tiny house interior with wood burning stove

Good news, the Ontario government has recently started promoting tiny homes as an urban densification and affordable housing initiative. Many municipalities have since created new regulations specifically to make it easier to add tiny homes as housing options in cities and rural areas. So, moving into a tiny home in Ontario will be easier now!

The somewhat bad news is that many of the tiny home designs we see on Pinterest and the internet are actually not “to code” in Ontario. The Ontario Building Code is generally all good things that you would want in your home anyway. But there are some tiny home floor plans that are common in the States or other places that just won’t work here. 

In this article, we picked out some of the most relevant Ontario building code regulations as you plan to buy or build a tiny home. 

While you may find some unexpected constraints below and when you contact your municipality, the main push seems to be “for” tiny homes. Ontario seems to be counting on the tiny home community to help with the increasing need for housing, urban sprawl, and rising real estate prices. So, stay flexible and don’t give up on the dream! 

Building a tiny home in Ontario: Building Code

The Ontario Building Code regulates buildings in Ontario and tiny homes are required to abide by all building code regulations if they are intended to be used year-round. The main topics of the building code have to do with safety and health of occupants. It does not regulate the look of tiny homes or where they can be located.

In the Ontario Building Code, a tiny home is defined as “a small, private and self-contained dwelling unit” that is intended for year-round use and has: 

  1. A sleeping area
  2. A living and dining area 
  3. A kitchen and bathroom

Tiny homes on wheels or built on site, as well as container homes are covered by the building code.

Campers, recreational vehicles and cottages used on a seasonal basis, as well as apartments attached to other dwellings don’t count as tiny homes.

Building permits and inspections

The Ontario guide for tiny homes says, “The Building Code contains requirements for tiny homes built on-site, and those that are factory-built (on a chassis or not) and shipped to the site. You will need a building permit or permits for both situations.”  

Whether you are building a tiny home on site or having one delivered, you will need to apply for a building permit. The municipality will review the application to ensure the construction drawings for the tiny home abide by the Building Code and that the intended location of the tiny home follows local zoning and by-laws. 

Once you have a building permit, construction can begin. The municipal building inspectors will check framing, insulation, plumbing, foundation/anchoring, services, and other items contained in the Building Code. For tiny homes built on site, there will be multiple inspections throughout the process. If you are buying a ready-made tiny home, the inspection will take place when it arrives.

Minimum tiny home size in Ontario

Municipalities can regulate minimum and maximum tiny home sizes in their by-laws, but the Ontario Building Code stipulates a minimum required size of 17.5 m2 (188 sqft).

This includes a fairly detailed breakdown of square footage for the different rooms in the tiny house. However, since most tiny homes have a minimal number of dividing walls, they fall under the “open concept” square footage regulations which allow for a single mixed-use space. This is quite easy for most tiny homes to meet:

  • Minimum combined sleeping, living and dining areas and kitchen space: 13.5 m2 (145 ft2)
  • Minimum bathroom size: Enough space for sink, toilet and shower stall or bath. Could be as little as 3.0 m2(32 ft2)

If you’re breaking up the spaces with walls, or putting them on separate floors, here are the separated minimum room sizes for each space:

  • Living area: 13.5 m2 (145 ft2)
  • Dining area: 7.0 m2 (75 ft2)
  • Kitchen: 4.2 m2 (45.2 ft2)
  • Combined living, dining and kitchen areas in a one-bedroom unit: 11 m2 (118.4 ft2)
  • Master bedroom (without built-in closet): 9.8 m2 (95 ft2)
  • Other bedrooms (without built-in closets): 7 m2 (75 ft2)
  • Bathroom: Enough space for sink, toilet and shower stall or bath

Tiny home ceiling heights in Ontario

Tiny home ceiling heights in Ontario, as specified by the building code, are fairly easy to meet in tiny homes that are one floor only. However, adding a second floor is a challenge, if your tiny home is on wheels and you are trying to meet the overall height requirement for that as well.

  • Living room or space, dining room or space, kitchen or kitchen space: 2300 mm (7’6.5”) over at least 75% of the required floor area with a clear height of 2100 mm (6’10.5”) at any point over the required area.
  • Bedroom or bedroom space: 2300 mm (7’6.5”) over at least 50% of the required area or 2100 mm (6’10.5”) over all the required floor area. Any part of the floor having a clear height of less than 1400 mm (4’7”) shall not be considered in computing the required floor area.
  • Mezzanine: 2100 mm (6’10.5”) above and below a mezzanine.
  • Bathroom, water closet room or laundry area above grade: 2100 mm (6’10.5”) in any area where a person would normally be in a standing position.
  • Passage, hall or main entrance vestibule and finished rooms not specifically mentioned above: 2100 mm (6’10.5”).

Bedroom loft and second floor regulations for tiny homes in Ontario

One of the more challenging aspects of the Building Code relates to the very typical tiny home bedroom loft. While the loft is technically allowed, practically it runs into some issues. The loft (called a mezzanine in the code) is required to have stairs, guards and handrails that meet the Building Code – ladders to access the mezzanine are not permitted. It must take up less than 40% of the floor space of the home and have the ceiling height described above. Interestingly, if the mezzanine has walls all around it, then the size of the mezzanine cannot be greater than 10% of the tiny home – which pretty much rules out walled lofts for tiny homes in Ontario.

Plumbing, insulation, electrical

A tiny home in Ontario must follow the same general rules for plumbing, insulation (energy efficiency), and electrical as a conventional home. 

In terms of plumbing, a tiny home must have: a hot and cold water supply, a sink, a bathtub/ shower, a toilet (regular or composting), a kitchen sink. 

The tiny home must be insulated in accordance with the requirements for its location (colder regions require more insulation) and have a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system that conforms with the Building Code, which includes a heat recovery ventilator.

The minimum electrical components are: an outdoor light at the front entrance of the home, plus a light and switch in every room or space of the home. The Electrical Safety Code, produced by Ontario’s Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), further requires that when building a tiny home, a separate electrical permit and ESA inspections of electrical work are required. A licensed electrician will be able to handle this for you. 

Fire Safety and Emergencies

The Ontario Building Code regulates a number of things to ensure homes can be safely escaped in case of fire – and that emergency crews can access the building. When it comes to tiny houses in Ontario, your front door is likely the only fire escape you need if your home is a single-storey. If the sleeping area of your tiny house is located on a second floor or in a loft, you will need a second exit from there. A window will work for this purpose if it’s no higher than 1m off the floor, you can easily open it from the inside and it stays open on its own. The size of the window should be no smaller than 15” measured in any direction, with a clear opening of 3.8 sqft.

Of course, you will need smoke alarms. If your tiny house has a fireplace or any appliance using natural gas, propane, or burning fuel, you will need one or more carbon monoxide alarms as well.  

Builder Certifications

Employing certified builders to build a tiny house on site will cut out a lot of headaches, as they will submit all the necessary paperwork to the municipality and generally deal with the regulations. But, what happens if your home is being factory-built elsewhere and brought to your property?

If you followed the steps of applying for the building permit first, then you will already know if your factory-built tiny home will be compliant with the Ontario building code and okayed to be located on your chosen parking spot. 

If you’re still in the process of selecting a builder for your tiny home, check the builders for these certifications: your tiny home should meet one of the two key CSA certification standards in the Building Code for factory-built buildings: 

  • CSA-Z240.2.1-09 Structural Requirements for Manufactured Homes
  • CSA A277-08 Procedure for Factory Certification of Buildings

This means the builder’s factory is certified by one of: Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Intertek, or Quality Auditing Institute. A tiny home built to these standards will have a label on the inside of the electrical panel door indicating which certification it complies with. When your local building inspector checks your newly arrived home, they will be looking for these certifications. 

A quick note that “Park Model Trailers” (CAN/CSA-Z241 Series-03) cannot be used as a permanent year-round dwelling, as the standard applies to seasonal dwellings. 

Another useful thing to know is whether your new home will be covered by the new home warranty, administered by Tarion. You can check if your builder is on the list here: https://obd.hcraontario.ca/

Source: Ontario.ca guide to Build or Buy a Tiny Home 



1 Comment

  1. I live in ingersoll ontario and want to know we’re the government is going alot tiny home developments in my town as well what is the maximuim size , if minimum is 188 square feet what is max

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