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Adding a secondary suite

Step 1: Review


Do I need a permit?

  • Yes, you will need permits to build a new secondary suite

Do I need an Electrical Permit?

You need a separate electrical permit for all electrical installations and renovations.

 

Fees

​Suite type ​Permit Fee ​Safety Codes Council Fee (4%) ​Total
​New secondary suite ​$402 ​$16.08 ​​$418.08

How long will it take to get a permit?

To avoid delays, make sure your application includes all the required documents, plans and information listed on the checklist:

Permit Timeline

Planning Approval (Development Permit)

10 - 12 weeks

Building Safety Approval (Building Permit)

Approx. 7 days

When does my permit expire?

You will receive a permit expiry reminder in the mail. If you need more time, you can extend your permit. Review the extend or reinstate your permit section.

Permit Type Expiry (from date of issuance)
Building Permit 180 days
Contractor Trade Permit 330 days
Homeowner Permit 330 days

Step 2: Prepare


Use the information below to prepare your application. Follow the rules in the location, design and construction sections to help make sure your application meets the City's requirements.

Construction (Building Code information)

Ceiling and door heights

The National Building Code (Alberta Edition) requires a minimum floor to ceiling height of 1.95 m for basement suites.

  • Ceiling heights can be reduced to 1.85 m where ductwork and beams make drop ceilings necessary.
  • Doors within the suite may be reduced to 1.89 m where required. 
 


Casement windows​
Casement windows must open a full 90 degrees when a window is required.​
 
horizontal sliding window

 
Horizontal sliding window
Vertical sliding window
Vertical sliding window
 

Separation of Suites

The National Building Code (Alberta Edition) requires dwelling units must be separated from each other, any common spaces and/or furnace rooms by a continuous smoke tight barrier. The barrier must be no less than 12.7 mm thick[RJ1] [CC2]  gypsum board and must be installed on both sides of each wall and the underside of the floor ceiling framing.  

Doors installed in common spaces, furnace room or between dwellings must be solid core wood at least 45mm thick and have a self-closing device on the door.

Sound Proofing

Each dwelling must be separated and constructed using sound proofing materials to minimize noise transfer between units including:

  • Filling joist spaces with sound-absorbing material of no less than 150mm nominal thickness.

  • Filling stud spaces with sound-absorbing material, ensuring there is a resilient channel on one side of the separation spaced 400 or 600 mm o.c.

  • Having no less than 12.7 mm thick gypsum board on the ceiling and both sides of the walls .

  • Providing an STC rating of not less than 43, (refer to NBC-AE) or a separating assembly and adjoining constructions, which together provide an ASTC rating of not less than 40.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms are required and must be interconnect with all alarms in both dwelling units. Alarms must be hardwired to permanent power with a battery backup power. The interconnection between the alarms can be done via Bluetooth or through hardwiring.

Smoke alarms are required

  • In bedrooms, living area, in hallways serving bedrooms, furnace rooms, common areas and in service rooms such as laundry. Alarms must be in the suite and the main dwelling.

Carbon Monoxide alarms are required

  • Inside or within 5m of bedrooms, in common areas and in furnace rooms.

  • Combination Smoke/CO alarms are permitted in the Carbon Monoxide alarm locations.

Entry and exit points

The main residence and suite must have at least one exit that leads directly outside. This may be a door that leads to an exterior stair or a door to a common set of interior stairs that is separated from both the main residence and suite.

  • A stairway used in an exit requires a minimum width of 860 mm and must have at least one handrail.
  • Handrails should be mounted between 865 mm and 1070 mm above the stair. The height is measured vertically from the front edge of the stair tread.
  • At least one light fixture that can be switched both on and off at the top and bottom of the stairs is required.
  • A landing must be provided at the top and bottom of all stairs. The landing must be at least 860 mm long and at least as wide as the stairs.
  • Doors serving the exit are required to be a minimum of 810 mm wide and 1.89 m high. Utility rooms, laundry rooms, furnace rooms and all other doors leading to the exit must also be at least 810 mm wide. 

Bedroom egress windows

Each bedroom must have at least one window that can be fully opened and used to escape during an emergency.

  • The window must have an unobstructed opening of 0.35 m2 in area and a minimum height and width of 380 mm. See the acceptable window style illustration below for examples and additional requirements.
  • When a window well is required, a clearance of 760 mm must be provided in front of the window. If a casement-type window is used, it must swing open a full 90 degrees. See the window well illustration below for more details.
  • Security bars serving a bedroom window must be removable from the inside without the use of tools, keys or special knowledge. A large majority of security bars do not meet the requirements and are not accepted. 

Casement windows​

Casement windows must open a full 90 degrees when a window is required.​


Horizontal sliding window

horizontal sliding window



Vertical sliding window

Vertical sliding window


Awning Window

 Inward swinging awning window


Exterior stairways and protection of secondary suite exits

You must ensure your suite tenants can safely exit in the event of a fire or emergency. There are additional[RJ1]  requirements to consider when the only exit for a suite is served by an exterior staircase, where a window or opening is located directly above the stairway:

  • Option A: Installing glass block or wired glass in fixed steel frames on the windows of the primary home.

  • Option B: Constructing a roof over the entirety of the exterior exit stair out of solid material such as wood, metal or concrete.

Option A:

If you install glass block or wired glass:

  • Windows that are less than 3 m horizontally and less than 10 m below or less than 5 m above the exit stair need to be protected.

  • Windows on the primary entrance that do not expose to the stairwell do not need protection.

  • Only fixed, non-operable windows can be protected in this way.

  • Bedroom windows must be operable.

Option B:

Option B shows an exterior stairwell with a roof providing protection from the window above it.​

More information on Unenclosed Exterior Stairs can be found on the  Protection of Openings Near Unenclosed Exterior Stairs and Ramps advisory.

New exterior stairwells and engineering

The National Building Code (Alberta Edition) requires all foundation footings in Calgary to have at least 1.2 m of ground cover for protection.

  • New exterior exit stairs must include a shallow foundation design by a registered professional engineer since stairwell excavation impacts the required frost cover.

  • Retaining walls required alongside the new staircase opening often retain greater than 1 m of soil. In these cases, the retaining wall may be required to be included in the engineered design. 

Plumbing

Secondary suites must have:

  • A supply of hot water and at least one kitchen sink, bathroom sink, toilet and a bathtub or shower.

  • A back-flow prevention device on the branch drains of the sanitary sewer line. 

Electrical

A common electrical panel can serve both suites, provided there are no shared branch circuits between the suites. It is recommended the electrical panel be in a common area, or that each tenant has access to the electrical panel. 

  • Use the secondary suite electrical load calculation sheet to ensure your current electrical service is adequate.

  • Before an electrical permit rough-in inspection occurs, the form should be emailed to us.

  • If the main electrical service must be increased from 60 amps, 100 amps, or 200 - amp service, please have your Contractor contact ENMAX.

Installing a furnace or gas appliance in secondary suites

An independent heating and ventilation system that includes independent ductwork is required for secondary suites.

Several heating systems can be used:

  • A second forced air furnace may be installed for the suite.

    Electric baseboard heaters or hydronic radiant heating may be installed with an independent ventilation system, like a heat recovery ventilator.

  • If a single boiler is being used for both units, separate zone controls are required for each unit. Heating equipment must include easy access to compartments for inspection, maintenance and cleaning.

  • A mechanical permit is required if you are installing a new furnace and/or heat recovery ventilator to provide separate ventilation for the suite. 

Airport vicinity protection area (AVPA)

On a property located inside the airport vicinity protection area (AVPA), the suite must be located in the basement of an existing single family development.

Chat with us, or contact the Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 for more information about secondary suites in the AVPA.

Step 3: Apply


To apply online, you need a myID account. Create a myID account.

We’re currently experiencing higher than seasonal application volumes, we apologize for delays. To check the status of your permit, go to vista.calgary.ca and enter in your Job Access Code (JAC) number

Apply in person

Once you have gathered all required documents, you can apply for your permit in person by visiting the Planning Services Centre.

Complete Application Requirement

An application for a permit may be refused if, within ninety (90) days from the date of receipt, adequate information and documentation is not supplied as requested by the Safety Codes Officer. Should a permit be considered for refusal the applicant will be given notification in writing and 30 days to resubmit the missing information. For more information, please review Building Advisory A19-002 Building Permit Complete Application

Step 4: Track


After you submit your application online, you will get a confirmation email with a Job Access Code (JAC).

To track your application and check its status, enter your Job Access Code in Vista.

If you need help or have questions, contact our Planning Services Centre

Step 5: Changes


Step 6: Inspect


Visit Building inspections for information on how to book an inspection, cancel or reschedule, permit expiry and the applicable requirements for each inspection type.

Building permit inspections you will need

Secondary suites

All existing suites built before 2018 must have the minimum life safety requirements installed as outlined in the Alberta National Building Code (Alberta Edition), including:

  • Handrails on stairs.

  • Hardwired smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed and interconnected.

  • Smoke sealed mechanical room.

  • Unobstructed bedroom window openings which meet.

  • No security bars on bedroom windows.

  • Drywalled ceiling with all penetrations sealed smoke tight.In a new secondary suite, sound and noise protection between dwellings

  • A solid core door on mechanical room, between dwellings and any common spaces with a self-closing device.

  • Direct and protected access to the outside of the suite.

  • Approved trade permit inspections.

Before calling for an inspection, all necessary construction should be completed, and the suite should be ready for tenants to occupy.

Trade permit inspections you may need, if applicable

Electrical trade permits

During an electrical inspection, The City’s safety codes officer (SCO) must have access to all areas where electrical work has been completed.

Before booking your inspection, please ensure that:

  • There is no exposed live wiring.

  • All electrical devices that are required as part of the minimum life safety requirements are installed and operational.

  • Hardwired Smoke/CO detectors are installed and interconnected.

For more information, review the Homeowner electrical wiring guide.

Plumbing trade permits

What you need to complete before you call for each plumbing inspection:

Rough-in inspection

  • Install and complete all plumbing drainage and venting.

  • Install and connect water lines to the rest of the water distribution system.

  • Properly support all drains, vents, and water lines.

  • Install the bathtub/shower valve.

Final inspection

  • Install and ensure all fixtures and equipment are ready for use.

  • Ensure the bathtub and shower water temperature does not exceed 49 degrees Celsius.

  • Seal all piping designed for future fixtures with an approved plug or cap.

  • Provide a shut off valve for all toilets.

HVAC / Mechanical trade permits

Following an inspection, The City’s safety codes officer (SCO) may identify corrective action to comply with the National Building Code (Alberta Edition). In place of a re-inspection, the SCO may provide an option to submit a verification of compliance (VOC).

Book an inspection

Inspections occur Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The City continues to do our best to accommodate booking requests, however some dates may be unavailable due to inspection capacity. Inspections can continue to be booked up to 10 business days in advance.

You will receive a confirmation e-mail on the morning of your inspection that states your inspection window (8 a.m. to noon or noon to 4 p.m.). If you have not received an email by 8:30 a.m. on inspection day, please call 311.

Homeowners

Call 311 to book an inspection over the phone.

Contractors

If you have a Vista account:

If you do not have a Vista account:

Suites FAQs


Suite registry FAQ

What is the secondary suite registry?

The secondary suite registry is an online, searchable list identifying legal and safe secondary suites in Calgary. These suites have been registered and inspected to meet Alberta’s safety code requirements. View the suite registry bylaw and go to secondarysuites.calgary.ca to view the registry.

What is the goal of the registry?

The registry aims to build awareness with Calgarians about the importance of public safety, and the safety features of a legal secondary suite. Suites that have been inspected by The City and meet the requirements under Alberta’s safety codes provide the necessary measures to help protect lives.

What are the advantages of the registry and sticker for owners?

Registered secondary suites are listed on The City’s website and receive a numbered sticker that can be posted at the main entrance of the suite. Owners can use the registry and sticker as a means to promote their suite to current and future residents.

Is there a cost to be on the registry?

Not currently, however, in January 2022, we will reinstate fees for the suite registry. The registry program is intended to promote the importance of safe secondary suites for Calgarians.

How do I get a secondary suite sticker for my suite?

Please note it will take two to three weeks after the final inspection to receive your sticker in the mail.

Where do I place the sticker on my property?

We recommend placing the stickers on the entry point of the suite. This informs current and future residents that suite is part of The City’s registry program.

If the property is sold, does the registry transfer to the new owner?

Yes. The registry is connected to the address containing the legal and safe secondary suite.

How long is the sticker valid for?

There is no expiry date.

Can I make modifications to my secondary suite after the building permit is approved?

Any changes to your secondary suite could require additional permits and inspections. To ensure modifications meet the requirements of Alberta’s safety codes and do not alter the safety features of your suite, contact The City’s Planning Services Centre at 403-268-5311 for assistance.

What penalties might I face for owning an unsafe suite?

Safety is always top priority for The City. Our inspectors work collaboratively with secondary suite owners, and we determine appropriate timelines to complete work. However, if owners of illegal suites do not comply with minimum safety standards, we may take legal action.

Can I be removed from the registry?

The City investigates all complaints, should your secondary suite be found to no longer comply with Alberta’s safety codes, your suite will be removed from the registry.​

Suite addressing FAQ

The City of Calgary requires the assignment of a separate address for secondary suites to supplement the basic address of the main dwelling. The identifier for the secondary suite may be alphabetical or numeric. Suite numbers are shown at the start of the address for the following purposes:

Emergency response and wayfinding

If an emergency event occurs in the secondary suite, every second counts and a precise location will assist the emergency responders to locate the suite.

Current and future utility hookups

Utility hookups require the exact suite address where the utilities will be hooked up and for the utility bill to be sent.

Applications for future business licences

A requirement of a business licence is to have the exact suite address to where the business will be operating. Although there might not be a business operating out of the secondary suite at this time, an address will still be created to enable a business to be licenced at the suite when needed.

Applications for future short-term rentals

Although the secondary suite might not be used as a short-term rental at this time, a new address will still be created to enable a suite to be licenced for a short-term rental when needed. The licence requires the exact suite address and not the main dwelling address.

Canada post and other mail delivery services

Although not a City of Calgary requirement, having a separate address for the secondary suite will assist in the delivery of mail to the correct dwelling unit.

Suite density FAQ

Residential development: Understanding secondary and backyard suites’ impacts on growth in established areas

At a recent Partners in Planning session, hosted by the Federation of Calgary Communities, several questions were asked on understanding suites’ impacts within an established area.

What is the difference between a secondary or backyard suite and a dwelling unit?

A dwelling unit is the primary home for the property. Dwelling units come in many forms like an apartment, single-detached house, semi-detached house or rowhouse.

Suites are spaces used as separate living quarters from the primary home on a property. They can take form as a secondary suite or a backyard suite.

Secondary suites are located within the primary home. They are typically located in the basement but may also be located on the main or upper floors or above an attached garage.

Backyard suites are physically separated from the home and located in the property’s backyard. They are typically built on top of a detached garage but can also be on the ground floor attached to a detached garage or in an independent structure.

A suite must be approved with a primary home. They are not separate dwelling units, meaning these suites can’t be subdivided or sold separately from the primary home.

Why are suites allowed in single-detached/ R-C1 communities?

Suites are allowed in all low-density residential districts (except the R-MH District) in the City of Calgary. City Council amended the land use bylaw in 2018 to allow for suites throughout the city.

How does the MDP estimate population based on number of units?

The table below provides a common method for calculating population per hectare, by each of the key dwelling unit types (low, medium, high) and the occupancy rate, in established areas.

Why are suites allowed in single-detached/ R-C1 communities?

Secondary suites are allowed in all residential districts in the City of Calgary. City Council amended the land use bylaw in 2018 to allow for secondary suites throughout the city.

Will my property tax increase with the development of a secondary suite or backyard suite?

Property tax is calculated and billed annually using the property’s assessed value, as found on your property assessment notice, and the Council-approve​d property tax rate. Home improvement projects (i.e. basement development) or adding livable space to your home could increase your property taxes. If you have questions about property tax, contact 311.

Are levies charged on suites in the established area?

Developers pay for the costs of infrastructure within a development site that they’re building but exempts backyard and secondary suites, following the rules outline in the Off-site Levy Bylaw. For established areas, levies are collected for the treatment plant levy. More information can be found on our Off-site Levy page.

What are the parking requirements for suites?

Under the current Land Use Bylaw, suites require a minimum of one motor vehicle parking stall. This requirement is reduced in some land use districts where certain conditions are met such as a limited floor area, proximity to transit, provision of bicycle parking or where the main dwelling has 2 or more parking stalls. A relaxation in parking minimums may be considered based on proximity to city centre, amenities and public transit. For more information, please refer to the Policy to Guide Discretion for Secondary Suites and Backyard Suites.

Are suites considered in The Municipal Development Plan (MDP)’s density calculation?

Yes, indirectly. The Municipal Development Plan has intensity targets for select areas of the city, including activity centres, main streets, transit station areas and new communities. These targets are measured as people and jobs per hectare, which would include people living in suites in the calculation. These targets are not requirements, but rather aspirations.

How does the MDP estimate population based on number of units?

The table below provides a common method for calculating population per hectare, by each of the key dwelling unit types (low, medium, high) and the occupancy rate, in established areas.

Occupancy rates are based on observed census data, and the population of suites is accounted for in the occupancy rate of low-density dwelling types.

How come suites are not counted towards density?

Density is calculated by the number of primary dwellings on a parcel of land and does not include backyard or secondary suites. These suites do not increase the number of primarily dwelling units on a property as they are created either within the existing home or as part of the backyard.

For example, R-C1 districts allows for single-detached homes as well as secondary suites. A homeowner may choose to convert their basement into a legalized suite, which offers more housing choice in the community but does not increase the number of primary dwelling units onto the property.

What about districts where more than two dwelling units can be on a parcel of land? In the R-CG district, a maximum density is established to regulate the number of homes on a parcel, rather than the type of home. This is because a range of dwelling units may be found in a single building (i.e. a rowhouse may include three, four, five or more dwelling units) and more than one building containing dwelling units may be built on a parcel. In this district, there may be one suite per dwelling, but those suites do not count toward the maximum allowable density. This is done to allow for suites, but not allow for additional dwelling units beyond the maximum density.

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. ​

Calculating population by Dwelling Unit Type in Developed areas - assumptions for dwelling units per hectatre
Residential type  Units per hectare Occupancy rates People per hecare
Low density 17-28 2.8 50-80
Medium density 25-2008 2.4 62-500
High density 225-1041 1.6 360-1667

Occupancy rates are based on observed census data, and the population of suites is accounted for in the occupancy rate of low-density dwelling types.

Planning Services Centre

We’re currently experiencing higher than seasonal application volumes, we apologize for delays. To check the status of your permit, go to vista.calgary.ca and enter in your Job Access Code (JAC) number

Hours:
Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 4:15p.m. (MT)

Live chat:
calgary.ca/livechat

Call:
403-268-5311

In person:
Whitehorn Multi-Services Centre
3705 35 Street N.E.

Legal and safe: suite registry

Check the Secondary Suite Registry to find or verify a legal suite in Calgary.

Registry suites include all necessary permits and have been inspected to meet Alberta's Safety Code requirements. The registry is continually updated as we approve suites.

If an operating suite does not appear on the registry, you can contact Customer support to submit a complaint.

Click before you dig

Always contact Utility Safety Partners before you dig. Submit a locate request online or call 1-800-242-3447 for more information.


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. ​