be made by the homeowner. You must provide the same requirements as a new application and may be required to expose concealed framing.

Concealed wiring procedure

For an electrical permit, when the work has been concealed by drywall, you are required to follow the concealed wiring procedure. A homeowner’s permit cannot be issued for a home that has concealed wiring that was done without proper permits.

To have the inspection done, the owner must hire a registered, licensed electrical contractor. The electrical contractor will have to obtain an electrical permit and check that the wiring complies with electrical codes. However, the homeowner is still ultimately responsible for any previously concealed electrical wiring.

Concealed plumbing procedure

For a plumbing permit, when the work has been concealed by drywall, you are required to follow the concealed plumbing procedure. A homeowner’s permit cannot be issued for a home that has concealed plumbing that was done without proper permits.

To have the inspection done, the owner must hire a registered, licenced plumbing contractor. The plumbing contractor will have to obtain a plumbing permit and check that the plumbing complies with plumbing codes. However, the homeowner is still responsible for any previously concealed plumbing.

Note: There is a possibility the inspector may ask for drywall to be removed to complete their inspection. For further inquiries, please contact our Technical Assistance Centre.

Note: It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that the work being carried out does not break the requirements of restrictive covenants, caveats, or any other restrictions that are registered against the property.

What documents do I need?

Sample drawings for building permits and development permits for basement development.

Inspections

Book your inspections by contacting 311 and providing them with your permit number.

Generally, your project will require a rough-in and a final inspection for each building and trade permit pulled, though additional inspections may be required. You can contact 311 on the morning of your inspection to find out if it will be in the morning or afternoon.

A development completion permit inspection may be required if a development permit is involved in your project. Call our Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 to determine if a development completion permit is required.

Call before you dig

Always call Alberta One Call before you dig: 1-800-242-3447. For more information or to submit a locate request, visit Alberta One-Call.

Disclaimer: This information has no legal status and cannot be used as an official interpretation of the various bylaws, codes and regulations currently in effect. The City of Calgary accepts no responsibility to persons relying solely on this information. Web pages are updated periodically.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​