How to ... Renovate Your Condo – the Right Way

Bob de Wit
September 28, 2015

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More space is often cited as a reason for choosing to purchase an older condo. And in many cases, older condos have a lower per-square-foot cost, allowing your extra dollars to be invested in renovations. But remember: when renovating your condo, choosing a renovator is as important as choosing your condo.

I reached out to condominium specialist Robert Capar, CHBA BC’s past president and owner of maison d’etre design-build inc. for tips. “If your renovator is not aware of renovation items specific to condominiums, it can end up costing the condo owner in time and money,” says Capar, citing “good planning and design before the work starts” as key to help minimize the renovation time and to help bring the project in on budget.

Additional tips for condo owners working with their renovator:

  • Strata rules: Condo buildings have different rules and regulations on top of municipal requirements – be aware of your strata rules, and be sure to inform your renovator.
  • Strata approval: The city’s permitting department requires strata approval, confirmed in writing. It is important to ensure you work with your renovator to get your proposal to the strata council with all the relevant data for approval, prior to permitting.
  • Elevators: Pre-book elevators to move materials, with the ability to lock off use, as required.

o   Note: Elevators and common areas will need to be cleaned daily and kept free of construction materials.

  • Waste removal: Waste cannot be accumulated on-site – i.e. no big bins. Plans need to be in place to deal with frequent removal.
  • Fire safety: Know your building’s sprinkler regulations and inform your contractor.

o   New code changes do not allow for the use of quick-setting adhesives, requiring fire sprinklers to be turned off overnight. Someone must remain onsite overnight when work is being done.

o   The integrated building warning system cannot be touched – period. If it is moved or damaged the cost to reset the entire building system will be incurred.

o   Fire separation between suites, around plumbing fixtures, and in walls is a big item for inspectors and must be done to code.

  • Permits: It is important for the renovator to know what can and cannot be changed in the suite. Examples include:

o   Designated spaces cannot be claimed in a renovation in the city of Vancouver. These excluded spaces are normally designated ‘storage rooms’ and ‘enclosed balcony’ spaces.

o   The City of Vancouver has also adopted new energy code requirements for condo renovations, requiring new renovations to include upgrades to the energy consumption of the condominium space. (Look for these rules to be adopted in other municipalities in the future.)

Plan ahead with a professional renovator; it’s your key to a successful dream condo renovation. 

Bob de Wit
Bob de Wit is the CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association (GVHBA), the voice of the residential construction industry in Metro Vancouver. GVHBA has more than 850 members and is proudly affiliated with the provincial and national Canadian Home Builders' Associations.