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What to Know When Building a Rooftop Terrace in Canada

What to Know When Building a Rooftop Terrace in Canada

Last modified: 2018/07/02 | 6 mins

Have you been thinking about building a rooftop terrace? Are you wondering how to proceed and how much it will cost? is here to give you answers!

First, let’s get things out of the way: building a rooftop terrace is quite expensive. However, in most cases, the investment will be recouped when the house is sold. According to contractors who we spoke with in Montreal, a roof terrace project will cost between $15 000 and $30 000. However, in other Canadian cities such as Halifax, Ottawa and Calgary, prices and restrictions will differ. will help break down your options, and give you a good idea of the costs and concerns when creating a rooftop terrace in several major Canadian cities including Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary.

Mandatory transformation permit for rooftop terraces in Canada

Before you start the construction process, you will have to get a transformation permit. You must inquire upon your local authorities to know which type of permit you need to get and what are the steps you need to follow to receive the proper authorizations for your project. In order to get approval for your rooftop terrace, you will have to respect certain conditions.

In Montreal, the terrace that you are planning to build cannot exceed 2 meters in height. Additionally, the elements that are a part of the terrace will have to be recessed by more than twice their height from the limits of the building’s façade. However, if the building’s parapet wall can be used as a guardrail, the previous requirement will not have to be followed. Finally, any combustible materials used for the rooftop terrace will have to respect a clearance of 1.2 meters from any property limits.

In Halifax, the allowed size and shape of your prospective terrace is dependant on the zone that you live in, as Halifax's rules and regulations regarding home expansions and additions are zone-based. However, a permit is required for any form of home expansion.

In Ottawa, a building permit is required for a deck above 24" off ground, regardless of the prospective size of the deck or its placement to an existing building. The Ontario Building Code outlines and refers to specific joist and beam size, as well as foundation and guard requirments. Full details can be viewed on the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing website

In Calgary, the laws regarding building a rooftop terrace are slightly more complicated. If the prospective terrace has any form of overhead coverage, the project could be considered a home addition rather than a deck. Therefore, the requirments vary per project, though a permit is always required when making any form of alteration to a Calgarian home. 

Required documents and cost of the permit

In Montreal, when you apply for a transformation permit, you must bring a file which includes plans for the rooftop terrace that have been made by a professional and that include the access to the roof as well as a specific description of the terrace’s location. The price of the transformation permit will be 0.89% of the total price of the construction project, which translates to $8.90 per $1000 increment. As of 2015, the minimum price for a residential transformation permit is $130.

In Halifax, you must bring 3 copies of the complete plans for your project to a Municipal Customer Service Center. The plan must include all structural components, as well as 3 copies of a site plan showing the location of the project in relation to the surrounding buildings. 

The price of the permit is dependant on the size of the project, based on the estimated value as well as a minimum $25.00 fee as well as a development permit fee of $25.00. Further, additional fees may be required depending on the complexity of your project.

In Ottawa, fees for building a deck are calculated by multiplying the valuation of the proposed project by the rate of $7.92 per thousand dollars of construction value. Construction valuation is based on the total value of all materials, labour, overhead and professional fees. Additionally, a base fee of $80.00 is required. All fees are due as soon as you submit a permit application. Again, the exact specifications of what is required for the permit application is project dependant.

In Calgary, where you live and the type of property you own will determine all requirments when applying for a building permit. Therefore, documents to bring and costs to consider will vary, though detailed drawings of your plans are always required. You can find the building permit application along with more details regarding specifications online.

You can either apply for the permit yourself or ask your contractor to do it for you. However, we advise you to work with experts that are specialized in architecture, construction and structures, as building a rooftop terrace require specific knowledge that only professionals are able to bring to the table.

Watertightness: the main challenge for a rooftop terrace

In order for your rooftop terrace to be optimal, you will have to make sure that it is completely waterproof.

You will have to follow three main steps. First, you must install a vapour barrier that will protect your new construction from humidity. Next, the thermal insulation product will serve to insulate the terrace, protecting both from cold or hot temperatures. You can choose from many products: mineral wool, cork, perlite, etc. 

The third step for rooftop terrace insulation is to add an extra layer that will serve to protect the roof, and thereby the house, from harmful elements such as chemical products and severe weather conditions.

Regardless of the city you live in, making sure your rooftop terrace is watertight is incredibly important.

Different types of rooftop terraces

If you decide to turn your roof into a livable space, you must explore the different options that are possible. Here are the three main types of terraces:

Balcony with wooden floor (or other flooring material):

This is the cheapest option available on the market. Once the structural modifications have been made on your house or building, you will just have to install the floor along with a drainage system.

White membrane or white gravel:

This type of project is more expensive due to the fact that it requires making quite a few changes to the building. If your house is not already equipped with a white membrane, you will have to remove the current roof covering material and replace it. 

Green roof with a membrane covered with layers of vegetable substrate:

This type of rooftop terrace is the most expensive option out of the three. In most cases, you will have to install a new membrane as well as several layers of drainage and vegetable substrate. However, once the project is completed, your roof will be turned into a beautiful garden that you and your family will get to enjoy. 

If you want to learn more about rooftop renovations, check this article: Renovation guide: fixing your roof.

Get 3 renovation quotes for your rooftop terrace project can help you get quotes for your rooftop terrace project. If you submit your project to us, we’ll put you in contact with 3 qualified professionals. Fill in the form on our homepage (it only takes a few minutes), and you will receive quotes from the best renovation companies.

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