Here is a sweet little business set up in an alley in the arts district in Saskatoon.  An absolutely right sized spot isn't it?

Here is a sweet little business set up in an alley in the arts district in Saskatoon. An absolutely right sized spot isn’t it?

After a recent trip to Saskatoon, a community filled with tiny and little houses, I called the City of Saskatoon, Planning and Building Department.  I asked if there was a minimum size requirement in Saskatoon.  Apparently there is not because they said they did not think that there was a minimum size restriction in the National Building code.  This is the code that Saskatoon uses.

After speaking with three people on the phone, I wrote to the Canadian Code Centre (a couple of times before I got the straight to this question):

What is the minimum size of a house in the National Building Code?
Here is the response I got:   ((((I will comment on this after the letter below))))


Dear Ms. Moreland

 The National Building Code (NBC) does not regulate a minimum size for buildings in the body of the code. Whether a permit is required or not for a building is an administrative requirement, for which each province and territory has detailed requirements (and – which may differ from province to province).

 The National Building Code only contains a few (model) administrative requirements for provinces or territories, should they wish to use them in enforcing and administering their code. Within these model requirements (located in Division C of the NBC) is a reference to a document “Administrative Requirements for Use with the NBC 1985”, which in turn suggests that an exemption for permits would be appropriate if buildings are smaller than 10m² (108 ft²).

This exemption is based on the assumption that such small buildings would be accessory buildings and that there is only 1 such accessory building per primary building. In addition, the 1985 document states that the exemption for small buildings is not intended to waive the safety and health requirements for a series or group of such buildings. This likely means that an authority having jurisdiction (city or municipality) would not use this exemption where people intended to live in such small houses.

In addition, staff at the Canadian Codes Centre are not aware of a study or research report that contains a clear-cut, definitive answer as to whether there is a legal or safe minimum size for a permanent dwelling.

The views expressed in this letter are those of the staff of the Canadian Codes Centre of the National Research Council who assist the Committees which are responsible for the preparation of the National Building, Plumbing and Fire Codes. These views should not be considered as official interpretations of legislated requirements based on the National Building and Fire Codes of Canada because the final responsibility for an official interpretation rests with the authority having jurisdiction.

Kind Regards

Frank Lohmann,
Senior Technical Advisor, Housing and Small Buildings  (NBC Part 9)

NRC Construction
Canadian Codes Centre
1200 Montreal Road Building M23a
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0R6


What I get from this letter is that it is as I previously understood.  There is NO minimum house size in Canadian code!

So, it is therefore up to we Tiny Housers and Tiny House enthusiasts to educate our municipalities and local government to the benefits of tiny living so that we can have these changes in code made to all locals.  We must lobby, speak to elected officials, educate those who are on the election trail and keep making our voices heard if we want to see tiny houses available in communities across this nation.

What I am asking is that anyone who is interested in this lifestyle please take a few moments and write letters to the elected officials in your community.  Copy the building department as well.  If we all lobby together there will be change, community by community.

ALSO, FYI… Here is a story on the awesome community that  opened my eyes a little more; Saskatoon.

Categories: Building code, Environmentalism, Money, Tiny House Ontario, View, Writing | Tags: , , , | 28 Comments

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28 thoughts on “NO MINIMUM!!!!

  1. Just a thought about economies of scale. If you want to put a tiny house in lets say Saskatoon. A lot will cost you $120,000 to $250,000, Putting a $30,000 house on a lot in the city seems extreme. Also property taxes are not just based on house alone as well. Also you need a foundation built as required by city.

    • Hi Dave. I disagree with you. This is not extreme at all. The outlay for a $30 K house is of course small, so this means less debt. Further to this, it is not just that your taxes are cheaper for a smaller home. Heating is cheaper, cooling is cheaper, furnishing is cheaper, upkeep is cheaper and these savings are not just one time off. These savings are monthly, for the rest of your life. In fact the annual upkeep for a tiny house is more like the monthly upkeep for a regular sized home and don’t even get me started on McMansions.
      Plus the lifestyle changes the thinking of the dweller… we who live tiny, no longer casually shop… We don’t consume and waste the same because if we buy a new sweater for example… another sweater has to go.
      Kind regards,

      • Dave Beveridge

        I can’t argue with your logic. Perhaps it isn’t the small value of the house that seems silly relative to the lot value. It is the outrageously high price of lots. Big or small house is not so much the issue.

  2. Dan Malloy

    Hello Everyone:

    Please go to the Ontario Municipal Affairs and Housing website and post a comment about upcoming changes to the OBC. I have posted a comment about removing minimum square footage requirements. I feel that by starting discussion on this we might be able to get municipalities to allow smaller homes. So-called “granny suites” are slowly becoming acceptable but what about stand-alone tiny homes? I am not asking for any safety changes or structural changes…just minimum square footage. I also feel that by allowing smaller homes people with less money could have greater opportunities to own a home. Yes it is a battle but we need to spread the message. Please consider commenting on the MAH website.

    Thanks for letting me vent.


  3. Dave

    All provinces have a building code. 5 have adopted the National Building Code of Canada and 5 have their own code. (BC AB MB ON QC) While the National Building Code doesn’t list a minimum size for a dwelling there are minimum sizes for rooms in a dwelling, which are similar to the Ontario Building Code which you can read at:

    Click to access Schedule%20B.pdf

    or see graphically represented at:

    Click to access AccessoryApartmentSpaceDimensions.pdf

    Also note that the minimum of floor area for a bedroom does not include areas that are shorter than 4’7″ so sometimes loft spaces are not included when calculating required areas. Bedrooms also need windows that have a minimum open are that can be used as an emergency escape.

    The diagrams on that page don’t list bathroom sizes but bathroom fixtures have minimum clearances.

  4. This is great news! We own a normal-sized house in Saskatoon, with a basement suite. Wanting to downsize, I considered just moving into the basement suite, but it only has one window so it’s really dark and not a very inviting space. So I’m thinking of building a “wife cave” under the 10sq.m. footprint, and using the kitchen and bathroom from the basement suite, but “living” in the small house. If authorities ever bother me, my “official” living quarters will be the dungeon downstairs, and the tiny house will be a clubhouse. That happens to be heated with a composting toilet and kitchenette. Which is totally not legal in the city, but how often do people inspect tiny sheds? Because in this city, 107sqft is tiny even for a garden shed!

  5. Megan

    Hello! 🙂 Laura, do you know if this is still relevant today (6/26/2015)? I would love to know for future reference if we ever wanted to build a tiny house us here in Canada.

    Also, can you please clarify for me if this includes NO MINIMUM requirements for building a permanent tiny house on the land in Saskatoon? Or is it just for tiny houses on wheels?

    • Hi Megan, I don’t think that you can live in a tiny house on wheels in Saskatoon. But, as far as I know they have NOT changed the No minimum. You must however do your own diligence and call them. What will be important for you to remember is that you must follow Canada building code, which means that you won’t be able to have a ladder up to the loft, but standard stairs,you will have to build with 2×6 walls… and so on and so on. If you have a contractor who is familiar with building codes sit down with you after you have already figured out what you want and need… this will help save you money in the long run. You won’t want to have to submit and resubmit your plans.
      When speaking to the department out there, they said one tiny house failed… this was a while ago, but if you can find out who that was, and also find out WHY… then this will help.
      Sounds like you have a lot of research to do.
      Best of luck and keep me posted!

  6. SJ

    I want to do this in mississauga/peel region, i have no idea where to start in terms of land area, i want to build a mini house- other than the cost of the house itself, do you know how much the land is (i understand it depends on the location- but a ball a park), do you lease the land and if so how much? I am in desperate need of a place, and this is perfect for me.

    • You can check for land prices. But before you buy land, you must be sure to do your homework in terms of which areas will allow you to build a tiny home. Many will not allow tiny houses whether they are on wheels or on a foundation.

      • Megan

        so what areas were you specifically referring to in this article being ones that are allowing these tiny houses?

      • There are plenty of places. Can you be more specific about where you want to be? I may or may not be able to point you to a specific area.

  7. Hey do you know anyone in Saskatoon that I can ask questions to? it is so hard to find help here.

    • What do you need help with?

      • Just figuring things out. I am not very good at explaining things through writing and it would help if there was someone near by that could answer questions about what I could do out here.

      • I was just out in Saskatoon and wrote an article about the Alphabet area of town. Here is the link.

        If I knew what you wanted to know I might be able to help you. I can’t refer you if I don’t know what your needs are.

  8. Hey everyone.. Long time tiny house fan, finally in the buyers market. I’m going to a workshop run by Tumbleweed in Toronto at the end of May. It seems to be the only one I could find of its kind. I’m well armed with dozens of zoning questions. If anyone has anything they’d like me to ask, please reply here. I was originally into the loft-less Tumbleweed model, but I’m more now into the Minum house. Google it, it’s pretty sweet and feels quite large.

    • Hi J,
      Glad you are finally at the point where you can take the leap. I like the minim house, but I would adapt it for Canadian climates by overhanging the roof at least 3 inches. We have a lot of freeze thaw, freeze thaw and this little bit of overhang will protect the place where your walls meet your roof. I also like a separate bedroom, mostly because I am lazy and I don’t want to have to tuck away all my bedding and pillows every day only to take them out again at night. Problem is, I also don’t like the tiny little lofts in the traditional tiny houses on wheels. For me, if I was going on wheels I would build a little bigger, put a bedroom on one end and a kitchen and bathroom on the other.
      Of course, we all live differently. I think it all depends on your living habits and knowing your own.

  9. Anonymous

    We are significantly downsizing in terms of work and residence and one of the places we are considering moving (currently living in Cape Breton) is Kingston. What is the climate for tiny houses on wheels such as a Tumbleweed? It seems as though you have done quite a bit of research and are grounded in this place. We would love to contact you with further questions.

    • Here are the weather averages for Kingston area.
      I think any of the houses on wheels will be similar to living in a trailer in the winter, so it is important to insulate them well. I also a big proponent of putting straw bales under them for the winter in order to maintain your temperature.

      You are right, I have done about 4 years of it, almost constantly. I can be reached here just as you already did, by leaving a comment. Or on the Tiny House Ontario Facebook page.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for your quick response Laura. We have done some searching about the Tumbleweeds in cold climates…which Kingston clearly is. We are also wondering about whether there is openness in terms of zoning. Are people able to live in houses on wheels in the Kingston area on a piece of land without septic or connections to city water?

      • As far as I know there is no place in the Kingston area where you can live in a tiny house on wheels. Here you can’t even park an RV on land which does not already have a house on it. This said, there are no tiny houses that I know of that are 100% legal with the exception of Dee Williams house. She was able to get zoning approved by the building department there. As for Tiny House Ontario… I sit in a kind of limbo… I built under building code (which is a 108 square foot footprint) but I do not have a permit and this means that I cannot live there… I can only visit… and also that if the building inspectors change the attitude can change.

  10. Hannah

    I think that Ontario has its own regulations re: building code.

    • Hi Hannah, you are both correct and incorrect. All of the municipalities in the provinces and territories in Canada use the National building code as the basis for their own. What I mean is that the codes are not Ontario based, but rather they are absolutely left to the discretion of the city or county government.
      Every county is different from the one beside it because the local government in each has the ability to change what they wish to. A few places, like Saskatoon, use the National building code which they have not changed to suit their own purposes.
      What I mean is that if a county is prone to flooding, they may wish to make extra rules about the depth of a basement or how close to the water you may build. It is a reasonably good system because it is flexible. The problem comes when a particular government comes into power in an area and decides that houses that are HUGE are welcome to be built because they want to discourage poor people from owning homes or living in their area. What they don’t realize is that the lower housing costs are, the more people have to spend in the community. These big houses suburban houses are, unfortunately not surrounded by great restaurants, cafes, movie houses, and art galleries because a lot of people who live in those houses are so “house poor” that they cannot afford to go out to dinner and a movie.

  11. Susan Arscott

    hey Sue here from Oakville! Did you ever find out the MPAC results from their visit? or nothing yet?

    • I have not heard a thing. The tax bill comes in March so we will see if the structure makes any difference in the tax bill.

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