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Small Cabin Forum / General Forum / Why are there minimum building sizes?
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socceronly
Member
# Posted: 8 Feb 2019 11:20
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I have been stuck now for two years.

I can't use the smallest structure, and I can't afford to build their minimum (1000sq ft. full house, I just want a simple cabin).

I get code. What don't get is an arbitrary rule for the size of the building.

If it's built safe and to code, why do I have to spend crazy money on the size.

Has anyone challenged this in court?

ICC
Member
# Posted: 8 Feb 2019 19:31 - Edited by: ICC
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When you have a minimum overall building size, such as 1000 sq ft, that is a zoning issue, your local government, not building code. Or sometimes, it is something that has been set by an HOA. I have seen many zoning plans that have s=size limits and a bunch of HOA's with similar rules, but there is nothing in the IRC that delineates overall building size. Zoning is where you also find building height linits.

The IRC does have some minimums when it comes to habitable rooms. See chapter 3 in the IRC. A habitable room has a minimum of 70 sq ft and not less than 7 feet in any horizontal direction. Kitchens are the exception. Bathrooms are not considered a habitable room but have clearance requirements between fixtures. Ceiling height minimums, stairways and halls have their rules too.

Why do zoning rules have minimum sq ft requirements? Usually to keep small "shacks" out of an area that will have or has already got larger homes. A property value thing.

socceronly
Member
# Posted: 9 Feb 2019 14:43 - Edited by: socceronly
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Well, that's what I mean by zoning being a rule, and code really being about safety and best practices.

Given we are on an island, and 50% of the places on there are already 300-600 sq ft built 50 years ago, I don't see how building another one, seasonal use ect... is a negative impact.

Every thing I have seen says the following.

There is a disconnect here between what the rules say, and what is actually a happening, or these companies wouldn't exist.

The following is Ontario

Accessory structures are legal not for sleeping/habitation and require an existing primary residence AND the min building size for that primary residence is at least 800sq ft, pretty much everywhere.

YET, there are countless companies in Ontario selling cabins, bunkies ect in the 160-800 sq ft range.

So are these rules ignored? Or worse applied selectively.

Steve_S
Member
# Posted: 9 Feb 2019 15:22
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I'm thinking the confusion here, is that Building Code has nothing to do with Minimum Size as such... it's the rules for the minimum standards required for a habitable structure to be built and addresses the various materials & methods used to build such.


The Minimum Square Footage issue arises from the various Counties / Municipalities making such by-law rules and setting minimums. Most often this is for taxation purposes as the bigger a place the more tax they can take... BUT how can they then justify the small Bachelor, Studio & 1 Bedroom apartments which are smaller than 700 square feet ! (Bit of a Hypocrisy there eh !) I am not aware of anything at the provincial level that states a minimum sq footage as such and certainly not at the federal level. There is however stuff related to required room sizes and space per occupant but the numbers are a bit dubious...

The Tiny House groups in Ontario are currently having some legal battles and it appears they are gaining traction thanks to other precedents being set elsewhere and some actual common sense for a change.


When I started on my adventure, one of the things I quickly learned is things get muddled with terms and how they are used / accepted by various officials. Wish everyone had the SAME FRICKIN DICTIONARY ! Terms like "Recreational" or "Hunt Camp" or "Seasonal Dwelling" can fall over each other and what constitutes "permanent" or accessory. A Hunt Camp is not an accessory building ! but could be used in any of the Two Seasons (Summer & Ick) ;)

Catch is, a Bunkie (typically 8' wide x 10-16 feet long) sits on skids and is considered movable and not permanent... Hell we have a guy in Manotic delivering 40' long bunkies on skids!

In my case, I was fortunate that I have a reasonable Building Inspector & a fairly reasonable township and LOT's of legacy small homes & cabins, including 200 + year old settler / heritage places everywhere. We concluded the best designation to suits my needs / wants was a Recreational / Hunt Camp property... so I put up a pump & power house, brought in a 20' sea can, built a 480 sq foot cabin. (Although the Satellite Assessment said 506 LMAO)


If it's possible, see how the township designates properties and the guidelines for usage types on that land. It could just be a matter of getting the right terminology (we can hope anyways, never give up hope).

Here's a good article from the Ottawa Citizen re Tiny Houses but also mentions the square footage tomfoolery.
https://ottawacitizen.com/life/homes/tiny-house-movement-comes-to-aylmer-with-constru ction-of-a-225-square-foot-home


Hopefully you'll figure out a way to accomplish your build, you might have to compromise or go a legal route and present the fact that other structures are located there which are below the current minimum "spec'd size" BUT, they can always come back with those are Grandfathered in, so... The Gov ALWAYS has an out !

Good Luck.

bushbunkie
Member
# Posted: 9 Feb 2019 15:55
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I agree with Steve...It's about taxes and they don't want little shacks going up beside residential homes. In our area...and many across Ontario...1000sq. ft is the minimum. Steve has found an area that has a bit of flexibility which is the best case scenario and glad for him! Actually the size that Steve built is more in line with my idea of a cabin (mine is 1000 sq ft)...but I also did not want to have to drive more than 3.5 hours to my cabin or I would rarely get there. I could have looked for an unorganized township but then I'm doing a lot of driving and I wanted something I could go up to on weekends easily...whatever works for your dram...you have to happy with it..often a compromise.
(BTW Steve...glad to see you posting...hope your health is doin ok)

socceronly
Member
# Posted: 9 Feb 2019 16:19
Reply 


I have zero confusion between code and min building size.

What I am saying is code is good, arbitrary rules are bad.

More to the point how are those rules getting applied when I can clearly go out and buy a bunkie/cabin from a dozen companies that violate the rules I see almost everywhere.

What is a 300sq ft bunkie or 500 sq ft cabin for if in all if in the lower half of Ontario there is technically no legal use for it?

FishHog
Member
# Posted: 9 Feb 2019 16:47
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small bunkies aren't illegal unless they are your only residence. if you have a 1000 sq foot cottage, then you can add a 300 ft bunkie.

that being said, I agree that the 1000 ft limit is just too big for many of us who just want a cottage. But you can go to the municipality and challenge it. If that is all that is around your area, they might allow it. But if your surrounded by 3000 sq ft places I doubt they will.

bushbunkie
Member
# Posted: 9 Feb 2019 16:54
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That is the case, Fishhog - totally agree.

Tweed
Member
# Posted: 11 Feb 2019 02:25
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Where I'm at we have the same issue. Many many cabins built before the 90s are less than 700sqf. I think that might have been the reason for the zoning by us, is that everyone began selling small lots in the woods and sticking a cabin on it. After a few decades it began to look run down. Now most of those original cabins are gone. As boomers are retiring they are buying up these small parcels and building their dream chalets


My cabin (work in progress) is only 12x16 and hopefully tucked away enough. Technically the township master plans list my area as forest and allows trappers cabins. I have no foundation so it should be considered nonpermenant.

socceronly
Member
# Posted: 11 Feb 2019 11:45
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Not far from you, Tay Valley just eliminated (at least to some degree, a change anyway) their min size requirements.

I have yet to see any trapper, hunt camp rules but I see many properties for sale suggesting that is what you can build.

Do you know of any places that have those rules?

Princelake
Member
# Posted: 11 Feb 2019 12:48
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I live on a lake bought my house it was a "recreational" but I made it my primary residence. With court battles with the township over ppl living at the lake I was grandfathered in to live there but I have to sell it as a seasonal camp. And the bylaw states no buildings can be bigger then 1000sqft even though theres some mansions on the lake. My place is 1000sqft and I cant build on to it if my wanted to. And yes this is in ontario. I would talk to the township bring in actual blueprints try and get an easement having your neighbors sign off saying they are ok with you building smaller.

socceronly
Member
# Posted: 11 Feb 2019 14:35
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Hmm. I asked about building stairs on a steep slope up from the water and they said that was not allowed. Every property 80+ on the island has them.

Conversation over... no more talking to you.

I won't be contacting anyone there, ever again. They threw all their cards on the table with that.

Princelake
Member
# Posted: 11 Feb 2019 17:21
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If I was you unfortunately I'd sell that property and find something that will allow you to do what youd like to do.

redneckpaul
Member
# Posted: 12 Feb 2019 22:50
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Zoning, codes, rules, bylaws, minimum size, these kind of threads drive me nuts. What`s the point of owning land if you can`t do what you want!

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