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Adding a secondary suite

This page hasinformation about rules and permits for adding a secondary suite (including basement suite). See calgary.ca/suites for backyard suites and how to legalize an existing suite​.

We’re waiving up to $900 in fees until December 31, 2021

The City of Calgary​ is waiving fees for the development permit and secondary suite registry for all secondary and backyard suites​ until December 31, 2021.

What's changing in 2022?

All secondary and backyard suites must be on our suite registry​ by December 31, 2021​. In January 2022, we will reinstate fees for the development permit and suite registry.​

Please note

  • There can only be one secondary suite within each dwelling unit.
  • A backyard suite and a secondary suite cannot be located on the same property.
 
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Step 1: Review the rules and fees


Fees

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

Building Code Requirements

Ceiling and door heights

The Alberta Building Code 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

 Inward swinging awning window



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 800 mm and 965 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. 

Exterior stairways and protection of secondary suite exits

There are additional requirements to consider when the only exit for a suite is served by an exterior staircase.

When an unenclosed exterior exit stair or ramp provides the only exit from the secondary suite and could be exposed to fire from windows in the primary dwelling, those 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. This may be achieved by installing glass block or wired glass in fixed steel frames. It is important to know that only fixed, non-operable windows can be protected in this way. Bedroom windows must be operable.

Alternately, the construction of a roof over the entirety of the exterior exit stair may be provided. The roof must be constructed of solid construction material such as wood, metal or concrete. Option B shows an exterior stairwell with a roof providing protection from the window above it.​


Option A: uncovered entry​

New exterior stairwells and engineering

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The Alberta Building Code 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 drain 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 located 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.

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.

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 2: Prepare your application


  • Use the Secondary Suite checklist to determine your project’s drawing requirements.
  • For online applications, review the criteria for information on how to organize your plans and documents
  • Complete plans and collect supporting documents. Review the sample drawings​ if needed.

Sample drawings

 You can use these sample drawings as a reference while preparing your application.

Step 3: Apply


Apply online

In order to get started, create a myID account.

​​​​Create a myID account​​

Businesses can register for a myID business account. A business account is intended for myID services to be submitted on behalf of a business or organization. Please follow the steps outlined on the myID business account page.

In person
Once you have gathered all required documents, you can apply for your permit in person by visiting the Planning Services Centre. To skip the line, book an appointment.

Step 4: Inspections and managing your permit application



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.

Contact Us

Planning Services Centre Hours:
Monday - Friday
8 a.m. - 4:15 p.m.

LiveChat
calgary.ca/livechat

Call Us
403-268-5311

Visit Us - COVID-19 changes to services
Planning Services Centre,
3rd floor, Municipal building
800 Macleod Trail SE

Legal and safe: suite registry

Check the 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 Alberta One Call​ before you dig. Click here​ in order to submit a locate request or contact 1-800-242-3447 for more information.

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