What Is Required For A Basement Legal Suite?

If you are considering having a basement legal suite, commonly referred to as a secondary suite, as a means of income there are several things you need to take in to consideration. If you are planning to build an Airbnb suite, the same regulations apply; until a specific bylaw pertaining to Airbnb suites is passed.

In order for your secondary suite to be considered legal, it must adhere to building codes, and the Alberta Fire Code. Some information pertaining to the Alberta Fire Code is available in this Alberta Safety Council Service brochure.

According to the City of Edmonton some of the requirements for building a legal secondary suite, or to make an existing secondary suite legal (or Airbnb suite), include:

Suite Entrance

The entrance must provide a safe exit directly outdoors during the event of a fire or other emergency. You may also want to consider the entrance location so that it does not disrupt privacy of the main unit.

Height of Rooms and Spaces

A minimum ceiling height must be met for living spaces and staircases in a secondary suite.

Bedroom Windows

At least one window or a door in bedrooms must provide occupants with an alternate exit during a fire emergency. Windows must be unobstructed and meet the minimum size requirements. According to the 2014 Alberta Building Code In Canada the open area of the window available for egress (exiting through the window) is 0.35 sq m (3.77 sq ft) with a minimum width or height of 380 mm (15 in). It is important to note these dimensions DO NOT refer to the window frame dimensions, nor the opening the window is installed. These dimensions pertain to the unobstructed opening when the window is open.

Fire Separations

The secondary suite must be separated from the main dwelling by walls, floors and ceilings that meet the minimum required separation. They also have to be constructed of smoke-tight gypsum boards. If there is a fire, this allows occupants of both units time to evacuate before fire spreads between units. Gas-fired furnaces and water heaters must be enclosed in a room with fire protected walls and ceilings. This will  to prevent the spread of fire to living areas and reduce hazards to health (such as carbon monoxide poisoning).

Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Each bedroom requires a hard-wired smoke detector (i.e. NOT battery operated). Also, a carbon monoxide detector must be placed outside of the furnace room.

Furnace Room

First of all, a separate furnace is required for a legal basement suite. Secondly, the furnace room requires a specific type of drywall.

More information is available in the City of Edmonton’s Secondary Suites information guide, and you get get many of your questions answered at City of Edmonton secondary suites FAQs.

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