Converting a basement into an apartment that can be rented out to tenants is one of the most common renovation projects homeowners embark on. Legal secondary suites offer many advantages like increasing the value of the home and creating an additional stream of income for your home.

Many homeowners who decide to turn their basement into an apartment go into the project not realizing how much work is involved. For starters, it’s important to know that acquiring the proper permits alone takes about three months. Creating a legal basement apartment for rent is a long process, but the project, if done right, pays off in the end.

Determining Basement Renovation Costs

renovation investment

The cost of converting a basement into an apartment depends on a number of factors. An average, transforming your basement space into a basement apartment for rent can cost anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000, on the low end. Hiring a contractor to give you an estimate is always a good idea.

luxury basement toronto

This should be done after you have decided on what kind of layout and features you would like your basement apartment to have. Sharing your ideas with a contractor can help them give you a more practical estimate. Always remember to allow room in the budget for unforeseen issues that may come up during construction.

Getting Building Permits

planning your renovation

The first thing that you should consider in your planning is determining whether your basement meets the requirements and can actually be turned into a basement apartment. There’s a misconception that any basement can be converted into an apartment, but you need to make sure that your municipality will approve the project.

toronto finished basement renovation

So before you get too involved in the process, visit your municipality either online or in person and look through the rules and regulations for your basement apartment renovation. Each municipality is different, so you need to make sure that you know the requirements for your city.

Once you have done this, the next thing you will need to do is to consult an engineer, architect or other qualified professional with a BCIN, which is Building Code Inspection Number, and have them draw the plans for your project. Make sure that you hire somebody who is qualified to do this because your permits will depend on your drawings.

bathroom-renovation-with-custom-lighting

You need to work closely with the person creating the drawings to incorporate the basement apartment floor plans and design you want.
If your drawings are not done well, chances are your project will not be approved. Proceeding with construction without a permit could lead to all kinds of problems. You may be forced to abandon all work on the project, and in some instances, even be required to restore the basement to its original structure. Essentially, wasting a whole lot of money.

inspecting property

If your basement apartment renovation project is approved, the city will send an inspector to check the work being done on the site to make sure it is being done safely and properly.

Requirements for A Basement Apartment

There are some things that your basement will need to have in order for it to be considered a legal secondary suite. These include:

A Separate Exit

not only is this good to maintain the privacy of the rental unit, it also is a safety feature in your home that is required. This will be critical in cases of emergency and provide an escape for the tenants in the basement. If your basement doesn’t already have a separate exit, then you will need to hire an engineer to construct an exit.
Engineers are expensive and needed if you plan on altering the building structure. Again, determine whether an exit can actually be created in the before beginning construction. This will save you money if you find out your basement structure cannot accommodate a separate exit. after construction has begun.

image of basement framing

Basement Fireproofing

this is also another feature to consider. Some municipalities have this listed as a requirement to ensure the safety of those in the home should a fire break out. Fireproofing often includes the use of windows with fire-rated glass. It may also involve installing a resilient channel, which is a metal channel that drops the ceiling a little lower by an inch or so and includes additional layers of drywall on the ceiling.

man insulating a basement

Soundproofing the Basement

some municipalities require that noise reduction techniques are implemented in the rental unit to prevent sound from traveling up from the basement to other levels of the home.

In addition, you will need to hire an electrician, plumber and make sure that your HVAC system is installed and operating properly. This may include rewiring the basement and changing the electrical panel. Sometimes means construction contractors need to break through the concrete to create additional sewer lines or electrical lines for a bathroom in your basement.

The Bottom Line about Basement Apartments

Renovated basement living room

Some homeowners aren’t comfortable with the idea of renting out their basement apartment to strangers and prefer to use the space as an in-law suite instead. Whatever way you choose to use your basement space, the important thing is that you do things the right way the first time.

basement bathroom renovation

To turn a basement into an apartment takes patience and careful planning. This is why it’s important to research thoroughly and have a team of professionals who can help you make sure you can complete the basement renovation project on time and on budget. Invest in getting professional drawings made and make sure you are involved in the process and don’t just leave it up to the contractors you hire. By staying updated on the progress, you will be able to make sure you get the full value of your money.