A basement suite is a separate unit from the main residence that has regular facilities and is found beneath ground level. Many people are turning towards either building a basement unit or putting up their already existing basement unit for rent. However, the city of Calgary has set up rules that you have to follow to protect yourself and any other person who will occupy the basement unit.
➢ Egress windows
The international building code requires that all basements have egress windows. They are big enough to serve as an escape route and as a rescue route for emergency workers. You should be about to open the egress window from inside without tools, special knowledge, or keys. They should be at least 20 inches wide, at least 25 inches high, and the bottom of the clear opening should be 44 inches from the floor. If it is more than 44 inches, place a ladder there permanently.
➢ Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
Each unit of the house must have these two in each unit and they must be interconnected. This is so that all the alarms go off at the same time the instant one alarm is activated. This is an effective way to keep yourself, your family, and even your tenants out of harm’s way in case something goes wrong. Do well to hire contractors that are aware of the 2014 Alberta Code to do maintenance work every so often. You should also test these alarms and detectors to know if they are functioning properly.
Within each unit, there ought to be at worst, one exit door that can swing inward and lead people outside.
➢ Living area
Basement suites must have a separate kitchen, living, sleeping, and bathroom areas from the main residence. However, they may share the same laundry area, backyard, parking spaces, and storage area with your main residence. The goal is to ensure that whoever lives in the basement suite has some sort of autonomy through unlimited access to living space.
All basement suites must be registered on the suite registry of the city of Calgary by the 31st of December 2021. After the cut-off date, you will be charged the usual $900 for registration and a development permit.
➢ Separate heating source
All basement units built after March 2018 must have a separate heating and ventilation system from the main residence. These systems must have independent ductwork for each basement suite. You can either use hydronic radiant heating or electric board heaters as the basement unit’s heating system. You can install any of these heating systems with a separate ventilation system. You can also choose to install a second forced-air furnace in the basement suite. Kindly note that all heating equipment ought to include access to areas for cleaning, inspection, and maintenance whenever the need arises.
➢ Basement and Backyard suites
A basement suite and a backyard suite cannot be found on the same property. You either have a basement suite or a backyard suite. Furthermore, a dwelling unit can only have one secondary unit. If it has more than one, the city of Calgary considers it illegal and the owner can face sanctions.
➢ Electrical panel
The main residence and the basement suite can share an electrical panel as long as they do not share branch circuits. The electrical panel should be in an area where everyone has access to it (common area).
All basement suites ought to have at least a bathroom sink, a shower or a bathtub, a kitchen sink, and a separate hot water supply from the main residence. Additionally, the branch drain of the sanitary sewer line should have a device to prevent backflow.
The city of Calgary has specific drawing plans that each basement unit owner has to follow. You can find samples of these drawing plans on the official city of Calgary website.
Basement suites are rapidly gaining popularity throughout the city of Calgary and for good reasons. They provide you a side income in addition to what you get from your regular work and believe me, that’s a bonus. However, less than ⅓ of the total number of people in Calgary with basement suites have registered them as the city of Calgary requires. This means that they are illegal and the government can levy sanctions upon their owners. The bright side is that legalizing a basement suite has never been easier. The city of Calgary is paying for the legalization of all basement suites till December 2021.
Visit the official website of the city of Calgary to review the complete checklist for basement suites. The checklist has information on the existing basement suite criteria, the documents you need for a building permit, an example of the city of Calgary drawing standards, and what your site plan should consist of.
The city of Calgary requires that you provide an exterior site plan that shows an outdoor living space and parking lots for each unit, and separate entrances into each unit. The city of Calgary will send officials to check if any outstanding work needs to be done on your property so that it falls in line with the fire code. If it does, you need to get permits to put in place the safety considerations the 2014 Alberta Fire Code requires for a basement suite. However, all of this will only happen if your property is zoned RC-1. In this case, the city of Calgary will require that you have a development permit.
A building permit is an official document that the city of Calgary grants to authorize construction work on your basement suite. Applying for one before doing a constriction work is an excellent step towards legalizing your illegal basement suite. You can apply for one online at the official city of Calgary website or you can apply offline at the Planning Services Center. Irrespective of the application route you choose, ensure you follow the instructions for applying to the latter. One such instruction is to have all the necessary documents so that your application gets accepted.
One thing the city of Calgary takes seriously is basement suite inspection. Do your utmost so that the inspection goes smoothly. The inspection team will go over your basement suite with a fine-tooth comb to see if it is in line with the 2014 Alberta Fire Code. The city of Calgary will be checking the following;
– If each bedroom has at least one window that has a window well that is greater than or equal to 30 inches in front of the window. It has an opening that is larger than 3.8 square feet and can fully open. Additionally, an egress window has dimensions that are greater than or equal to 15 inches.
– If the smoke alarms are interconnected, hardwired, or connected by Bluetooth between the basement unit and the primary unit. The reason being the fire alarms will go off simultaneously in both units if there is a fire in one of them. Furthermore, the team will check for smoke and or CO2 detectors in the mechanical room, the hallway if it is the unit’s common area and every bedroom that is to be inspected.
– If your basement suite has a cold air return. However, if both suites share a heating source, you may be exempted because it’s an existing suite.
– If the primary suite and basement suite are separated by complete fire protection. You can use a fire sprinkler or drywall in the mechanical room (if possible), beneath the adjoining stairs and the ceilings.
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