A Guide to Renovating a Home in Edmonton

A Guide to Renovating a Home in Edmonton

Say you’re looking to have a portion of your house renovated. You want to have your basement finished to add some living space, or probably have an additional window.

Before heading straight to contacting contractors, a few steps must be done first. This includes making sure that the necessary permits are in place before getting any work done.

This may seem cumbersome if you’re eager to get going. But remember that these guidelines are in place to ensure that your home is safe to live in.

On top of that, permits ensure that the renovation area is safe for the contractors and for the public as well.

If you don’t know where to start, then you’re in luck! Here’s everything you need to know if you intend to renovate your home.

Knowing Which Projects Actually Need Permits

You may now think that any change you want to do to your home warrants a permit. The good news is that not all projects require permits.

These projects are usually just cosmetic changes or enhancements. These include:

Take note that these typically involve replacements and minor changes. 

On the other hand, projects that do require permits include:

  • Changing your house’s exterior finish material
  • Adding a window or exterior door
  • Changing the size of a window or exterior door
  • Building or having a living room, bedroom, or bathroom finished
  • Having your home repaired after a fire or flood
  • Altering the structure of your house

As you may notice, projects that require permits are more complex. They usually involve resizings of some sort, adding a new feature, or larger structural changes.

What You Need to Know about Obtaining Permits

Plans for HVAC, Gas, Plumbing, and Electrical Systems

If you’re planning on finishing your basement or adding a kitchen, chances are you’ll alter the ductwork of your HVAC, gas, or plumbing systems. The same is true for working on your electrical wiring.

These renovation projects include adding a bathroom to your basement, or adding a secondary suite that needs electrical wirings for lighting and wall outlets.

Remember that if this is the case, the plans will not be reviewed before any permit is issued. They will instead be verified if they are up to code during inspections.

Also, take note that one inspection may not be enough. Inspections may be required at multiple stages of the project.

As such, you must refer to the building permit conditions. These will tell you when to request an inspection.

Design and Other Requirements

In any renovation project, there is a shared responsibility between homeowners and contractors. Both parties should make sure that the design and construction are both up to code.

General Design Requirements

Smoke alarms

  • Installed in each new bedroom, hallway, or living space within 5m or 16ft of bedroom doors
  • Each individual smoke alarm must be hardwired and interconnected

Carbon monoxide alarms

  • Must be installed in homes with fuel-burning appliances such as gas furnaces, boilers and gas water heaters
  • Must be installed in an attached garage
  • Must be installed in each bedroom, hallway, or living space within 5m oor 16ft of bedroom doors

Doors and windows

  • Bedrooms must each have at least either one door or window leading outside, or a specialized exit window


  • Must have guard walls on each side
  • Must have a handrail between 34-42in (865-1,070mm) above the stairs

Exhaust fans

  • Required for every bathroom
  • Must be vented to the exterior of the home
  • Dedicated heat recovery ventilation system is also applicable

Heating appliances and electrical paneling

  • Heating appliances must have 24in or 600mm of clear space in front
  • For servicing, electrical paneling must have 40in or 1m of clear space in front

Additional kitchens or wet bars

  • Main floor plan that clearly shows stairs and doorways must be presented with the application

Energy Efficiency

In order to be compliant with Alberta Building Code Section 9.36, homes built with permits applied for after October 31, 2016 must be renovated accordingly.

On the other hand, those built with permits applied for up to October 31, 2016 are not required to be up to code with Section 9.36.

This only applies if all proposed construction materials and mechanical components are shown to perform just as well as the existing construction.

Fire Safety

It is undeniable that renovation poses several fire hazards during the process. For fire safety, both contractors and homeowners have responsibilities. 

Both parties must ensure the safety of both the work area during renovation, as well as the public surrounding the site.

On Applying for Permits

A homeowner intending to secure permits must first know when they can do it themselves, and when certified trades are required.

Homeowners may apply for permits involving HVAC, plumbing, gas, and electrical. However, this only applies to homeowners who live in single detached homes.

Certified trade contractors for HVAC, plumbing, gas, and electrical are required to apply for the permits if the house isn’t detached. That is, if it shares a wall with a neighbor as in the case of duplexes, semi-detached homes, row townhouses, or condominiums.

Requirements for Application

Requirements for Application

What You Need for Interior Renovations

Simply put, interior renovations consist of any changes done to the inside of a home or building.

These may include the building or finishing of a living room, bedroom, or bathroom. Finishing a basement also falls under this category.

Interior renovations require a floor plan. They are needed as proof that the application being made follows the building code, and is compliant with the zoning bylaw.

Floor plans should include the property address. The layout of the renovation area showing stairs, doors, and windows should also be shown.

Room labels should be marked and included. Bedroom window labels should include dimensions and specify the window style.

Lastly, the existing room layout is to be included as well if there are walls to be added, removed, or changed.

Remember that sometimes engineer-stamped drawings are also required if there will be any substantial changes to be done to the structure of the building.

These include alterations to beams, posts supporting beams, load bearing walls, floors, wall opening enlargements, and new openings in foundation walls.

What You Need for Exterior Renovations

Exterior renovations include changes done to the outside of your home. Some of these are adding or changing the sizes of windows or doors, and changing the exterior finish materials of the house. 

For your exterior renovation applications to push through, a site plan and elevation drawings are required on top of your home’s floor plans.

Site plans must show a north arrow, the property address, corresponding streets and avenues, property line dimensions, location, measurements, and setbacks of any proposed and existing structures.

The site plan must also identify any applicable caveats, covenants, and easements. The site plan should strictly be drawn on a real property report, a plot plan, or graph paper.

Remember that consistency in units should be observed. 

Elevation drawings should show existing exterior walls and the intended changes. These should include the windows and doors on the walls in question.

The finishing materials for walls and roofs should be specified as well.

Dimensions of the grade to the top of the finished main floor, the top of the finished main floor to the eave, and the eave to the highest point of the roof ridge should all be provided.

And as always, the intended changes, materials to be used, installation and construction methods, and any supporting documents should all be presented in great detail. 

Floor plan requirements have been discussed in the previous section. They may no longer be required if the doors and windows on affected exterior walls are not to be changed.

Sometimes, a window location plan is necessary. 

This applies if your home is located in the Mature Neighborhood Overlay (maps.edmonton.ca), and if the project includes alterations to windows in a side yard,

The window plan must show the dimensions of existing and proposed windows. They should be provided both for your own property, and the property adjacent to yours.

Other Important Details

Since a lot of projects will require a development and building permit, you will be asked to consult city staff in order to determine the specific fees and permits.

As a rule of thumb, don’t begin your renovation without obtaining the necessary permits, or if you are unsure whether a project needs them. This will help you avoid penalties. 

On top of all the required plans, fees are needed to secure the permits. 

Development permits cost $123. Gas, plumbing, and HVAC permits each cost $114 plus $4.56 for the Safety Codes fee.

Below are fees for building permits. Note that these fees, including development permit fees above, are effective from January 1, 2022.

The fees are determined based on the declared construction value of the project.

Construction valueBuilding permit feeSafety Code fee
$5,001 - $10,000$282$11.28
$10,001 - $25,000$282$11.28
$25,001 - $50,000$524$20.96
$50,001 - $100,000$1,015$40.60
Over $100,000$1,976$79.04

Here are the electrical permit fees. These are also calculated based on the project’s construction value.

Construction valueElectrical permit feeSafety Code fee

Building permit fees and electrical permit fees are calculated based on the project’s construction value. Simply put, the construction value consists of the total cost of materials and services.

To determine your project’s construction value, exclude any costs for landscaping, parking lots, sidewalks, furnishings, appliances, interior window coverings, temporary service connections, insurance or bonding, interim financing, permit fees, professional consulting fees, and the GST.

Are you ready to take on your renovation project? Once you complete the required documents outlined above, head to the Edmonton Service Center, which is located in 2nd Floor, 10111 104 Ave, NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 0J4.

You may also dial 311 for any application assistance you may need, including inspection requests.