What are you using your laneway garage for? If it’s full of stuff or sitting underused, now, thanks to recent changes to zoning by-laws in Toronto, you can turn your underutilized or forgotten garage into a completely separate and self-contained laneway house. This is a wonderful opportunity many Toronto families are taking advantage of in order to add extra living space to their property or to rent out for extra income.

If converting garages into secondary houses isn’t already part of your skill set, not to worry: we’ve created a JDI Laneway House Plumbing Cheat Sheet to help get you started. Use this cheat sheet when beginning your planning and while consulting with your plumber or contractor about the fundamentals of converting your laneway house, so you can embark on this exciting project with confidence!

Converting Your Garage into a Laneway House​

The new Toronto Laneway Suites By-Law allows you to outfit your laneway garage with services such as gas, electrical, and plumbing in order to make it “a self-contained living accommodation…as a separate single housekeeping unit.”

A JDI Plumbing Project: The Harbord Village Laneway House. Photo by Ben Rahn.
Laneway House main bathroom by JDI Plumbing. Photo by Ben Rahn.
Where do I begin?

Gaining a whole additional house is an exciting prospect, but it’s almost like building a house from scratch. The plumbing needs alone are significant. Your laneway suite will require running water, a bathroom, a kitchen, a hot water tank, drainage, and a water meter.

While a plumbing contractor can rely on some basic similarities from property to property, each one will present its own specific issues and challenges. It’s essential you work with a plumbing contractor who has the experience and knowledge to troubleshoot and brainstorm options with you in order to avoid potential costly headaches down the line.

The JDI Laneway House Plumbing Cheat Sheet

Knowing what to look for and how to approach the laneway house conversion will give you peace of mind and help you make the smartest decisions for your second new home.

Use our JDI Laneway House Plumbing Cheat Sheet to make your consultation easy and efficient:

Supplying Your Laneway House with Water
Trenchless Torpedo Boring
Water Service via Torpedo

The water service for your laneway suite will connect to the water service in your main house. In most cases, this service is located at the front of the house.

Your plumber will run the piping through the house (in the basement ceiling) to bring the water to the back of the house. Then they dig a hole (usually 4’ wide x 4’ deep) and use a torpedo boring machine to create a pathway from your existing house to the secondary hole in your laneway suite. Your plumber will then run your piping through the underground pathway and rough in your laneway house’s new kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room.

Water Service via Trench

If running a torpedo is not an option (for example, if you can’t get the machinery through or tree roots are in your path), your plumber can run the piping around the house by digging a trench from the front of the house to the back of the house (as you cannot torpedo underneath your house).

*Note: A trench of this magnitude is a messier and more labour-intensive (read: costly) option, so if this is how you have to bring water into the laneway house, it’s imperative you entrust it to a highly qualified professional.

Water Service Points to Cover with Your Plumber:
  1. Can you run your water service through the main house or are there any blockages/complications?
  2. Are there any tree protection zones or blockages between your main house and the laneway house?
  3. Is there enough space to dig the holes required for the torpedo boring machine? Alternatively, is there enough space between you and your neighbor for you to safely trench without potentially disrupting the foundations of both dwellings?
Supplying Your Laneway House with Drainage
Laneway House Kitchen by JDI Plumbing. Photo by Ben Rahn.

Just as your laneway house water service comes from the main water service, your drainage line will connect to the main drainage line. If your main drain goes to the street, your plumber will dig a short trench between the dwellings to connect the drain lines. If your main drain goes to the laneway, your plumber will connect the drain line at the laneway house.

*A note on backwater valves: if your drainage line drains to the main street, you don’t need to worry about installing a backwater valve on your laneway suite. But if your drainage line drains to the laneway (as is the case in one of our current projects), it is recommended that you install a backwater valve on your laneway suite. This will protect your laneway house from any sewage backups from the city’s pipes and/or basement flooding. A backwater valve is always a good thing to have on your main house, so if you do not have one yet, we highly recommend installing one.

Tip: if this is the first time you’re installing a backwater valve on your property, the city has a rebate program. JDI will apply for the rebate on your behalf so you receive up to $1,250 from the city for installing one.

Drainage Points to Cover with Your Plumber:
  1. Where does your drainage line drain into: the street or the laneway?

  2. Do you have a backwater valve installed on your main home?

  3. Will your laneway house benefit from a backwater valve?

Laneway House view from Main House. Plumbing Services by JDI Plumbing. Photo by Ben Rahn.
Water Meters - What Are They For?

Every home has a water meter that sits on your water service line and tracks your water usage. Many of our clients have asked us how to track their laneway home’s water consumption separately.
While you cannot put a separate meter on your laneway suite as the suite is still legally part of your main property, you can install a sub-meter on your main water service line, just after the connection to the laneway. This allows you to see what consumption is coming from your rental property.

Water Heater

We highly recommend a tankless water heater to utilize the small space and lack of a mechanical room.

Water Pressure

If the pressure is already lower than you’d like in your existing home, you might want to consider upgrading your water service. While in most cases your laneway suite will have fewer plumbing fixtures than your main house, your water pressure is still something to consider and plan for before you begin work on your project.

JDI Plumbing has helped many Toronto families convert their garages into efficient, attractive, and cozy laneway houses. If you’re thinking now that your garage could get a second life as a second home, contact us at info@jdiplumbing.ca to talk about how we can outfit your laneway suite with plumbing services that suit your unique project’s needs.

About the Authors
Jesse Isakow and Eli Zlotnick are Master Plumbers with over 15 years of plumbing experience in residential, commercial, and industrial plumbing sectors.
JDI Plumbing Ltd.

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