A Guide to Coach House Construction in Ottawa

If you have extra space in your backyard and don’t know what to do with it, consider building a coach house for extra space (or extra income).

Along with building secondary units inside your home, such as basement suites, the City of Ottawa allows homeowners to build a second smaller detached home on their lots as a way to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city.

If you’re interested in building a coach home, here’s everything you need to know and why they are an excellent idea for additional income.

What Is A Coach House?

A coach house is a small house built on a lot with an existing residence. Coach homes are also known as maisonette houses, laneway houses, micro homes, and carriage houses.

Coach homes are considered secondary dwellings because they are detached residential units constructed on the outside property of a primary residence, instead of inside the primary home.

Coach houses can be built from the ground up in a backyard or elsewhere on the property. They can also be built from existing detached structures, such as garages and sheds.

Coach homes are permanent dwellings with a foundation, water, electricity, gas, heat, and a connection to a sewage or septic system. These utilities are connected to the primary home’s services, so there is no need to hook up new connections to the city water and sewer lines.

These permanent dwellings have a bathroom, living area, sleeping area, and cooking facilities. Coach homes are ideal for homeowners who want to accommodate family members or have a rental unit.

While coach homes are considered secondary dwellings, suites built inside the main house, such as basement suites, are also considered secondary suites or secondary dwelling units.

What Are the Benefits of A Coach Home?

Here are some of the advantages of building a coach home on your property:

  • Provides affordable housing for ageing parents, adult children, or other loved ones.
  • A small house provides accessible housing for those with limited mobility.
  • Allows you to better take care of family members by having them live on-site.
  • Allows you to earn a supplemental rental income which can help pay off your mortgage, save more money, or put your kids through college.
  • Boosts the property value of your home if you ever decide to sell since it offers a second residence for rental income.

What Are the Requirements?

Secondary dwellings in Ontario, including suites and coach homes, are subject to local building requirements and must meet the Ontario Building Code requirements for residential structures.

Any alterations to a property, including building a coach house, requires building permits before the construction can begin.

If your lot meets the municipal building requirements for a coach house, keep in mind that the coach house cannot be larger than 40 percent of the square footage of your primary residence. And if you live in an urban area, it also must be only one-storey high.

These restrictions are in place to minimize the impact of coach homes on the neighbourhood. In other words, coach homes must be discreet.

Is My Property A Good Fit?

Your property might be suitable to become a coach house property if:

  • You live in an area where rentals/affordable units are scarce.
  • Your property has enough space to build a coach home, either in the backyard, side or corner yard, or facing a rear laneway.
  • Your town/city regulations allow you to build a coach house on your property.
  • You live in a neighbourhood where coach houses are allowed.

Coach House Rules: What Does the Law Have to Say?

Each municipality has zoning bylaws that say whether the construction of additional buildings is permitted. For example, a new dwelling cannot be intrusive to the original home or change its character.

Here are the rules for building a coach house in Ottawa:

  • Only one coach house is permitted per principal residence on the property.
  • A coach house is only permitted on lots with a detached, semi-detached, duplex, or townhouse dwelling.
  • The primary dwelling does not already contain a secondary dwelling or secondary dwelling units, such as a garden suite, basement suite, or rooming units.
  • Water and utility services must be connected to the services of the primary house.
  • Roof patios are not permitted on coach homes.
  • The coach house must have direct access to a public roadway by way of a pathway that is a minimum of 1.2 metres wide.
  • The coach house cannot cover more than 40 percent of the yard.
  • Yard space must remain for both the coach house and the primary house—i.e., the coach house cannot crowd the property and take up the entire backyard, leaving no space between homes.
  • The maximum footprint for a coach house is 40 percent of the size of the main house, 40 percent of the size of the yard, or 80 square metres in urban areas and 95 square metres in rural areas, whichever is smallest.
  • The maximum height is 3.6 metres in urban areas and 4.5 metres in rural areas, or 6.1 metres if the coach house contains a garage with a living space above it.
  • A building permit is required.

Other Factors to Consider

Coach houses must be designed in a way to preserve mature trees on the lot and minimize the impact on neighbouring properties and your neighbours’ privacy.

Your primary house might require electrical upgrades to service the coach house. And adding a coach house to your property may also result in:

  • Additional property taxes
  • Additional utility fees
  • Additional insurance fees

Lastly, coach houses cannot be sold separately to create two residential lots.


How are coach houses different from garden suites?

Garden suites, also known as nanny suites or granny flats, are temporary units, such as trailers, that are only permitted on a lot for a limited amount of time. Coach houses are permanent residential structures with a foundation that are allowed to remain on the property permanently.

Are coach homes customizable?

Absolutely. You can build a coach house in a range of styles and sizes, choosing an interior décor to suit your needs, and an exterior that will compliment your primary home and landscape.

How long does it take to build a coach home?

While construction timelines vary depending on the weather and other factors, such as the ground and foundation, custom-built coach homes usually take about 10 to 12 weeks to build on-site.

How much does a coach home cost?

There is no set price for coach homes. But on average, they cost around $200 to $300 per square foot or $100,000 to $150,000 for a 500-square-foot home.

If you think you could benefit from building a coach home and you meet the local building requirements, contact your local home builders to start planning your new small house. Though small in size, coach homes can help you and your family live more comfortably.