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Illegal vs Legal Basement Suite Calgary: A Guide To City Of Calgary Basement Permits

You may have created your basement to expand your living space, create a gaming room or man cave, or rent it out to tenants. While all of these are viable options, you need to ask now: “Is my basement suite legal?” If you are renting out your basement suite then you need to make sure you adhere to the strict guidelines set by the City Of Calgary. Let’s dive into those requirements and find out what makes a suite legal and what makes a suite illegal.

What Makes A Basement Suite Legal in Calgary, Alberta

A legal basement suite is a basement that meets the City of Calgary’s set requirements and regulations. These requirements are in place to ensure that basement suites are safe, functional, and compliant with local laws and regulations. Having a legal basement suite is important for both homeowners and renters. It provides a safe and legal housing option for renters and allows homeowners to generate additional income. 

What Makes A Basement Suite Illegal in Calgary, Alberta

An illegal basement or secondary suite was built without the proper permits or was constructed in a section of the city where secondary sites are not permitted. Some suites are non-conforming, which means they were built legally at the time of construction, but now don’t conform to current regulations set by the City Of Calgary.

Legal Basement Suite Requirements

The City Of Calgary has many requirements in order to build a legal secondary suite. It can often be overwhelming which is why you may want to consider a professional basement development company to remove the hassle and ensure quality craftsmanship.

Separate Heating/Ventilation

To meet Alberta Building Codes, a Calgary basement suite built after March 2018 is required to have a heating/ventilation system separate from that of the primary home. This means you need a furnace for the main part of your home and a second furnace (or supplemental heating device such as a space heater) for your basement suite.

Egress Windows

Canada requires that all basements have egress windows. Egress windows are big enough to be an escape route or a rescue route for emergency services. In Calgary, there must be a minimum of one egress window in every room. The minimum Egress-compliant opening size is 0.35 m2 or 3.77sq/ft) this refers to the opening size, not the entire window size. The window may have security bars only if they can be operated from the inside without the use of a tool.

Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

The common area and each bedroom of your suite must have a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector. They must be connected so that if one alarm is activated, all the unit alarms go off.


Your basement suite must have at least one exit leading to the outside with a solid core door with a self-closing device.


The basement suite must have a bathroom, separate from the upstairs living space.

Cooking, Sleeping, and Living Facilities

Separate cooking, sleeping, and living facilities are all necessary for a basement suite to be legal.

Do I Need A Permit For My Calgary Basement Renovation?

In Calgary, you are legally required to apply for a building permit if you are developing an existing basement, your renovation is more than cosmetic, you wish to add or remove walls, or you plan to make structural changes. If you are unsure whether you need a building permit, contact your city’s planning services center.

Types Of Basement Renovation Permits

Depending on what your basement development entails, you may need a variety of permits. The City of Calgary may require any of these permits:

  • Basement development permit
  • Basement electrical permit
  • Basement plumbing permit

Seeking the assistance of a knowledgeable professional in basement development is a wise decision to ensure that your project is executed to the highest standard possible. If you use a professional for your basement development, then they will have their own permits such as a plumber having a plumbing permit, and an electrician having an electrical permit.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Building Permit From The City Of Calgary?

For residential buildings, it may take up to 30 days to receive a basement development permit. Ensuring that you have all the correct drawings and documents is important in receiving the permit back in a timely matter and preventing a refusal. Suppose your basement development permit gets refused due to missing or incorrect documents. In that case, you can appeal this by sending in the proper documentation, although this will extend the timeline and you may be charged a penalty.

Choosing The Right Basement Builder For Your Basement Renovation

Using a trusted Calgary basement development contractor is vital to ensuring you have all your documentation in order, are following Alberta’s building codes, and have the right permits for the job. At Econo Basements we understand and build in compliance with Alberta’s building codes, and strive to bring your dream basement or secondary suite to life. Call Econo Basements at (403) 261-2926 or request a free quote today.