Adding an Apartment

Adding an Apartment

An apartment is defined under City Regulations as a subsidiary apartment/dwelling unit which is a living space that is self-contained, usually with it’s own cooking and bathroom facilities. Any renovation or addition which includes such space, particularly facilities for cooking equipment, is considered an apartment and formal Council approval is required.

The first step is to ensure that the zone in which your property is located permits an apartment. Only a detached dwelling can have an apartment. Additional apartments in a semi-detached, duplex or townhouse are only permitted under special circumstances and an application through the Planning and Development Division is required. Only one subsidiary apartment is permitted per dwelling. Three or more apartments is defined as an apartment building and special zoning requirements and Building Code requirements apply.

If the zoning is okay, an application can be made through the Inspection Services Division. All applications are received and permits issued at Inspection Services, third floor of the John J. Murphy Building (City Hall annex). Detailed floor plans must be submitted. The subsidiary apartment can occupy no more than 40 per cent of the total floor area of the dwelling. This means for example in a typical bungalow with the basement the same size as the main floor, that 10 per cent of the basement must be dedicated for use by the main floor unit, with direct access (stairs) from the main unit. Typical uses of such spaces include: Furnace room, storage, laundry and recreation room.

A plan review letter will outline the typical Code requirements for an apartment which will include: Fire separations (fire rated gyproc) between units; egress (emergency escape) windows for bedrooms; AC (wired-in) smoke detectors; sound transmission components in common partitions (i.e. insulation, resilient channel); and a separate HRV (heat recovery ventilator/air exchanger) from the main unit (only required if one exists or is being installed in the main unit). Also, penetrations of the fire separations which can spread fire/smoke between units have to be protected; for example ABS and PVC (plastic) plumbing pipes must have an approved fire stop device installed at every location where a pipe goes through a fire separation and approved fire dampers must be installed in most ventilation ducts which penetrate the separations.

Usually with a renovation to install an apartment, the Inspector will arrange for a pre-permit inspection so that any oddities or unusual issues with the proposed unit ( for example ceiling height) can be brought to your attention beforehand in a plan review letter.

Only Electrical & Plumbing Contractors licensed to operate in the City of St. John's may pick up Electrical and Plumbing permits, carry out work, or request electrical and plumbing inspections.

Stages of Builidng Inspections
Once a permit is issued inspections must be requested at the following stages, where applicable

Prior to installing insulation and vapour barrier. This inspection is the most critical and time consuming, as all aspects of the structural framing and members must be examined to ensure the house is structurally sound and built to Code. Note that all framing members must be new, grade stamped lumber to ensure quality. We do not accept unstamped 'local' lumber or used lumber. It is usually at this stage that the ventilating equipment detailed below is inspected.

Insulation and Vapour Barrier
Prior to installation of drywall. This inspection ensures that adequate insulation and proper vapour barrier is installed to maintain acceptable comfort, temperature retention and prevent inside generated moisture from entering wall/attic spaces and damaging components.

Electrical and Plumbing inspections would be carried out separately at this stage also. Permits must be picked up by, all work carried out by and all inspections requested by contractors licensed to operate in the City of St. John’s.

Prior to occupancy. The final electrical and plumbing inspections must be completed and approved. All construction must be completed. As stated before, each stage must be inspected and approved prior to starting the next stage. If the Inspector discovers deficiencies, a Field Notice will be left after each inspection, which either indicates approval or lists the deficiencies which must be corrected before calling for the next inspection. If there are outstanding deficiencies after the final inspection then occupancy may be refused or a Conditional Occupancy Certificate may be issued which lists the items to be corrected by a certain date. A fee may be required for an amount which would pay for the corrective action if it becomes necessary for the City to carry out the work.

Occupancy Certificate
As noted above, a Conditional Occupancy Certificate may be issued if there are outstanding items to be corrected. A final Occupancy Certificate will be issued when all inspections are complete and the house fully meets requirements. It is important to note that the inspection service provided by the City is intended to ensure that your house meets the minimum standards of the National Building Code of Canada. We do not inspect or provide any assurance for ‘fit and finish’ items.(Things like, nailing, finish and fit of trim and mouldings, cabinets, etc.) These items should be covered by your Builder’s warranty or other warranty programs. Your Occupancy Certificate is a legal document that will likely be required by your lawyer or financial institution.

Cost of Permits
Building permits for the addition of an apartment to a house are based on the cost of the work being carried out. You will be asked to provide an estimate to determine the permit cost.

Please refer to the Schedule of Rates page for information on permit costs.