Everything You Need To Know About Garden Suites

Garden suites are currently increasing in popularity in Toronto. Why? Because they finally passed the city council in recent months that allows residents to create second dwellings right on their properties. Now it’s not as simple as just breaking ground and building. There’s a lot you need to know before you get to that step.

In this article, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about garden suites. From garden suite plans to garden suite by-laws, we’ve got you covered! Let’s get started.

What Are Garden Suites?

Garden suites are secondary dwellings that are detached and located at the back of the principal residence. The general concept of a garden suite is to have a separate housing unit that seamlessly integrates within an existing residential neighbourhood. They’re modest-scale housing units that are a means to solve growing problems facing homeowners in a competitive housing market.

Some other names for garden suites include; granny flat, coach house, and tiny house. This is a newly passed law in Toronto permitting the construction and use of garden suites on existing properties.

Why Build A Garden Suite?

There are many great reasons why you should consider building a garden suite on your property. They are great if you need to generate additional income via renting out the garden suite or potentially housing loved ones like parents, family, friends, etc.

They can also make great workspaces, which are always needed considering how many people have now become full-time remote workers. Having a space detached from a chaotic home where distractions exist means you can get your work done in relative peace.

Best of all, a garden suite results in an increase in your property’s overall value. If you plan on eventually selling in the future, you can rest assured that a garden suite will make your home more valuable and in demand.

Garden Suite By-Laws

Obviously, there are a few rules and regulations that come with building a garden suite that you need to be aware of. Here are some of the most important by-laws you need to be aware of when building your garden suite.

  1. Requirements
  2. Setbacks
  3. Height restrictions

These laws were introduced in February of 2022 by the Toronto city government.


There are certain requirements that have to be met when constructing a garden suite, such as:

  • 45-meter distance between the entrance and public street.
  • 1.0 to 2.1-meter vertical clearance from the public street.
  • Side yards have to meet a minimum of 0.5 meters and 10% of the lot frontage and a maximum of 3.0 meters.


Here are some of the setbacks you might encounter when building a garden suite.

  • You’re not allowed to remove existing healthy by-law-protected trees.
  • A garden house Toronto-based can only be featured at the rear of the property.
  • You’re only allowed to use 60-square meters or 40% of the rear yard area.


Here are some of the height restrictions Toronto has for garden suites:

  • Garden house plans can be drafted to a maximum height of 4.0 meters at a 5.0 meters distance from the main home on the property.
  • If the garden suite is 7.5 meters away from the primary residency, the garden suite can instead reach a height of 6.0 meters.

To read these rules and regulations more in-depth, please review the by-laws here.


Designing A Garden Suite

Laws aside, how you’re actually going to design this garden suite matters. You need to focus on three pivotal points when crafting a winning garden suite design:

  1. Functionality and creative design
  2. Floor plans
  3. Landscaping

Garden House Designs & Functionality

When coming up with a winning design for your garden suite, the first thing you want to consider is functionality and creative design. Of course, this is something you can adapt along the way, but starting out with a firm idea of what you want is incredibly important.

How do you even begin to approach these two essential aspects of a garden suite design? Let’s start by addressing the purpose of the garden suite. Who or what is it for? Is it an additional living space? Is it an office? These kinds of questions will help you determine the scope of your project. For example, you won’t need as much space for a personal office as you would for an additional living space.

Secondly, what are the constraints of the lot you’re planning on building the garden suite on? It’s great to have ambitious design goals, but those goals need to be achievable; otherwise, you’re wasting your time. Are you planning on doing a single story or double story? What are your plans for lighting and natural light? You have to make sure there are windows that provide natural light for the garden suite throughout the day. Of course, another important factor is storage. Regardless of the garden suite’s purpose, storage is always a necessity.

Finally, you need to start looking into materials. What kind of flooring do you want? What kind of countertops and features does this garden suite need? Start addressing each issue individually and know that when your plan is done, it’s not 100% complete. You will likely have to make some concessions along the way, but this is important to get started.

Garden House Floor Plans

When it comes to figuring out your floor plan, this is another aspect of the garden suite that has to be considered. To start, you obviously need to figure out the functionality and creative design elements so that you know what you’re planning for.

Keep in mind your property constraints and the local laws so that you’re planning your garden suite according to code. Another critical factor to take into account is the constraints or opportunities presented around your property. A good example of this is parking. Suppose you’re mere steps away from an LRT stop, as well as being in a parking reduction zone. In that case, you might be able to avoid providing an additional parking bay for the suite. What does that mean? More room to play with when planning out your garden suites floor plans.

You also want to think about orientation. How do you want the garden suite to interact with the sunlight, trees on the property, and the overall garden? One thing that used to happen a lot back in the day was exterior stairs. This was because they would eat away at valuable floor space, which now isn’t so much the case. Stairs are no longer factored into floor area calculations. Considering the colder climate we experience, it might be wise to get your stairs indoors.

Overall, your priorities should be to maximize the space in the most comfortable and efficient way possible. While also taking into consideration the local laws, the landscape of your existing property, and the available advantages beyond your property that can save you some space, time, and money.

Garden Suite Landscaping

There’s only so much you can do to manipulate your property into being the perfect possible landscape for your garden suite. You need to understand the limitations you have in your own backyard while also seeing where opportunities lie. Also, recognize that your garden suite is going to have independent landscaping as well. In the front, you’ll have a pathway leading to the suite and potentially a porch. While on the backend, you might incorporate a deck or, surrounding the garden suite, a fence made using shrubbery. This is something you need to consider and decide on before breaking ground.

By understanding where you’re going to build and how much land you have to work with, you’re able to take all the prior steps and finalize them once and for all to ensure you’re ready to go on building your garden suite.

Garden Suite Pricing

A lot of people are constantly wondering about the price of building a garden suite, and that’s a multi-layered question with varying answers. A lot of the fees you should expect relate to your garden suite plans at large.

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Garden Suite in Toronto?

Building a garden suite can run anywhere between $400,000 and $500,000, and there are a lot of fees attached to that number, so let’s break them down.

Drawings & Permits

The cost of getting the plans drawn up for your garden suite can vary greatly depending on numerous factors. The firm you go with to get these plans drawn up is the biggest determining factor in what the overall price might be.

When it comes to permits, there are a lot of small fees attached to the process that eventually add up.

  • A minimum fee of $198.59
  • $4.93/m2 for interior renovations or $17.16/m2 for new additions
  • $85.79/per hour for examination and inspection

For more details on permit fees for the city of Toronto, please review the breakdown here.


Construction costs are determined by the construction company you choose and several factors that determine their overall price. For example:

When it comes to permits, there are a lot of small fees attached to the process that eventually add up.

  1. The size of the garden suite.
  2. The materials they are required to use.
  3. Access to the property and site.

These are the most prominent price-determining factors. However, they’re not the only factors they consider.


This part of the garden suite plans can be a doozy when it comes to the price tag. Having to manipulate and reshape the land in the area where you want to build your garden suite can cause the price to inflate dramatically. This is due to the fact that it requires heavy machinery and the moving of existing trees to ensure the area is clear, but no laws have been broken in the process.

What Can Affect The Overall Price?

Here are some of the things that affect the overall price of your garden suite when you’re in the thick of the building.


If access to the construction site on-property is difficult, this is going to result in higher fees. Why? Because it’s going to be more difficult to get not only machinery but also the materials needed to the site to build the garden suite. This means more manpower and potentially more time.


While you can’t get rid of healthy and protected trees, you can move them. However, this is something that will drive up the price as it takes time away from the construction of the suite and may require outside contractors to perform if your chosen contractors can’t perform the task.

Finish Selections

Materials, in general, can drive the price up or down on a garden suite. What kinds of floors, wall coverings, paints, countertops, and finishings are you looking at? You need to see what your budget is and work according to that. Don’t spend money on marble if it’s something you cannot afford to include in your garden suite.


The bigger you build your garden suite, the more it will cost, but the lower your cost per square foot becomes. This makes adding a second floor to your garden suite a great idea. For 25% the cost of a single storey garden suite, you can have double the square footage and increase your space and property value.

Potential Extras

Here are some of the most common extra fees you might potentially encounter:

  • If the condition of your soil isn’t adequate, you’ll find that you’re going to have to have increased foundation costs which you probably didn’t plan for when conceptualizing your garden suite.
  • If you need to bring the power in from the street, then increased hydro expenses are expected for outside power connections. The same applies to water access if it becomes necessary to access alternative water sources other than the properties already connected mainline.
  • You might have to spend additional money on shorting due to neighbouring structures. This ensures no building or structure is susceptible to damage or collapse while it’s being repaired or altered, or in this case, constructed.
  • Never think that it’s impossible to encounter additional city fees on top of the ones you’ve paid. You might need to alter permits or face new permits along the way, which can require additional fees and paperwork.
  • Properties that come with a garage that will not support the weight of the new garden suite may be removed at an additional cost or supported by underpinning.

Garden Suite Status

Garden suites officially became legal in Toronto as of February 2022. This was after a nearly two years-long investigation into garden suites that began with a review in 2020 and a report in 2021.

The new law isn’t going unchallenged, however. Local residents associations are opposing the law for various reasons. Some outright don’t want to see garden suites popping up around their neighbourhoods while claiming Toronto’s move was an overreach. Others are taking aim at the language of the law. They’re arguing that they don’t want a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

Garden Suite Process

The process of building your garden suite is a long one that requires multiple people to bring your vision to life. Here’s what you need to know about the process of building a garden suite.

Preliminary Report

The initial step of the project is a preliminary report which seeks to determine what you’re able to build on your property. This is just an initial step that is going to be adapted and amended over time. As you get further into the project, you’ll find that some things which initially seemed possible are longer feasible, and that’s the point of a preliminary report is to see what is feasible at the outset.

Site Survey

The next step is a site survey to start putting those assessments to the test. The task works on inspecting the area and gathering information for the floor plan and the overall design aspect of the project. A site survey can make meaningful assessments in terms of how the garden suite can be orientated on the property.


This is the first step in terms of gaining the necessary permits. The zoning board will hear your plans and review all the relevant documents produced by a preliminary report and site survey, and they’ll either approve or deny your zoning request.


It’s time to get the plans drawn up for your new garden suite and begin fine-tuning your vision. You’re going to start thinking long and hard about the orientation of the interior, based on what is feasible in the preliminary report. You’ll also begin thinking of features, materials, and other elements that will affect the project’s cost and scope.


Yes, more permits. With the designs in place, you’ve got to get those approved, too, and once all that’s out the way, it’s time to get started.


A garden suite isn’t complete without water and electricity, so connecting the pending property up to the main supply is time. You can apply for a connection via the Toronto city site for water/sewer service or Hydro power service.


You’ve come so far, and now it’s time to lay down the foundation of your new garden suite. This is the pivotal step to really starting on this ambitious home improvement project. It’s literally only up from here.


You’ve come so far, and now it’s time to lay down the foundation of your new garden suite. This is the pivotal step to really starting on this ambitious home improvement project. It’s literally only up from here.


Getting the main structure complete is important and once the rough-ins, insulation and drywall are complete, it’s time to work on the interior. Getting everything installed and operational is the first step before you start working on the design elements such as painting, countertops, storage, flooring, and decor.


With the interior and exterior finished, it’s time to work on the landscaping surrounding the garden suite. From the pathways to the driveway and fencing (if necessary), this is the way to make the garden suite not look so isolated on your property and give it some character.

Close Permits

You’ve completed all the necessary steps, you’ve built your garden suite, and now it’s time to get the inspector in one more time to approve everything for the last time. This is a step some forget, and it’s important you don’t neglect to get the final inspection on your garden suite completed.

How Do You Get a Garden Suite in Toronto?

In order for your property to be applicable for a garden suite, you need to meet local garden suite by-laws, and that requires going through the steps of getting approved by the city and acquiring the correct permits.

5 thoughts on “Everything You Need To Know About Garden Suites”

    1. Hi George, depending on the by-laws in your city, it may be possible to build a garden suite above your garage. We’re hopeful garden suites will get the official green light later this year.

  1. Can I build above my preexisting garage, even if the set backs from the existing house do not meet minimum? Would it be grandfathered so I could build?

    1. Hi @Sheila,

      You would have to go to COA if you wanted to build a garden suite that does not meet the by-law requirements. Some homeowners find this route viable, however it will add on both time and money to your garden suite project.

      We’d be happy to help look into this more for you. To find out more, simply request a free garden suite report.

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