What is a Garden Suite: A Guide for Beginners

For those that live in a home, you can enjoy your backyard in all its glory. While BBQing and gardening is a common use of your property, other ways exist to utilize the space to provide income.

Have you heard of a garden suite? It is a great option for homeowners to utilize space, and you can either build it from scratch or renovate an existing structure. So what exactly is a garden suite?

Secondary Dwelling

At its basic, a garden suite is another home in your backyard. It takes on the role of a small residence on the same property as your house and typically occupies a space behind the main home. It gets its namesake because it dwells where your garden may be but also goes by other names like:

  • Laneway home
  • Granny suite
  • Accessory dwelling unit
  • Secondary suite
  • Carriage house

While you can build any size structure you want, a garden suite will usually be small with around 400-800sf and one story, although they can be two stories if your local building code allows it. Many people use these as a close residence for family members, like an adult child getting their own space or an aging family member being close while still having independence.

Rental Property

Because this is set up as a fully functional living space, you could also rent it out. This can give you extra income as it becomes a detached mortgage helper. If you have a two-story building, it can even become a multi-unit rental with different families or individuals occupying them.

You will need to consider tenant parking and easy street access to the suite so they can be anonymous and even allow them to use part of the backyard. A fenced area can also give them their private outdoor space if you need to.


This is considered a separate building, not an addition, so you will probably need a building permit to construct a new garden suite. If there is an existing structure or a garage with rooms above, it will be easier to build out the suite. Make sure to hire a professional contractor or take on the project if you have the skill set. For a garden suite, you need:

  • At least one bedroom
  • 3-piece bathroom
  • Secured entrance
  • Kitchen
  • Living area
  • Parking
  • Access

Adding design elements that match your main home to keep the same aesthetic is nice, but you can also make it unique and trendy for some added backyard flair.


Now you know what a garden suite is, but what are the advantages?

Multiple Income Stream 

As mentioned above, you gain a secondary dwelling to rent out for income. With multiple units, you produce added streams of income that can help you pay down bills, fund a vacation or even scale back your work life. Even if you have a family member stay, they can pay a bit to offset your mortgage.

Better Appeal Than An Apartment 

There is a rental housing shortage in many cities, and you can take advantage of this. If given an option, many renters would rather live in a garden suite with safety, security, and a peaceful setting than rent an apartment in the city. This is also a stand-alone structure, so they don’t have to deal with noisy neighbours on the other side of the wall.

Affordable Living 

You may have college-aged children seeking independence but having limited funds to live independently. Maybe you have a senior family member on a low income that is struggling to make rent. Either way, your garden suite could answer their housing concerns.

Short Term Rentals 

This is another attractive option if you don’t want to have permanent renters in your space. An Airbnb is hands-free, and the financial transaction is handled so short-term renters can come and go as needed. You must supply furniture, bedding, dishes and other amenities and do custodial duties, but you can charge a premium for the unit.

Increase Your Portfolio 

If you want to have multiple rental units, it is much cheaper to build a garden suite in your backyard rather than buy a rental unit somewhere else. This way, you will have less financial hit and see positive cash flow faster.

Increase Property Value 

This is also a great one because it greatly improves your property. Having a secondary rental unit dramatically increases the value of your home, so when it comes time to sell, you will get more qualified buyers and demand a higher price.

This is a garden suite in all its glory. If you are considering having another small residence for a family or added income, utilize the space behind your home and join the wave or those with exquisite garden suites.

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