Whether you are a home owner planning on developing a secondary suite in your basement, or a renter looking at a secondary suite, it is important to understand what makes a legal suite.

Definition: Secondary suites are self-contained living units created within single-family homes. These suites include a kitchen, bathroom and a separate entrance.

The government of Alberta, and the City of Calgary, has specific building and fire code requirements for secondary suites. These guidelines are to improve safety for existing suites and establish better standards for new suites. When it comes to heating and ventilation the government of Alberta requires all suites built after December 31, 2006 to have independent or separate heating and ventilation systems, which can mean two furnaces or a combination of furnace and supplemental heating, such as space heaters.

Furthermore, here are three important safety features to keep in mind when considering any place to live.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
These detectors should be present in each unit within the horse and connected to each other so that activation of one alarm would cause all alarms within both units to sound. Inspect, test, and maintain your detectors regularly.

Exits
Each unit within the house should have at least one exit that leads directly outside. Every exit door should be able to swing inward.

Finally, one key aspect of safety surrounding secondary suites that we see all the time is Windows.
Each bedroom should have at least one window that can be opened from the inside without the use of keys, tools or special knowledge. The window should be unobstructed, and it should be accessible and large enough for anyone to fit through. If the window has security bars, they should be operable from the inside without the use of any tools.

An example of an egress window in a basement suite

In basement suites if your windows are egress windows then they will comply with building codes. Egress windows are large enough for entry or exit in case of an emergency. These windows are paired with an egress well with attached ladder or steps for easy escape. Windows in a basement suite must comply with all building codes, but when the window opens into a window well a clearance of at least 760 mm must be provided in front of the window.

We know that secondary suite talk has been in the news a lot lately, and may seem like it doesn’t effect you. However, the dangers of illegal suites are real, and in Calgary alone fires have taken the lives of innocent people who could have been spared had their suites been up to code.


Handyco, located in Calgary, Alberta, offers full services with the highest levels of satisfaction. 25 years of expertise in our industry means we have seen everything from horrible suites to up-to-code suites, and we know the difference in-between. We can help you get your suite up to code, or develop a suite in your basement that is to code. Trust Handyco to come on board with your design plans to ensure that you as a landlord, as well as your tenants, sleep safely each night.