Tips for Renovating Your Condo

Articles & Interest
Meysam Pourkaram Headshot
Meysam Pourkaram, Founder and Project Manager
Enzo Design Build Inc.
Samuel Lapidus Headshot
Samuel Lapidus, Founder and President
Keystone Ridge Developments Ltd.

Featured Image: “The Aquarius” from RenoMark member Enzo Design Build Inc., Vancouver, BC: Finalist in the 2021 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence for Best Whole Home Renovation – Under $200,000

Dreaming of a condo renovation? Making changes to your condo may not be as easy as you think, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with the process before starting your project. We asked two RenoMark renovators, Meysam Pourkaram, Founder and Project Manager of Enzo Design Build Inc. located in Vancouver, BC and Sam Lapidus, Founder and President of Keystone Ridge Developments Ltd. located in Toronto, ON for their take on mid- to high-rise renovations and what condo owners should consider when undertaking a renovation.

What are the challenges of renovating for mid- to high-rise?

You might think that renovating your condo involves the same process (and the same requirements) as low-rise home renovations. The truth is that mid- to high-rise renovations come with a different set of challenges.

Unlike low-rise homes, condo owners only own their unit within a larger building. This poses challenges when it comes to what you can do with your renovation, and any major changes require Board approval. “Sometimes mid- to high-rise clients looking to renovate come into it having unrealistic expectations about what can be done in their condo,” says Pourkaram. “For example, moving a kitchen sink or toilet often poses a challenge because the condo owner does not own the plumbing line above or below their unit.” His advice? Talk to your renovator about your vision for the space, including which parts are needs vs. “nice-to-haves,” so that your contractor can determine what’s possible for your renovation project and set expectations before moving forward.

The Gemini, by Enzo Design Build Inc. - Before The Gemini, by Enzo Design Build Inc. - After

Before and After from RenoMark member Enzo Design Build Inc., Vancouver, BC: “The Gemini” – Finalist in the 2021 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence for Best Whole Home Renovation – Under $200,000

Additionally, there is no “one size fits all” for mid- to high-rise renovations because “regulations are not consistent between buildings,” says Pourkaram. “Two neighboring buildings have totally different renovation rules, so it’s important to scope out professional contractors who are aware that they are not only working with their client, but also with Boards, neighbours, concierges, and even surrounding businesses.” Pourkaram suggests that condo owners create a package for their strata outlining the scope of the project before undertaking a condo renovation to keep an open line of communication with their Board should questions or concerns from either party arise.

Other common issues contractors tend to run into when renovating condos pertain to logistics. Since mid- to high-rise buildings are generally situated in downtown locations with limited space, contractors need to determine where to park their vehicles, if equipment and materials will fit in the elevator, how much notice is needed to book the elevator, and more.

As well, there is often the question of noise – will the construction cause a disturbance for neighbours during the day and what are the quiet hours? The working hours for condo buildings greatly differ than those of low-rise homes, which can pose a challenge for timelines. “Buildings tend to have shorter construction days than those of ground-oriented homes – generally 9am – 5pm for condos vs. 7am – 7pm for low-rise – and contractors are often only allowed to perform work 4 days a week,” says Lapidus. “So, while many believe construction timelines will be shorter with condos, these limitations can actually create longer delays in your renovation project.”

Condo Kitchen in the Sky, by Keystone Ridge Developments Ltd. - After

“Condo Kitchen in The Sky” from RenoMark member Keystone Ridge Developments Ltd., Toronto, ON – Winner in the 2020 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence for Best Kitchen Renovation – Under $70,000

That said, while contractors have more flexibility with low-rise home renovations, Lapidus notes that “building permits are generally given much quicker for condos than for low-rise renovations because there are fewer structural factors to consider.”

Condo Kitchen in the Sky, by Keystone Ridge Developments Ltd. - Before Condo Kitchen in the Sky, by Keystone Ridge Developments Ltd. - After

Before and After from RenoMark member Keystone Ridge Developments Ltd., Toronto, ON: “Condo Kitchen in The Sky” – Winner in the 2020 CHBA National Awards for Housing Excellence for Best Kitchen Renovation – Under $70,000

How and where to start

Now that you know some of the challenges of renovating for mid- to high-rise, how should you get started?

Before contacting a contractor, obtain renovation request documents from your condo Board or strata to determine if there are any renovation or material restrictions. Common examples include A/C building envelope restrictions or carpeted bedrooms.

Then, proceed with finding and interviewing professional contractors. “The process of finding a renovator takes time,” says Pourkaram. “I’d suggest contacting contractors at least 3 to 4 months prior to your ideal start date of your renovation project.”

When looking for a contractor, both Pourkaram and Lapidus have helpful tips.

“Always look at the renovator’s credentials – do they have the RenoMark stamp of approval, are they part of a home builders’ association – and don’t go for the lowest bid,” says Pourkaram. “There’s usually a reason why one contractor is cheaper than others, and if you’re not sure why, ask for a detailed price breakdown to determine where your money is going.”

“I’d recommend interviewing multiple reputable renovators that specialize in condo renovations and try to get references from each,” says Lapidus. “Make sure to also check if they’re a RenoMark member, and if their insurance and certifications are up to date. Beware of contractors who try to talk you out of building permits to reduce timelines.”

Both renovators also recommend getting a detailed written contract from your contractor and to read the fine print to make sure it’s standard – a step they say homeowners often overlook. Finally, following a set budget and putting aside a contingency fund for unexpected issues or upgrades can help mitigate any roadblocks in your renovation.

In summary, renovating your condo can be both an exciting and challenging experience. But the end result – a home that better suits your needs and that you love being in – is worth it. If you’re looking to undertake a condo renovation project, finding a reputable contractor, setting expectations and a budget, and being aware and prepared for the challenges outlined in this post are key steps to a seamless renovation.

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