Building Code Ontario and Tiny House Ontario

OK you caught me, I am an artist and writer and some things simply don’t interest me that much, or hardly at all.  Also I like to think outside of the box, which is probably what lead me to the Tiny House Movement to begin with.

For example, my take on it is that the Ontario Building Code, is not very different from any other rule book.  Kinda boring.  Started originally with good intentions, like keeping people from burning to death, then it got signed on to by ever more groups, added onto over and over and over. Intuitiveness and sensible stuff gets shoved aside somewhere along the line and this rule book becomes as stagnant as the water in an old tire.  Inevitably, to make any changes to this or any other rule book you have to fight like a warrior and often times with no hope.

If you clicked on the OBC link above, or if you are one of those sorts who read the rules, then you will know that the OBC book is absolutely HUGE.  I have not read it.  GASP!  What I have done is that I have consulted with a few builder friends and relatives because chatting and planning are more fun and interesting for me.  I let the people in the know tell me what I need to.

There were some steadfast things that I learned, by osmosis and through these chats, and when I was pretty sure I knew what I was talking about was pretty firm, then I called the Township office and spoke to the building inspector in February of 2011.  I fortunately reached this inspector directly.  I gave the inspector my address and name and began to speak.

I told the inspector that I don’t live close and that I wanted to build a 108 foot structure (on my land) for me and my dogs to stay in when I visited home.  I also said that I might want to use this when and if I eventually build a home there.  I was told that I can do that.

I then told the inspector that I wanted to do it in straw bale and the inspector said that 108 square feet is the maximum for the exterior measure (new news), so if I build with straw I would have only about 40 square feet left on the inside.  I asked the inspector if there were any exceptions, I was told no exceptions.  This is when I knew that I would have to use 2×4’s so that I would have some interior space.  Oh well.

I told the inspector that I was planning on building a place which was insulated, 15 feet high and with lots of windows.  The inspector said that the details like this do not matter as long as it is up to code in terms of safety and that it could not be over 15.5 feet.  Good to know.

Thus Tiny House Ontario is a stick built house on a cement pad with a sort of verbal clearance from the inspector there.  As far as I know this inspector has not been in but the Road’s inspector has been in and seen Tiny House Ontario because this inspector has to approve (hopefully next time around) my damn culvert.  Two unsuccessful visits to date.  UGH!

A recent query on here makes me worried that someone in a government suit will pull in to my land and insist that I tear down Tiny House Ontario.  I truly hope that this is not the case.  With nothing in writing I guess you are always vulnerable.  Still I think that I did everything that I am supposed to.

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Categories: Building code, Environmentalism, Materialism, Rules, Sustainable living, Tiny house, Tiny House Ontario | Tags: | 63 Comments

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63 thoughts on “Building Code Ontario and Tiny House Ontario

  1. Jennifer Ring

    Greetings THO, I am new to the site, and this is my first post. I have been waiting for the new Coachhouse bylaw to pass in Ottawa, where I live. (It was generally expected to be voted on and passed yesterday in City Council – Oct 26). I have two friends who have generally offered their backyard to realize my small-home plan, but I would have to finance the build. My mortgage/construction loan broker informed me that all applications and financing have to be made by the land owner. Is anyone familiar with contracts between builders and the host landowner? Regards and thanks in advance, Jennifer

    • Hi Jennifer, I am sorry, I really don’t know! BUT, I will for sure post this question on my Facebook site. Please follow it there.

  2. andyro

    Hi Laura, thanks for the reference to my site. I just wrote an article on the legalization of Tiny Homes in Ontario here: http://www.andythomson.ca/2015/11/30/strong-communities-through-affordable-housing/ – there are a few other links on my new site that deal with tiny homes, such as this one: http://www.andythomson.ca/2014/04/11/tiny-homes-legit/ Please feel use to reference or redirect as needed and thanks again! Andy

    • Nice to hear from you Andy, I refer a lot of people to your site, not just here from my blog but also on the THO Facebook page. It is great that you are working on this – LEGALLY. Mine is not exactly legal but the community knows about it. I just got a tax assessment today and they have upped my taxes for 153 square foot house – which I don’t have a clue where they got these measurements. The house is under 108. I am concerned about this so called “Smart Community” that claims to be in Kingston. I fear that a lot of hopefuls are going to be ripped off. What is your thought on it and do you know what can be done about it?
      I hope all is well and thanks for your work on the Canadian Tiny House scene.
      Laura

      • Jenn

        Hi Laura,
        Are you the head of this Blog? Are you in Kingston or near it? I have very interested in a Tiny House in the future. My home is Kingston and I have no clue where to start as far as building code, land, contractor, cost, ect…… any help would be appreciated.
        Thank you.

      • Hi Jenn,
        Yes, I am the author of this blog and the owner and builder of Tiny House Ontario. First advice is do not spend any money yet. Second is, read my blog all of it, just as though it were a book, from back to front. You can skip over the posts about my art, and the forest if you wish but you will find MOST of what you need to know here and it is applicable and current to tiny house wannabes in Ontario. There are particular posts that you will want to refer back to, and you can use the search for this. Still, don’t spend any money. Third, call or write the municipalities that you want to live in once you are familiar with the concept and find out what you can and cannot do… because each municipality is unique… Then decide if you are willing to take the risks – and go from there. Currently there are at least four tiny houses in the Kingston area, if you decide to move forward please keep me posted. Regarding contractors – when you get there once you have done the reading, you may already know the answers… in fact, you may decide to do this yourself, it is a bit of a learning curve, but right now you are at the beginning and you will see… it is not unmanageable to DIY and it will save you a lot of money!
        Laura

        NOTE: DO NOT get in touch with the so-called smart communities because there have been a number of concerns raised with me about the person running this.

      • Tory Doyle

        Hi Laura, Do you by any chance know of anyone near Ottawa Ontario who might have tiny houses for rent?  I have written to you before about basic Tiny House info but now I am starting to think that maybe if I start by renting a tiny home, if there are any of these homes for rent that is, maybe it would help to get me used to the idea before I went further with getting my own. Anyone you might know of that would deal with rentals of tiny homes around Ottawa? Thanks for your time. Take care Tory

      • Hi Tory, I don’t know of any that are advertised but I have found these at airbnb.ca from time to time. This one for example is a vintage trailer – that would certainly give you the experience that you are looking for. https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/7219269?s=HGPVz9yi

      • T. Melnyk

        Thanks for the help Laura, I will stay in touch.

    • Andy, I cannot find anything on your community. Are you full? I recall reading that it was near Ottawa – but perhaps I misread and it is on the Ottawa River, near Fort Colonge? Eco Village – is this it?

  3. pah

    everyone is not on face-book.

  4. pah

    love the idea of the tiny house..
    wouldn;t it be nice to have a smalll seminar on this somewhere near missisauga or brampton…..there are many like minded people coming around to this idea.

  5. Hi Laura, You mentioned earlier that their was a tiny house community newly approved near Ottawa. I cant find any information on it in Ottawa, if you could be so kind to forward me a name or website that would be amazing 🙂

  6. I am launching a not-for profit organization, Tiny Home Alliance Canada. A network of like thinkers and doers for responsive and effective fostering of knowledge and change towards sustainable living solutions in Canada.

    I invite anyone to connect with me on facebook https://www.facebook.com/tinyhomealliance
    I just founded this a couple of weeks ago.
    Website I hope to be up in a month or so. In the meantime I am looking for volunteers to the cause. Those who want to join in the efforts in any capacity or just have questions, you are encouraged to contact me!

    • I hope that seniors aren’t left out of the planning for different types of tiny home commnunities. I have just officially become a senior and for many seniors this type of home I think is just the best idea. Many have some kind of physical limitiation so there would have to be certain modifications for their tiny home like some kind of elevator life (simple kind) for an upper space or possible same floor bedroom planning with fold up options. Also there would have to be a built in maintenance plan to help seniors with emptying garbage and other waste and bringing in heavier supplies and regular maintenance. I currently am up to my eyeballs in health issues but am very i nterested in keeping on top of where the tiny house revolution is going here in the Ottawa area.

      I already have a tiny dog (chihuahua) to go with my future tiny house so I figure I am half way there. lol.

      • Hi T! I agree! I am a hair’s breath away from 50 myself and very happy to be a tiny houser. There are a number of people my age and above that are part of this community. Unlike me, they have homes built on one level, which I would have stingily preferred, but the building code! Absurd really! I would love to see rows of tiny, easy to maintain, one floor cottages developed. I would also like to see at least 10% of all new building be houses that are 400 square feet and under.
        It is sad that lots of the old smaller houses have had big additions tacked on – often carelessly. Why cities are allowing this is beyond me. Where are the starter homes, the small homes for seniors, the right sized homes for the working poor?
        It is all so short sighted during this time in our history. So many are collecting such massive piles of S@#% along the way that they “need” monoliths to put their stuff in!

        Glad you have a tiny dog!

        L

      • Hi Laura,

        I totally agree with your comments and while I am not in a position right now to fight the tiny house senior fight hopefully I will be able to join fully not too far down the line. I will keep in touch with this site. If I win a lottery before then I will buy us both nice tiny homes in a seniors community we can start ourselves. lol. Don’t quit your day job though for the lottery win, not yet anywho. lol. Take care.

      • Hi T! That is very generous of you! But, if you win the lottery, instead just let me know and I will tell you where my house is (and if you like the Kingston area) you can buy the adjoining land! I think about $200-300K would set you up for life.
        Tiny House Ontario is where I want to be but I would LOVE to have a tiny house neighbour!
        ❤ L

  7. I can`t wait for the day when there are Tiny Houses in Tiny Communities all over the place.
    And all over the world.

  8. Jim

    Laura, this is a great blog. My wife and I have been interested in mini and/or tiny homes for many years and are coming to the point where we want to make it a reality. This blog is really helpful.

  9. Jawsh

    I too an Ottawan very interested in this tiny home movement, i got my interests in it from reading about permaculture, and reading about earthbag home development … i am so fascinated by all of this, its a shame there is all this red tape around this subject matter regarding building codes, hopefully that will shift soon in the near future!!

    I really appreciate this blog as well, and information hive!!

    Cheers!

    Jawsh

  10. West of Ottawa.

  11. Most building codes are decades old. The bureaucrats who enforce these rules need to come to terms with change. We want a smaller footprint. We need to lobby our municipal go’vts to change the rules in favour of Tiny Homes in their community.

  12. Dany Richard

    Does anyone know if you can live in a tiny house trailer year round?
    I don’t think it’s allowed in major cities, right?
    But what about rural living? I would think that’s OK right?
    I have 3 acres between Sudbury and North Bay.

    • Hi Dany, There are some areas in Ontario where it is legal. You would have to check with the building department in your area. Best way to do this is call and find out. Tell them you are thinking of buying land there and want to know if this is a possibility. Are you up in the unorganized townships? As far as I know everything is okay up there.
      Let me know what you find out please.
      Thanks
      Laura

  13. Terry

    My wife and I are very interested in the Tiny Home movement Laura – as a matter of fact we are exploring the possibility of developing a Tiny Home Community on our property between Belleville and Kingston. We have 80 acres just north of the 401; no buildings yet however we have put a well in. We may be dreaming but we thought the time is right for Ontario and it’s repective townships to step into the 21st century. Why can’t Ontarian’s build smaller houses than 1000 square feet at a time when we all know that fossil fuels are disappearing at an alarming rate; we are being educated to reduce; that less is more; that our footprint must be small; that part-time jobs are the norm. Today, that average Ontarian cannot afford a large, expensive to operate, traditional home of the past.

    I have canvassed replies on Kijiji in both Belleville and Kingston in hopes that I can attend a township meeting with substantial support. I would greatly appreciate any direction or suggestions that you or any of your followers may have. Any contacts of persons who may be able to assist us or simply discuss our plans would be fantastic! Thank you for your time.

    • I am glad that you contacted me. There is someone advertising a community in Kingston who I sincerely believe is not legitimate. I would like to see your property and discuss with you what your plans are. I would be happy to run a story if you will meet me.
      Send me your details here and I will get back to you privately without posting.

    • Hi Terry, – I want to build a Tiny House Village in Lanark County – west of Ottawa.

      • Hi Laura, I am just starting to look into tiny homes but have a special type I am interested in. First of all I would want to live in a community of tiny houses but since I will officially become a senior in a couple of months and do have a mobility issue I am wondering if a tiny house could be built to accompodate seniors as well? I have seen small elevators that can be installed but not sure if they could be in that small a space, or a lift say for a wheelchair or for someone who uses a walker? For me the tiny house would be better than even an apartment because I can’t keep up cleaning a bigger area so this would totally work. I would probably have to hire someone to help with heavier jobs but I am looking at a ready built home not one I would construct myself for obvious medical reasons? Just wondering if in your plans for a community you could possibly consider selling a few pre made houses (or parianlly completed ) for those who are disabled and would need a head start.
        Thanks for your time. I think many seniors would be interested in this kind of a community that is all inclusive too. T. Melnyk (Ottawa)

      • Hi T! Yes there is a new community that has been approved, has land and lots are ready to go. It is up near Ottawa. There are a number of seniors who have tiny houses. The size and inexpensive living has a lot of appeal to those who want to live frugally and who don’t want to keep moving stuff around to clean under it. I will see if I can find you the link to the community and get back to you.
        Kind regards,
        Laura

      • Hi Laura, Thanks for looking into the community just outside Ottawa. Will await your findings. Thanks for all your help. T.

      • Hi Again T. Yes here is the link for Andy, who owns the land where the community has already started. He is an architect so I am sure he can help you with design and accommodate any accessibility issues you have. http://www.earthstream.ca/media/

    • Jim

      Terry.

      I’d be interested in becoming part of your community. That part of Ontario is one of the areas we’ve been looking at so let us know if we can participate.

    • Susan

      We are also in the Belleville area and looking to build a tiny home. Need land so would be interested in a community

  14. I am another Ottawa Dweller, looking into this. I am currently an Architecture student at Carleton and am looking at a tiny house on wheels as a ‘Dream Starter Home’ when I graduate. The problem is buying vacant land in Ottawa seems to come with requirements of the type and size of house you will develop on it. It’s also very pricey, 40-75k within half an hour of the city. Two hours out of the city you can find vacant lots for 17k. But sadly that is not a work commute I’d like to make. Most trailer parks in the area are not 4 season and do not come with a low rental cost.

    If anyone would love to share their journey, advice or troubles email me at kica.26@hotmail.com. I’d love to get in touch with like minded neighbors.

  15. Sonya

    Hello!

    I’m a recent undergraduate (with no student debt thank goodness) and looking into building a tiny house on wheel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. If been doing extensive research for the past 4-5 months of different models and each house is amazing in it’s own way. Does anyone have any experience or advice for where to get started? I’m looking into floor plans but there is a lot of overwhelming information.

    Thanks!

    • Joe

      Hi Sonya – did you deal with the city at all on this? We’re also in Niagara Falls. Thanks!
      Joe

  16. D

    I was talking to the building inspector in the Stone mills area and they are proposing to the council to drop the minimum size down to 60 Sq m or 646 sq ft do 154 less then the minimum. It’s a start.

  17. Linda

    hi there, i am building a tiny house on wheels. Do you know what i need to do to make it road ready? i already have a license plate on my trailer but thats it. i live in Waterloo ontario

    • I believe you have to insure it as well. Just like a ready made trailer. This said, I am not an expert on tiny houses with wheels because I did not go through the process.
      How far are you on your house? I would love to see it!
      Laura

    • Hi D,

      Would it be possible to get in touch? We are also from Waterloo and are planning to start building our tiny house on a trailer next summer.
      Tnx, Eva

      • Congratulations on your decision Eva! I am pretty swamped for the next two weeks… Check in with me at the Tiny House Ontario site on Facebook and we can see if there is a good time for you and I to meet.
        With kind regards,
        Laura
        PS: There is a tiny house on wheels already started in Dundas Ontario… Basically it is a trailer, with the floor installed and the shell up. You might do well checking the price on this. I am sure the vendor is anxious because she won’t be able to finish it and live in it after all… and she is paying to store it.
        You can find it by looking at Tiny House Listings… under Canadian Tiny Houses for sale.

  18. Hi Mike! As far as I know I am the only tiny houser in the area. At least, no others have contacted me. If you are planning on getting in you might want to know that there is a partially built tiny house on wheels in Fergus Ontario (north of Guelph). The person who owns it is an anxious vendor. They wanted $13.5 K for the shell (with windows) but have since dropped the price to $9 K. It is on THO’s facebook page. A reasonable way to get started.

    • M

      I noticed the decent value of that hunting cabin/ tiny house on Kijiji, I was wondering if your land is up for grabs at all. I’ll need a place to complete that tiny house if I decide to get it. Ibelieve its above restrictions , however. Is there property in the area? Perhaps a space to park it at a reaonable rate, despite the size. 20′ X10″ by 12.5′ tall.. Im new to this but am also very interersted in tiny home communuities and could only find one in Kingston, or at least a poroposed development, with lot values at $3000 to own. There is also a call on that site to landowners closer to the city which would be able to accomodade small mobile and vast sized tiny homes.

      • I don’t have any land for sale. I think if you find a lot at $3,000 you better buy it. However, if this is the proposed tiny house community that I am thinking of, I have not seen (or heard of) any real accomplishment in terms of actually getting things done instead of just proposing it on line. I don’t think that the person or persons who have this page have even begun building their own tiny house.
        Not sure if you know… but I think the value of land is closer to $40,000 an acre here in the Kingston area.
        I also don’t know of any places to park. If I hear of anything I will let you know here.
        Laura

    • Mike

      Thanks Laura.
      I’ll check into it…hope its still there.
      Have you heard back from MPAC?
      It’s great that you are pioneering this life style…and I hope to follow with a homested.
      Cheers

      • I hope you will too Mike! It would be great to have a few other minimal living people in my area!
        L

  19. L

    Hello I am inspired by your journey to tinyhouse movement. Do you think Scarborough City would be ok with me building a tiny house behind my moms backyard which is a typical bungalow size lot… Any thoughts?

    • I don’t know. What I suggest is arm yourself with a lot of information and go speak to the building inspector. What is the worst thing that can happen?
      Good luck! Laura

  20. 108 sq ft minimum why? Is that the size limit before you require a permit? Why not just design a tiny house according to OBC, I think it could still be easily done and could be a little bigger then.

    • Hi Fred, I see that you caught up with this last night. I agree with your later statement… it is a silly and antiquated law which has to do with the time when we all burned wood in less than safe conditions. With the more contemporary interior heating/burn methods there is no good reason that we should not be allowed to build and live in a 300 square foot space, which would have been my personal preference. xo L

    • Jim

      Fred.

      If I understand the OBC, the minimum size for one person is 9 sq. m which I assume is the interior space. This plus the thickness of the walls brings you up to 10 sq. m. which is 108 sq ft exterior dimensions.

  21. Bonnie Smith

    I so understand where your thought processes are on this and I definitely relate to the bureaucratic tangles we face as well as the fear that somewhere along the line, red tape will be draped and then pulled into a strangle hold on things that I am choosing to do.

  22. Aaron

    I’m surprised the building inspector allowed it. I’ve been looking for a location in Ontario near Ottawa to put a tiny home. If you know of any, please let me know.

    • Mike

      Have you been successful yet with this quest; finding a location and more info about the requirements?

      • I have had the land since 2010, I built my tiny house in 2011. The requirements are to go big or stay under. I chose the later.
        Best to you Mike.
        Laura

    • Mike

      Evening fellow Tynners.

      Aaron; I just became interested about 3 months ago in tiny homes and have been hoping to find people in the area.

      I was hooked the moment I saw my first Youtube vid.
      I live in Ottawa/Gatineau and would love to know if there is anyone close by to share ideas and support.
      Maybe start a group

      • Richard

        I am a fellow Ottawa/Gatineau resident who would also like to share ideas and support.

      • Derrick

        I am also a resident of Ottawa and would love to get involved with any group discussion on this topic. I have been researching options for tiny houses in the Ottawa area and have been incredibly frustrated by the bureaucratic road blocks.

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