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Planning the Perfect Basement Apartment

There are so many possibilities for your basement. Should you turn it into a guest room for when the in-laws visit? A kids’ playroom to keep them out of your hair? A home gym to finally shed off those unwanted pounds? Or a man cave to get away from it all? These are all attractive options, but have you given thought to turning your basement into an income suite?

Adding a basement apartment to your home will provide supplemental income which can go toward the mortgage, help pay for your retirement or your children’s tuition, or even finance a few winter vacations to hot tropical destinations. If you want to add a basement apartment that attracts the right tenant, there are many things you need to know:

Understanding Building Codes in Ottawa

You can’t throw a bed in the basement and call it a basement apartment (also known as an income suite or secondary dwelling). For the city to approve the space as a habitable dwelling, it must have a separate entrance, the unit must be fireproofed, and so on. If you try to turn your basement into a separate apartment, you may miss things and be denied a permit. In working with a contractor, you can ensure that the apartment is entirely up to code and get a tenant in more quickly and bring in rental income right away.

Enough Natural Light

Ask anyone about the downsides of living in a basement apartment, and most people will point to the lack of light as a big concern. The City of Ottawa recognizes this concern for safety reasons (big windows = safe egress), but as a landlord you need to recognize the psychological benefits of light. In planning your basement apartment design, do everything you can to maximize the amount of natural light.

Enough Sound Insulation

The next biggest complaint people have about living in basement apartments is the sound of people walking (stomping?) overhead. This is a two-way street – you don’t want to hear your upstairs neighbour, and you don’t want your upstairs neighbour hearing your conversations through the air duct, either. Sufficient sound insulation between units isn’t only convenient – it’s required by building codes.

Enough Function

Most basements have limited square footage, and there is only so much you can with the space as you need to account for posts, electrical panels, the furnace room, perhaps a laundry room etc. If you’re starting from scratch, do everything you can to design a space with maximum function. A two-bedroom apartment will typically rent for more than a one bedroom, but not if the bedrooms are closet-sized, so don’t force it.

Looking to transform your basement into an income suite? Contact RenosGroup.ca to get the process started!