Case Study: Building a Secondary Suite in Ontario

In today's urban landscape, maximizing space and optimizing property utilization has become crucial.

This is especially true in Ontario where we're facing housing shortages. Secondary suites, as we've talked about many times before, have shown to be a great relief to the housing shortage. In this article, we'll take you through one of our projects and show you the ins and outs of what it takes to build a secondary suite in Ontario.

Client Background

Before the addition of the secondary suite, our client's property functioned solely as a single-family home, comprising three bedrooms, a living room, family room, and a basement rec room. This made for the perfect opportunity to introduce a secondary suite. Situated on a pie-shaped lot, this unique layout facilitated the creation of an efficient primary unit with three bedrooms, while also accommodating a secondary two-bedroom unit in the basement–complete with parking to comply with zoning regulations.

Facing the reality of limited housing options, the client saw an opportunity to address this challenge while also maximizing the potential of their property. By adding a secondary suite, they aimed to not only create additional living space but also generate rental income. This additional income would align with their individual investment objectives.

Design and Planning

The design and planning phases of integrating the secondary suite were meticulously approached to ensure optimal functionality and space utilization, all the while adhering to building regulations and zoning requirements.

Outline of the Design Process

The design process was guided by the principle of maximizing the existing space to accommodate the secondary suite seamlessly within the property's layout. With three living spaces already in place to serve the three-bedroom primary unit, the challenge lay in repurposing these areas to suit the needs of both units effectively.

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To achieve this, strategic decisions were made to designate specific living areas for each unit. The main floor living room was retained for the upper unit, while the rear family room was transformed into the kitchen and living room for the secondary unit. Additionally, the basement rec room was reimagined as the bedrooms for the secondary unit, ensuring a logical and practical distribution of space.

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Considerations for Maximizing Space and Functionality

Throughout the planning stage, several considerations were paramount to ensure the secondary suite met both regulatory standards and practical living requirements.

First and foremost, compliance with building codes dictated minimum square footage requirements for essential areas such as kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. This necessitated careful allocation of space to ensure each area met or exceeded these requirements, with special care for comfort and functionality for the occupants.

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Moreover, the integration of a laundry area for the upper unit was essential, necessitating thoughtful space allocation within the existing layout. Emphasis was also placed on sound insulation between living areas and bedrooms to enhance privacy and minimize disturbance between units.

By meticulously addressing these considerations and requirements, the design and planning phase laid a solid foundation for the successful execution of the project, ensuring both functionality and compliance with regulatory standards.

Secondary Suite Construction Process

Executing the construction phase of the secondary suite involved a methodical approach, integrating innovative techniques and materials to ensure efficiency and quality at every step.

Detailing the Steps

The construction process commenced with the necessary demolition of areas requiring modification to accommodate the secondary suite. Following this, meticulous attention was given to electrical, plumbing, and mechanical rough-ins, including the installation of new meters to support the additional unit.

A pivotal aspect of the construction involved prioritizing sound insulation to enhance privacy and comfort for both units. This required the use of advanced materials such as Rockwool insulation and Sonopan, strategically integrated to minimize sound transmission between living areas.

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The installation of drywall marked a significant milestone, providing the foundation for the application of finishes. From flooring to trim, cabinetry, and plumbing fixtures, each element was thoughtfully selected and installed to reflect both functionality and aesthetic appeal.

Addressing Challenges

Throughout the build, several challenges and unexpected obstacles were encountered, requiring prompt and strategic solutions. Plumbing complexities, particularly in split-level homes, presented logistical hurdles that demanded meticulous planning and execution. For this case, we needed to adapt the original layout plan slightly in order to accommodate enough slope for the new toilet drain.

Moreover, navigating the construction landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic posed additional challenges, necessitating quick decision-making to mitigate costly delays and disruptions. We needed to choose the material options that were in stock when our first choice was not readily available. There were instances where we made the difficult choice to pay extra for current stock materials to avoid construction delays. Taking into consideration the contractors' time for delays and the holding costs of a mortgage, sometimes it is worth the extra investment in materials over other costs. The absence of plumbing infrastructure for a basement bathroom necessitated additional expenditures, albeit manageable within the project's scope.

Additionally, fire separations in crawl spaces posed challenges due to limited ceiling height, requiring innovative solutions to ensure compliance without compromising structural integrity.

Despite these challenges, proactive problem-solving and collaborative efforts enabled the successful navigation of obstacles, ensuring the timely and efficient completion of the secondary suite construction.

Features and Amenities

The completed secondary suite boasts a range of standout features and amenities that elevate both functionality and aesthetic appeal, catering to the diverse needs and preferences of different tenants.

Highlighting Key Features

One of the primary highlights of the main unit is the presence of a gourmet kitchen. Leveraging the existing infrastructure left by previous high-quality renovations, the space exudes sophistication and functionality, providing tenants with a culinary haven for meal preparation and dining.

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The secondary suite was completely gutted and was rebuilt from scratch, including updates to the bathroom, and installation of new trim and doors, ensuring a cohesive aesthetic throughout.

Furthermore, the layout of the basement unit offers a unique living experience, with the main floor living space seamlessly transitioning to bedrooms located in the basement. This innovative design choice has resonated with tenants, as it mitigates the typical "basement apartment feel," fostering a more comfortable and inviting living environment.

Unique Amenities and Customizations

Among the array of amenities, one particular standout is the custom cultured marble shower featured in the bathroom. Not only does this addition enhance the aesthetic appeal of the space, but it also embodies durability and elegance, elevating the overall bathing experience for tenants.

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This commitment to quality and attention to detail underscores our client's dedication to providing tenants with a superior living environment, characterized by both functionality and luxury.

Incorporating these unique amenities and customizations not only enhances the appeal of the secondary suite but also reflects the client's unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional residential spaces tailored to the needs and preferences of modern tenants.

Client Testimonial

One recurring comment that stands out is an appreciation for the unique aesthetic of the space. The departure from the standard white cabinets and gray floors seems to have played a significant role in attracting tenants and setting our property apart in the market. Knowing that our design choices have contributed to our tenants' satisfaction reinforces our belief in the importance of creating distinctive and inviting living environments. We're delighted to have been able to provide a home that resonates with our tenants and enhances their overall living experience.

Results and Impact

The implementation of the secondary suite has yielded several significant positive outcomes and benefits, both for the client and tenants.

Outcomes of the Secondary Suite Build

Transforming underutilized space into a functional dwelling unit has proven to be not only a prudent investment but also an environmentally responsible approach to addressing housing needs. By maximizing existing resources, the project has contributed to sustainable urban development while providing much-needed housing options in the community.

Benefits to the Client and Their Living Situation

For the client, the secondary suite represents a substantial enhancement to their original investment. The addition of the secondary suite has bolstered cash flow, augmenting the property's financial viability. The efficient utilization of space ensures optimal returns on investment while providing all tenants with quality living spaces.

In Conclusion

In retrospect, the success of the project lies in its ability to leverage existing space efficiently and effectively. While the ideal living space may have been larger, the project maximizes the potential of the available area, demonstrating resourcefulness and innovation in design and construction.

The significance of this project extends beyond individual benefits, offering a blueprint for sustainable urban development and responsible property management. By showcasing the potential for repurposing existing structures to meet contemporary housing needs, the project underscores the importance of adaptive solutions in addressing housing shortages.

Are you considering enhancing your property's value and functionality through the addition of a secondary suite?

We're here to help you realize your vision and unlock the full potential of your existing property.