Before A Reno…

Posted On October 31, 2019

They make it look so easy on HGTV – find a home with “good bones” in need of some TLC, a gaggle of models-slash-contractors come and boom, thirty minutes later, you’re left with a home you love. In reality (not reality show!), it’s a little bit more complicated. There’s a lot of upside to renovating your home to your exacting specifications: a brand new home, a kitchen just for you (say, with a sliding cupboard for your stand mixer for baking), and a bedroom and bathroom layout that will grow with your family (teens are notoriously bad at sharing bathrooms).  But with that upside come risks and trade-offs that you should consider before embarking on your own HGTV makeover challenge. Here are some of the biggest points to remember before deciding to renovate.


This is the most important piece of your renovation. The thing that guides all other decisions. Take your time to really plan it out and think about what is most important to you. According to Home Builder Canada, in Toronto, the cost per square foot can be $110-$210 That means, at the high end of that spectrum, building a 2,500 square foot home can cost $525,000. And of course, that still sounds low for Toronto. Other things to consider are the “soft costs” of building a home, like permits, insurance, architectural fees and taxes. Also, assume that you will go over budget, so – budget for that too! Something that might be worthwhile is compiling a list of “must haves” versus “wants” to help you decide if you really need that waterfall Corian countertop versus the spa shower versus the walk-in closet.

Where Will You Live?

Most people don’t have the spare cash sitting around to finance a new home, their existing home, and renovations all at the same time. You can opt to live in the house while it undergoes construction, but that is notoriously hard on partnerships (imagine sharing one bathroom and no kitchen, while navigating plastic sheeting to protect from dust, and construction workers in and out at all hours of the day). You can live with family, which, depending on your in-laws or other relatives, may be a wonderful or terrible choice – only you can decide. Another option is to rent, temporarily, which may be tricky as most apartments and condos will want you to sign a one-year lease (although depending on the length of your renovation, that may work well).

Getting Permits

You will have to do some homework on what specific permits you will need for your renovation. It may be an extensive list. Don’t just trust that the architect or contractor or builder will have all the permits necessary, make sure you are aware of what is required by both the city and the province. This is a good place to start Permits (though you won’t agree at the time you’re applying!) are for your protection. There are horror stories of homeowners who didn’t get the right permits and say, the electric system isn’t up to code, or a beautiful deck must be taken down because it wasn’t permitted in the first place. Be sure to protect your investment by doing the initial work.

Delays, delays, delays

They say the only two things that are certain in life are death and taxes. We think it wouldn’t hurt to add another to that list: construction delays. Here in Canada, weather is a big concern – projects can get delayed for weeks on end due to nasty weather. Another thing that can cause delays is the levels of bureaucracy one has to struggle through to get permits. These delays can also take weeks or months, especially if you are asking for a variance from the city. Make sure to factor potential delays into your planning – ideally your reno will go faster than the Eglinton Crosstown, but if you plan for the worst, you can still hope for the best.

Finding A Good Contractor

A good contractor will be your best friend in the renovation process, but finding one can be like finding a unicorn, holding a needle in a haystack, hidden in a field of four-leaf clovers, all under a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Word of mouth is a contractor’s best friend, so ask around for recommendations. Try to find contractors that have specialized in the type or style of renovation you’re after: if you’re doing a basement remodel, someone who is amazing in landscape contracting may not be overly helpful. Make sure to contact their references too, and go back several years, if possible – problems in construction may not show up until a number of years down the road. This is a good list of checks you should follow when finding a contractor:

Renovating is a headache and it’s not for everyone. But if you can stick it out, you’ll be rewarded with a home that is truly all your own. And if you’re not the renovating type, there are any number of gorgeous Toronto area homes where someone else did the heavy lifting; all you have to do is move in.   

James Strathy Warren
416.925.9191 – Office
416.323.5276 – Direct
416.520.5704 – Mobile

Alexander Obradovich
416.925.9191 – Office
416.803.4140 – Mobile