Accessory residential building: a covered building that is not attached to a house. Accessory residential buildings include: detached garages, sheds, carports, pergolas, gazebos, arbours, green houses and playhouses.
Backyard suite: a self-contained dwelling unit located in a detached building that has separate living, cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities. These are commonly referred to as carriage houses, garage suites, garden suites, or laneway homes.
Before you start
If your structure will be connected to a house in any way, the structure is considered an addition. For example: a pergola, shed or carport that is attached to a house, a front or rear attached garage. Please visit additions for more information.
If you are building a pergola on a deck you may require a development permit and will also have to make a deck application. Please visit uncovered decks and balconies for information on deck applications.
If you are building a structure for the purpose of developing a backyard suite, please visit secondary suites and backyard suites.
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 development permit required?
A development permit is required when:
- Your proposed building is in the floodway or within 6.0 m of the floodway, or
- Your proposed structure does not meet the Land Use Bylaw rules (height, setbacks, parcel coverage, etc.), or
- The total area of the proposed structure and any existing accessory buildings are larger than the footprint of the house or exceeds 75 m2.
See the know the rules for examples where development permits are required.
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.
When is a building permit required?
A building permit is required when:
- The overall area of the structure exceeds 10 m2.
- The building is habitable.
When is a trade permit required?
Trade permits are required for electrical, plumbing, gas or mechanical work. This work will be inspected by safety code officers familiar with the applicable trade, to ensure code compliance.
Types of trade permits
- Electrical permit: required for installing or modifying electrical systems, including moving lights or plugs.
- Plumbing permit: required for installing or modifying plumbing systems, including new bathroom fixtures, even when the rough-ins are in place.
- Gas permit: required if you are planning to have a gas fireplace installed, replacing a gas furnace or any other gas related work.
- Gas fireplace installation permit: required to ensure proper vent and mantle clearances for a fireplace insert; a separate gas permit is always required for new gas connections.
- Mechanical permit: required for installing or modifying heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
Do it yourself
As the homeowner, you are able to obtain homeowner’s plumbing, electrical and gas fireplace installation permits. To apply for a homeowner trade permit you must:
- Be performing the work yourself.
- Own the home (you must provide proof of ownership if the property has been purchased recently).
- Live in the home.
You may be asked to show photo ID for verification.
Note: A homeowner is not permitted to install, alter or modify the main electrical service (which includes the main panel’s main breaker and the meter base). However, a homeowner is permitted to alter or tie into the main panel (with the exception of the main breaker) and may add a sub-panel to an existing main service, provided there is an existing main breaker.
See the homeowner plumbing guide and the homeowner electrical guide for tips on doing it yourself.
Working with a contractor
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. This information can be obtained by contacting the Planning Services Centre.
A homeowner may not 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.
If you have an inquiry in regards to building, plumbing, electrical or HVAC code, submit a Technical Assistance Centre service request. For all other inquiries (e.g. Land Use Bylaw questions), please contact the Planning Services Centre.
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.
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.
Homeowner trade permits can be issued instantly at the counter.
We’re committed to providing you with a timely response on your permit application.
Know the rules
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.
Buildings under 10 m²
Accessory residential buildings under 10 m² in area typically do not require a building permit; however, the building must still follow the rules listed below to comply with the Land Use Bylaw.
Parcel coverage by all buildings cannot exceed a certain percentage of your total property size. This percentage is dictated by your specific land use district. To find out your land use district, please enter your address in the property information tool. See the graph below to determine your allowable lot coverage.
Note: If the aggregate area of all accessory buildings is under 10 m2, those structures will not contribute to parcel coverage.
To calculate lot coverage, you will need to divide the footprint area of all applicable buildings by the property size.
(Total building area ÷ property area) × 100 = lot coverage per cent
- Use the property information tool and the graph above to figure out the allowable coverage for the property.
R-C1 = 45%
- Calculate the property area.
10.36 m × 32.0 m = 331.52 m2
- Add all applicable building areas:
||77.2 m2 |
||9.3 m2 |
||10.2 m2 |
||+ 40.8 m2|
|Total building area
||= 137.5 m2
- Divide the total building area by the property area and times that by 100 to get a percentage.
|total building area = 137.5 m2
||× 100 = 41.47%
|property area = 331.52 m2
R-C1 allows for a maximum lot coverage of 45 per cent. Therefore, the proposal comes within the allowable lot coverage.
*Covered deck is only included in the calculation because it has a roof structure. Decks that are not covered should not be included.
In most land use districts, the minimum building setback required is 0.6 m from a side or rear property line. When the side or rear property line is shared with a street, the garage must be 1.2 m from the property line. No accessory buildings may be located in the actual front setback on a low density residential property.
The building may go up to the side property line (as long as the property line is not shared with a street), as long as it meets all of the following requirements:
- The exterior is maintenance-free (examples of maintenance-free materials include: vinyl and stucco) or the owner of the adjacent parcel grants a private maintenance easement.
- All water drainage off of the building remains on the property.
- The wall is fire rated with 5/8" type x drywall from floor slab to underside of roof sheathing to interior face of wall assemblies.
- There is no eave overhang onto the adjacent lot.
The Alberta Building Code has specific distance requirements for eaves and soffits, as demonstrated in this diagram:
Eave distance from property line
All accessory residential buildings must not exceed height requirements outlined in the Land Use Bylaw. The structure must:
- Not be higher than 4.6 m from the finished floor.
- Not be higher than 3.0 m (9'10") from the finished floor to the underside of the eaveline: the intersection of the wall and the roof structure at the highest point.
- Be one storey in height, but can have an attic without windows, accessed by a removable ladder, used by the occupants of the house for storage. The attic is allowed to have maximum height of 1.5 m measured from the attic floor to the underside of any rafter.
Separation from the main residential building
All accessory residential buildings must have a 1.0 m separation from the main residential building or house. When measuring to determine the minimum separation distance between a proposed accessory residential building and the main residential building, measure from the closest wall of each building (include second floor cantilevers, bay windows, etc.).
Minimum distance from main residential building
Rooftop decks and balconies
Rooftop decks and balconies on accessory residential buildings are not permitted under the current Land Use Bylaw on accessory residential buildings without an approved development permit.
Semi-detached garages straddle a property line. You will usually only see these when the house is a semi-detached dwelling. However, sometimes the owners of two single detached dwellings will build a semi-detached garage that straddles their common property line.
Two building permits are always required, whether the property has been subdivided or not. If the total garage area is over 75 m², a development permit is required.
Building near utility lines
Contact Alberta One-Call at 1-800-242-3447, to find out where your utility lines are before you build.
For information about building near or over gas lines, contact ATCO Gas at 403-245-7888.
If you have any questions regarding clearance from utility lines and boxes, contact ENMAX at 403-514-6100.
No structures are permitted to be built in a utility right-of-way.
Zero lot lines & maintenance access right-of-ways
Zero lot lines allow you to build up to your side property line. Zero lot lines commonly exist in conjunction with maintenance access right-of-ways on the opposite side of the lot and on adjacent lots. If your proposed structure projects into a maintenance access right-of-way, the document showing allowance for this type of construction must be presented at the time of application.
If a detached garage is accessing an unpaved rear lane, a lane grade can be established through a Development Site Servicing site visit. This will ensure that the garage floor will be at the correct elevation in relation to the lane. The City of Calgary will assume no responsibility for water runoff into the garage, or access problems arising from construction of a garage, due to a grade that is inconsistent with the design grade approved by Development Site Servicing. There is a fee for this service.
Residential grades requirement list
Number of stalls required
Most properties require one parking space per dwelling unit, unless your property falls into one of the categories below. If you are unsure of your land use district, please enter your address into the property information bar. If your land use district is not noted below, then you require one stall per dwelling.
Two stalls per dwelling are required when located in:
- R-C1N or R-1N and the parcel width is less than 9 m.
- R-C2 or R-2 and the parcel width is less than 9 m or the parcel area is less than 270 m2.
Two stalls per parcel are required when located in:
- R-2M and the parcel width is less than 9 m or the parcel area is less than 270 m2.
If your property is an irregular shape and you are unsure of your parcel width, please refer to the example below to see how to measure your parcel width and determine how many parking stalls are required.
Parking requirements can be met with a parking pad, driveway or a garage. The required parking stalls must not be located one in front of the other.
Note: many properties in Calgary were developed prior to the current bylaw and its parking requirements. There is also the potential that relaxations for parking were granted on an individual property. In these cases, the current parking requirements may not have to be met.
For information on additional parking required for secondary suites, visit Calgary.ca/suites.
Stall size requirements
For the purpose of parking stall requirements, walls of a garage, fences and property lines are considered barriers.
Parking stall size requirements:
- If the parking stall abuts two barriers the stall must be at least 5.9 m x 3 m.
- If the parking stall abuts only one barrier the stall must be 5.9 m x 2.85 m.
- If the parking stall abuts no barriers the stall must be 5.9 m x 2.5 m.
Although a building permit is not required for a parking pad, if you plan on pouring a parking pad for the purpose of building a garage in the future you should consider the location after reviewing the previously listed Land Use Bylaw rules.
Additional inquiries about building, plumbing, gas, electrical or heating, ventilation and air conditioning 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 contact our Planning Services Centre.
How to apply
Once you have determined which application(s) you will require, you can start to prepare the application requirements as outlined below. For building, development and trade permits, homeowners can apply in person at the Planning Services Centre, located on the third floor of the Calgary Municipal Building at 800 Macleod Tr. S.E. Business customers have the option to apply online through our ePermit system. For drafted examples, see the sample drawings section.
The requirement lists below are a comprehensive overview of application requirements. Please print and have all applicable forms and drawings completed prior to applying.
Accessory residential building building permit requirement list
- Application form: have this document completed when applying at the counter. List the address, applicant and contractor, if a contractor is being used.
- Interactive fee calculator: input the total size of the garage to determine building permit fees.
- Letter of authorization: if your building has a condo board, provide a letter from the board authorizing your work.
If you are applying for homeowner trade permits in addition to your building permit, these must be applied for in-person by the homeowner. There are no additional forms or drawings required to apply. See the When is a trade permit required? section for more information and to see if you qualify.
Homeowner trade permit fees
If you do not have a copy of your Certificate of Title or registrations on title, these can be obtained through an Alberta registry or online at alta.registries.gov.ab.ca.
Development permit fees
Sample drawings for building permits and development permits for detached garages and sheds.
Note: if you are using engineered roof trusses, only a site plan is required.
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.
The inspection process is dynamic and an inspection outcome depends on the chosen construction method and site conditions at time of inspection. The information provided is not intended as an exhaustive list but a generalized outline of the inspection process.
Inspections for building permits
In most cases, and at the inspector’s discretion, only a rough-in inspection is required.
Rough-in inspection requirements
- Complete concrete slab.
- Install and complete all the wall and ceiling framing.
- Install proposed windows and exterior doors.
- Exterior finishes can be installed. Do not install interior finishes.
- Rough-in, install and complete all plumbing and electrical components that are required under associated permits.
- Have requested documentation on site.
Inspections for electrical permits
Rough-in inspection requirements
- Provide access to the house to confirm breakers are installed in the house panel.
- Have all wiring and interior of boxes readily visible.
- Do not secure devices (plugs, switches) to boxes. Leave all wiring and terminations visible. Devices do not need to be installed for the rough inspection.
- Remove vapour barriers and insulation where it’s covering any wiring. The exception is for wiring fished into walls.
- Terminate all wiring into boxes and fixtures and remove outer jackets. Ensure all splices are made and all grounding is complete and visible in outlet boxes.
- All wiring must be supported.
- Cables may be terminated into the panelboard, but should not be on breakers.
- Rough and underground inspections should be combined. Expose the trench on at least one end to confirm depth.
- Install breakers and terminate wires.
- Never energize exposed wiring.
Final inspection requirements
- Do not have any exposed live wiring.
- Ensure all outlets, light fixtures and cover plates are in place.
- Energize all branch circuits for inspection.
- Complete the panelboard breaker directory.
A permit services report will be mailed to the owner after an acceptable inspection.
Note: Although preferred, it is not necessary to have the wallboard installed for a final inspection.
A development completion permit inspection may be required if a development permit is involved in your project. Contact the Planning Services Centre 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.