Renovating your Condo is not as easy as you think

Articles & Interest

By Ernesto Arduini of Ridgestone Homes Ltd. 
Renovating a condominium isn’t as easy as you think. In a traditional detached home replacing kitchen cabinets, changing your floors or even changing a faucet is relatively easy. You can call up a renovator, sign an agreement and poof you can start. In a condominium however, before you can do any work you must get permission from your condo board or management company. 

Before you start any condo renovation you’ll have some homework to do. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the renovation rules your condo board or building management company have. Some can have simple rules, while others can be extensive. Understanding and communicating these rules to your renovation contractor will help them develop a more accurate estimate. Here are some rules that may increase your budget and add time to the renovation. 

  1. Restricted construction times. For example 10:00 am to 3:30 pm instead of 8:00 am to 5:00 pm like a normal project. 
  2. Restricted parking access. If the contractor isn’t allowed to use the visitors parking area to unload materials or pick up garbage, then workers may need to walk a block or more to get to their vehicles. 
  3. Restricted elevator access. The use of the common elevator needs to be scheduled and some days you may not be able to use them at all. 
  4. Daily protection of common areas. If you are required to put protective flooring or wall protection daily, this will add time to the overall renovation. 

Do you know that you don’t own everything in your condo? If you open up a wall you’ll find that the are water lines, drain lines, air ducts and electrical conduits. These common building elements are not yours and you most likely can’t move them. This means that if there is a bulkhead or dropped ceiling that you were hoping to move or eliminate, you might not be able to. 

There are some things in your unit that you own like the toilet and faucets. You may change them, but often drain lines that take water and sewage away are designed for the fixtures that are currently there. This means that you may not be able to change a low-flow toilet or showerhead to a higher-flow fixture as it will change the water pressure in a way that the system wasn’t designed for. This type of problem is more relevant to taller buildings.

One upside of condo renovation is that you typically don’t need a building permit as you are not touching anything structural. All you need is plumbing or electrical permits if you are changing these systems. This means that you can begin your renovation much faster.

I personally like this type of work because you can do anything that is superficial like painting, changing laminate flooring, tiles or cabinets. These parts of your condo are the most visible and this is where you can use your own style. 

If this column has generated any thoughts or questions regarding a past or future renovation please send your questions to

Ernesto Arduini is the owner of Ridgestone Homes Ltd.