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What to Know When Building a Rooftop Terrace in Canada

Last modified: 2022-05-04 | Approximate reading time 6 mins

Léa Plourde-Archer

If you have the space and structure for it, building a beautiful rooftop terrace to enjoy a warm summer and chilly fall nights is what dreams are made of. It should come as no surprise that this is a huge project to take on and thus various elements need to be considered.

If you’ve been thinking about building a rooftop terrace and are you wondering how to proceed as well as the costs involved, then you’ve come to the right place to get all those necessary answers. Keep reading to find the four most important things involved when it comes to building a rooftop terrace!

What to know when building a rooftop terrace in Canada

Some rooftop terrace basics


source: unsplash

First, let’s get the biggest question mark out of the way: building a rooftop terrace is going to be expensive, no matter how you look at it! It`s important to remember that in most cases the investment will be recouped if you plan on selling your home, as any money you invest into building or expanding your current structure will make it’s way back to you.

According to contractors who we spoke with in Montreal, a roof terrace project will cost between $18 000 and $36 000. However, in other Canadian cities including Halifax, Ottawa and Calgary, prices, restrictions and specifics will differ. We’re going to help break down your options and offer a reference point for the costs and concerns when it comes to creating a rooftop terrace in other major Canadian cities.

Mandatory transformation permit for rooftop terraces in Canada

Before you start the construction process, you’ll have to get a transformation permit. This will involve doing plenty of research or asking local authorities about the type of permit you need as well as the steps necessary to receive the proper authorizations for your project. To get approval for your rooftop terrace, you will have to respect certain conditions and guidelines so that you’re building legally rather than illegally.

If you’re building a rooftop terrace in Montreal, it 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 does 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 the 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 so make sure that you’ve collected the right one before moving forward with this project.

In Toronto, 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 the specific joist and beam size, as well as foundation and guard requirements. We’d recommend checking out the full details 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 requirements will vary per project. Do bear in mind that a permit is always required when making any form of alteration to a Calgarian home.

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Required documents and permit costs

source: unsplash

In Montreal, when you apply for a transformation permit, you’ll need a dossier with detailed rooftop terrace plans that have been drawn up by a professional. These plans need to include information about access to the roof as well as a specific description of the terrace’s location. 

The price of the transformation permit will be 0.98% of the total price of the construction project, which translates to $9,80 per $1000 increment. However, the prices can be borough specific so do check with the rules of your local municipality.

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 concerning 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 Toronto, 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. 

A base fee for this type of project rings in at $198.59. 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- dependent.

In Calgary, that area where you live as well as the type of property you own will determine all the specific requirements 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.

The permit application can be completed by yourself or you could request that your contractor do it for you. However, we’d advise that you work with experts who are specialized in architecture, construction and structures, as building a rooftop terrace require specific knowledge that only professionals will possess.

Watertightness: the main challenge for a rooftop terrace

Regardless of the city you live in, making sure your rooftop terrace is watertight is incredibly important. In order for your rooftop terrace to be in optimal condition, you’ll have to make sure that it is completely waterproof. To make sure this is the case, you’ll need to follow three main steps. First, you must install a vapour barrier that works to protect your new construction from humidity. Next, install a thermal insulation product that will serve to insulate the terrace, protecting both from cold or hot temperatures.

For this step, you can choose from many products including mineral wool, cork, perlite and so forth.  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.

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: This is the cheapest option on the market. Once the structural modifications have been made to your home or building, you’ll have to install the floor along with a drainage system.

White membrane or white gravel: This type of project is more expensive because 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.

Dial 1-844 828-1588 to speak with one of our customer service representatives.


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