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Should I Build a Basement Apartment

Posted by Laurel on February 11, 2022
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Are you thinking about building a basement apartment in your home but not sure if this is the right option for you and your family?

Well, get ready for the straight goods because I am going to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about having a basement apartment in the property where you live, so that you can make the best decision for you and your family.

My name is Laurel Legate and I am a realtor in west Toronto. I built a basement apartment in our home and I help a lot of families make decisions to reach their real estate goals  .

Where do I begin?

Basement apartments are a super effective way to reduce your housing costs or provide private living space for a family member and increase the value of your home.

First thing you need to do when contemplating a second unit is to speak with the local municipality to see if you are allowed a second unit. That way you can understand the zoning, necessary building permits, building code and inspections required.

I recommend hiring an architect to help you through the design complexities to design a legal and safe space.

When we purchased the property we renovated into our dream home one of the reasons we offered immediately on the property was because it had a perfect layout for a 2 bedroom basement apartment.

5 Pieces of Advice for aSuccessful Tenant Landlord Relationships

The top 5 pieces of advice I would give anyone looking to build a basement apartment are …

1 – Ensure the sound proofing is complete between the floor and ceiling

2 – Ensure you have a sump pump on the property with a back up battery

3 – Obtain your own credit check

4 – Screen tenants – call their references 

5 – But also screen tenants for long term success with your family and lifestyle.

Our first tenants did not work out because their schedule was completely opposite ours. They were trying to sleep just as our little kids were getting up to play … and were home everyday for months due to COVID.

Basement Apartment Considerations

Now the majority of basement apartments in Toronto are NOT legal apartments.

Here are a few considerations you need to build into the apartment to have it be a legal suite.

  • The house must be at least 5 years old
  • Building Permit and Building code requirements must be met. 
  • Inspections must be completed as well.

They are looking for many things but these are the big items

  • Minimum room sizes
  • Ceiling Height
  • Windows and window sizes
  • Plumbing requirements & Electrical Requirements (basically the basics)
  • Septic system capacity (basically a system that can handle extra people)
  • Heating and ventilation – while code requires only one furnace and common air ducts I would recommend a second complete system.
  • Fire safety – fire separation between the basement apartment and the main dwelling – the floor and walls  – code requires a 30 minute fire separation – this can be built with typical building materials

You can find all the legal requirements on toronto.ca


Do you need a contractor?

Now that we have discussed what you need to know when considering a basement apartment you may also be interested in learning about HOW TO HIRE A CONTRACTOR

In my home reno blog series, I will walk you through the most important steps to hire a contractor from my own personal experience.

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