Home renovations / Finishing basements

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Related info

Additions and enclosures

Basement water / seepage

Tips for hiring a contractor

Building a commercial space

Secondary or backyard suites

New house construction

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Finishing a home basement or completing other interior renovation work is a popular way to upgrade a home and potentially add to its value. It is important to obtain permits to ensure safety, to avoid re-doing work in order to fix deficiencies, and to prevent problems with selling your home in the future. The information on this page will help guide you through your project.

 

Important notes:

Secondary suites: If you intend to create or renovate a secondary suite (ie: basement suite), regulations are different. For information, visit Secondary and backyard suites.

Additions: A home addition is not considered merely an interior renovation. If you intend to build an addition onto your house, visit Additions and enclosures.

Condos have rules: If your home is a part of a condominium association, don't make assumptions about what you can change. Check your condo bylaws or ask the condo board about your renovation plans before you begin.

HAT Smart rebates: If your renovation includes energy-saving components, you could be eligible for rebates. For information, visit HAT Smart.

Home-based businesses: If you intend to do renovations related to a home-based business, there are additional considerations. For information, visit Home-based businesses.

Renovating a commercial location: If you intend to renovate a commercial space (ie: store, office), regulations are different than for homes. For information, visit Building a commercial space.

 


Although there are many variables that affect the value of a home, here are some tips on household renovations to achieve the best return on your investment.

1 - Choose improvements with long life expectancy. Roofing, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, and windows can provide homeowners worry-free home improvements for as long as 10 to 20 years. But remember; regular maintenance is as important as the initial investment.

2 - Invest in modern updates in high-traffic areas. Update the core rooms of your home such as the kitchen and bathroom. This can be as simple as changing door knobs, refacing cabinetry, or replacing fixtures and countertops.

3 - Don’t underestimate the value of inexpensive updates. A fresh coat of paint, modern lighting fixtures, light landscaping or gardening, and upgraded door handles can give your home an updated look and feel – and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money!

4 - Consider energy-efficient renovations that have a high return relative to cost. Energy-efficient renovations are considered one of the highest paybacks relative to cost. Energy efficiency translates into reduced operating costs over time.

5 - Be careful about over-improvement. Consider your neighborhood and the expectations of buyers in your area when planning your renovation project. Investing in an expensive project may be an over-improvement for a home in particular market, and the investment may only be partially recognized by homebuyers.

6 - Think about your personal needs. How much you spend on improvements will depend on how long you plan to live in your home. If you’re thinking shorter-term, smaller and less-expensive improvements may be your best bet to recover your investment.

7 - Be sure to get permits. Take the time to obtain the proper development and building permits from the City of Medicine Hat. This will ensure that the renovation work complies with the Land Use Bylaw and building codes. It may also prevent obstacles later when selling your property or when filing insurance claims.

8 - Seek out professionals like architects and contractors. Talk to a professional when you start planning your renovation project. They can help you draw up a plan, provide renovation advice, or assist in the construction. This will add to the quality of the renovation and go a long way in preventing cost overruns.

9 - Consider unique features with care. Unique designs or improvements that are uncommon for a particular market may impact the reselling of a home. A real property appraiser may be able to provide an objective perspective on the marketability of your property.



A Development Permit covers the what and where a development may proceed. It approves what type of development is allowed on a particular property, taking into account land use and setback issues of the City's Land Use Bylaw.

A Building Permit covers how it is built. It allows the construction/demolition of structures contingent on meeting the requirements of the Alberta Building Code.



The scope of work being done will determine what permits you require. For application forms, see How do I obtain permits, below.

When is a development permit required?

A development permit is required for interior renovations when:

  Your proposed renovation involves an increase to the gross floor area (an addition), or

  Your proposed renovation is to add or modify a secondary suite in the home, or

  Your proposed renovation is related to a home-based business.

If a development permit is required, this must be applied for and approved prior to building permit and trade permit applications.

 

When is a building permit required?

A building permit is always required for any new development or alteration/renovation to existing development, unless the project involves only:

  Cosmetic changes such as painting, decorating, patching drywall and other similar minor repairs of interior finishes, OR

  Replacement of interior cabinetry (provided that regulated clearances are maintained from stoves), OR

  Floor finishing (carpet, vinyl, tile, hardwood), as long as the structural elements of the floor are not altered, AND

  The construction value of the work is less than $5000.00.

 

What other permits/approvals are required?

Other permits (below) will be required if the interior renovation will involve specific considerations:

•  Electrical Permit: Required for installing or modifying electrical systems, including moving lights or outlets.

•  Gas Permit: Required for installing, modifying or adding to any gas system.

•  Plumbing Permit: Required for installing or modifying plumbing systems or any plumbing equipment.
NOTE: A plumbing permit is not required for the replacement of plumbing fixtures.

•  Mechanical Permit: Required for installing or modifying heating, ventilation or air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

•  Land Owner Consent Form: Required if the property is a part of a condominium, or is otherwise not owned by the applicant.

 

Do it yourself

As a homeowner, you are able to apply for homeowner's permits for plumbing, electrical, gas and mechanical work. To apply for any of these homeowner's permits:

  You must be doing the work yourself

  You must own and reside in the Single Family Dwelling where the work is being performed

  You must be capable of performing the work in accordance with the Safety Codes Act

  It must be a Single-Family Dwelling (not a condo building, house with secondary suite, etc.)

NOTE: Depending on the homeowner's permit you are applying for, other restrictions may apply.
For more info on homeowner's trades permits, phone Planning and Development Services at 403-529-8374 or visit Homeowners trade permits.

 

Risks when a permit is not obtained

If you, as a homeowner or contractor, do not have permits for work that has been started or completed, there could be consequences if you do not take action to correct the situation, such as:

  Enforcement action issued by a City inspector.

  A fine for building without a permit.

  Having to undo work that has been completed.

  Future legal and financial issues when selling your property or making an insurance claim.

  Having to do more work than was originally planned and budgeted, to fix deficiencies.

  Potential liability to you, the homeowner, in the event of an accident.

NOTE: As a homeowner, you are responsible for paying any penalties, even if you hired a contractor who assured you that permits were not required. Remember, we are here to help! Calling Planning and Development Services at 403-529-8374

  Tips for hiring contractors

 

What if I am not the property owner?

If you are not the owner of the property, then you must get the owner's consent to apply for any changes. Forms are available below: How do I obtain permits?



To obtain the permits you require, you submit an application for each permit, along with other relevant documents, to Planning and Development Services, 2nd Floor, Medicine Hat City Hall, 580 1st Street SE.

1 - Determine which application(s) you need. (See What permits do I need, above). You can then download checklists and forms (below) and complete them.

icon_PDFDevelopment Permit Application

Building Permits:

icon_PDFBuilding Permit Checklist - Basement development or alteration

icon_PDFBuilding Permit Checklist - Window alterations / Alterations to existing exterior walls

icon_PDFResidential Building Permit Application

  Don't see the checklist you need? Visit the Checklists and forms library

Trades and other permits:

icon_PDFElectrical Permit Application

icon_PDFGas Permit Application

icon_PDFPlumbing Permit Application

icon_PDFMechanical (HVAC)  Permit Application

  Homeowners Trade Permits

2 - Have drawings ready: Floor plan (4 copies), cross-section drawing (3 copies). See below: Guidelines for construction and drawings.

3 - Bring these required documents and apply in person at Planning and Development Services, located on the second floor of Medicine Hat City Hall, 580 1st Street SE.

4 - Application fee(s) will be required. The City accepts debit, cash or cheque; no credit cards. List of fees.

 

What if I am not the property owner?

If you are not the owner of the property, then you must get the owner's consent to apply for any changes.

icon_PDFLand owner consent - Building permits

icon_PDFDevelopment permit land owner consent (included on the Development Permit Application)

 

How long will it take to obtain my permits?

Development Permits: Timelines vary based on the type of application and the impacts to the community. More >

Building Permits: Typically less than 6 business days, provided that an approved development permit (if required) has been released.



Download the document below to learn about building guidelines and drawing requirements for interior renovations and finishing basements. Please be aware that this is not a comprehensive manual, and does not cover all circumstances. If you have no previous knowledge or experience with building projects, your best option is to hire a competent builder who is eligible to obtain permits.

icon_PDFSafety tips - finishing your basement



To book inspections, phone 403-529-8208 (24 hours)

OR download the inspection request fax sheet below, and fax it to 403-502-8036.

icon_PDFInspection request fax sheet

When phoning, please provide:

  Job address

  Permit number

  Your phone number

  Contractor name (if applicable)

  Contractor phone number (if applicable)

To schedule an inspection for the following business day, call or fax by 1:00pm.

You can book your inspection for a morning or afternoon, but it cannot be time-specific.

Requests received on weekends or holidays will be processed the next business day.

Building permit inspections needed for interior renovations and finishing basements

1 - Framing inspection - interior and exterior walls prior to installation of insulation

2 - Insulation and vapour barrier inspection - after all trade rough-in inspections are completed and prior to installation of drywall.

3 - Final inspection (once all work is completed).

 

Other inspections needed for interior renovations and finishing basements

If associated with your project, most of the following permits require rough-in and final inspections:

• Electrical inspection. For questions, phone 403-529-8210.

• Mechanical inspection. For questions, phone 403-529-8202.

• Plumbing inspection. For questions, phone 403-529-8202.

• Gas inspection. For questions, phone 403-529-8202.

 

Further info

The required inspections for your project are indicated on your permit(s). Have requested documentation on site. For rough-in inspections, ensure that the work being inspected is not covered (such as with insulation or drywall). For final inspections, it is preferred that interior finishes are complete (drywall). For additional info, visit Inspections.

Had a recent Safety Codes inspection? Please do our quick survey!