Saturday Dec 14th, 2019


The Differences of House and Condo Renovation


Regardless of the size of your space, owning a roof over your head involves a fair share of maintenance and upkeep. Some people enjoy condo living, while others prefer a house with a backyard. And, when you are planning to renovate your property, houses and condos play by different rules. Read on to discover what to keep in mind before you start your next project!

Permits & Approvals

If you own a house and want to renovate, you will likely need to apply for a building permit and perform site inspections, depending on the type and scope of work involved. For example, under the Ontario Building Code Act, you need a permit to do things like finish your basement, add a garage, update your windows or doors to ensure they are to code, add a pool fence enclosure, and build a deck in your backyard. Building and construction permits on each project may vary from province to province, and within cities. However, even if you don’t need a permit, you are still required to be in compliance with your zoning by-laws. Always do your research beforehand if you are unsure.

As for condominiums, some renovations don’t require a building permit – but you will need the approval of your condo board and property managers before starting any work. All requests for renovation work must go through the appropriate channels to ensure that you are complying with the rules of the condo, in addition to being aware of other tenants’ concerns. The condo board has final say in your proposal, so make sure you are correctly organized, include as much information as possible, and be respectful of their decisions.

Building Layouts & Restrictions

The most apparent difference between houses and condos is the size of each space. Homes are larger and typically have their own structural integrity. You have more flexibility when it comes to deciding what to renovate first and generally can carry out your vision with the right tools, professional help, proper planning, and permits. For instance, you can knock down walls, change your layout from room to room, or even expand your home with an addition. As for building materials, that is a personal preference, but homeowners have a wide range of options (e.g. hardwood floors, lighting, masonry). Most home renovation projects are possible with the right budget.

With condos, it is trickier. Space is finite – in most cases, you cannot alter the layout of your unit – and you are limited by the overall structure of the building. Drafting and submitting a detailed proposal in advance of any renovation work is crucial. You must get buy-in from your board, property managers, and even other tenants. Condo owners should not expect to tear down a wall, or a pillar, or even renovate any common areas of the building (e.g. windows, balcony, or front door), without checking with the condo board first. Building materials can be limited to what is approved by the board. For instance, many condos will not allow you to install hardwood floors due to vibrations and noise levels. Go in with an open mind if your initial reno changes due to restrictions imposed by your board: be willing to adapt and alter your plans, if necessary.

When Can I Renovate?

Noise by-laws set the standard for when you can work on your renovation project during the day. In residential areas in Toronto, you are allowed to work on noisy projects from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays. Construction is not permitted on Sundays or statutory holidays. However, in Calgary, the by-laws differ: you can work from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays and holidays. Look up the noise restriction policies as a courtesy to your neighbours, especially if you think your reno will resonate. Failure to keep your noise levels quiet outside of these hours can result in a fine.

If you live in a condo, you may be further restricted in your hours of operation. As always, defer to your condo board’s rules about noise levels so as not to disrupt neighbouring units. Also, if you have contractors moving various materials in and out of your unit, you will likely need to book an elevator, coordinate parking spaces, figure out where a waste bin can be placed, etc. This will require advance planning but will help speed up the process of renovating and cleaning up any debris. If you have a short window of time to work on your renovation, ensuring you have an organized flow of traffic in and out of the building will definitely make your project run more efficiently.

Planning for the Future

As with any renovation, one big question to ask is: how will this increase the value of my property if I decide to sell? Getting a return on your investment is always something to consider, even if you don’t plan on moving right away. For homeowners, renovating your bathroom, kitchen, or basement – virtually anything – can often benefit you down the road. Your home should have a consistent style, and support the quality of the neighbourhood to appeal to potential buyers.

Again in the case of condo owners, renovations are limited by the layout and functionality of your unit. Any changes you make must adhere to the overall quality of the building. For example, if you invest your money in a high-end reno in a much older building, you will not necessarily see a high return. And, you could risk having to revert back to its previous condition. Talk to your board about what other units have done in the past, and see if you can incorporate that into your vision.

Overall, there are many things to consider when planning a minor or major renovation in your house or condo. Communicating with your neighbours and any appropriate boards, following the by-laws, asking questions and doing your own research will help guide you through the process. This will save you a lot of time and energy before even picking up a hammer.

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