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Commercial Renovation Project Checklist

Commercial Renovation Project Checklist

Commercial renovationCommercial Renovation Project Checklist

Are you thinking about jumpstarting a renovation project in a commercial space? If so, you’re in the right place! In this article, we’ve rallied a bunch of helpful information to guide you throughout your project and help you make the right decisions. 

Once you’ve read this article, you should have a realistic idea as to what this type of project entails and the timeframe needed to complete the work. 

Let’s clear something up right off the bat: You’ll need to work with a contractor. In Quebec, the law requires that any commercial space renovation project be carried out by a contractor with a valid CCQ certificate. Elsewhere in Canada, the rules vary from one province to the next, so it’s best to inquire with local authorities on the matter. In any case, by default, a specialized commercial general contractor will be able to make your project a reality. 


The first thing you need is a detailed project outline. Make a note of your expectations, needs, and that of others that’ll occupy the space (employees, clients, guests).  

Are you starting from scratch or is there already a general layout in place from which you’ll work? For example, if the space is already fitted with an electrical system and plumbing, it’ll be a game-changer, especially if you’re looking to install a commercial kitchen. 

Try to make a list of things you think you’ll need to do. This list will then be fine-tuned once you begin working with contractors and other experts like designers, engineers, and architects.  


commercial renovation

Source: Canva

When using the term “commercial” renovation or construction, we’re setting it apart from terms such as residential or industrial renovation. In fact, if you’ve already amassed quite a familiarity with home renovations, you’ll quickly realize that commercial space transformations are quite different

So, what’s considered a commercial renovation or construction? Here’s a short list of the main spaces concerned:

  • Coffee shop;

  • Grocery store, vegetable/fruit market, supermarket;

  • Restaurant (and restaurant kitchens);

  • Bar;

  • Retail space;

  • Clinic (dental, health, veterinary, medical);

  • Open-plan office;

  • Daycare or school;

  • Tourist accommodation;

  • Multi-purpose commercial building.


commercial renovation

Source: Canva

To help with your initial brainstorming session, we’ve selected three words that define most commercial development projects. The latter can be applied to clinics, daycares, restaurants, and any other example of space above-mentioned. 


When the space in question is meant to welcome clients, patients, or employees (or all three), one of the project’s main objectives is to create a practical layout. Therefore, you have to think about the use of space to make effective decisions. 


Brainstorming as to the ergonomics of a workspace is especially important to ensure employees and others can make use of the space safely. This concept will influence where each object (furniture, decor, storage) is placed. The ergonomics of a space can also branch out to materials and lighting, therefore, it’ll naturally have an influence over your choices. 

Check out this article to learn more about the concept of ergonomics. This article focuses on the different rooms in a home, but most of the tips detailed can also be applied to commercial spaces. 


Lastly, take some time to ponder over the aesthetic aspect of the project. This means the decor, lighting, colours, and materials that you’ll select, most likely with the help of an interior decorator or designer. It’s all the more important if the space in question is visited by clients and guests, however, bear in mind that an aesthetically decorated space will be more enjoyable for employees


Continuing along the same lines, and by that, we mean putting together a project’s to-do list. To do so, we’ve devised a few questions to better grasp your needs with respect to the results of the transformation. 


commercial renovation

Source: Canva

What’s my allotted budget for this commercial space renovation or construction project?

First off, jot down a number that appears realistic and attainable. Even if you don’t have a clue as to what an actual figure for this type of project resembles. Write down a ballpark number and then venture out to confront reality by doing a few internet searches. You might be able to find examples of similar projects, with a price point or price range. 

Subsequently, it’s time to get quotes from prospective contractors to get a better idea of a real budget devoted to the work. This’ll allow you to see whether your ideas are realistic or if you have to rethink your plans. 

Lastly, note that if you’re working with an interior designer, they’ll be able to suggest various ideas based on your budget. At your request, they can devise more budget-friendly, standard, or high-end plans. With these, you can choose which overlaps both your needs and budget. 

However, you can still peruse this article that’ll help you estimate the costs of certain office renovation projects: Commercial Renovations: Office Prices

What does the project entail?

When it comes to the famous to-do list, you should really make a rough draft first, prior to speaking with the contractors and other commercial remodelling experts. As you’re not the specialist here, it’s likely that you’ll forget some things, but that doesn’t really matter at this stage. First, you need a general idea of what needs to be done. 

Here’s a list of examples:

  • Improve soundproofing;

  • Install new flooring (remove current);

  • Replace windows;

  • Paint walls;

  • Install light fixtures;

  • Remove partition walls (and add glass partitions instead);

  • Install ventilation system;

  • Decorate space.

What about the space’s overall aesthetic aspect?

It’s time to peruse Pinterest and other home architecture and decor websites to gather some ideas! Here are a few websites to check out for a dose of inspiration:

Following your search, you can discuss your ideas with the architect or interior designer with which you’ll be working. 

We also have another related article featured on our blog that could be helpful:

If you’re dealing with an office, do you rather an open concept versus a traditional layout?

This question is super important if your project involves an office layout. Open-concept offices are all the rage right now. Naturally, they have numerous advantages, as well as a few downsides that will shape your decision. 

A few pros and cons of an open-plan office:


  • Open-concept offices stimulate teamwork.

  • Layout is more spacious.

  • Cheaper to build.


  • Can deter productivity, as distractions are more frequent.

  • The space can be quite boisterous at times.

  • Some introverted employees might not feel comfortable in open-concept spaces. 

To ponder on the question a bit more, check out this article:

If it’s a restaurant-related project, will the kitchen be open or closed?

Formerly, everything and anything that happened in a restaurant’s kitchen was concealed from prying eyes. Getting a glimpse into the magic or less noteworthy moments that happened during a shift was out of the question. As such, closed-concept kitchens were standard, especially in high-end restaurants.

Over the years, the concept behind a high-end kitchen was revamped and a lot of chefs wanted to cultivate a dialogue with their clients by tearing down the walls between the kitchen and the dining area. It’s a whole new ambiance that inevitably alters the diner’s experience, combining both positive and negative aspects, that’ll influence you when it comes to choosing what’ll work best.

Here are some pros and cons of open-concept kitchens:


  • Kitchen staff can see clients enjoying their meals.

  • Clients are guaranteed a clean & tidy kitchen.

  • Overall experience is entertaining to clients.

  • Smells coming from the kitchen can be very enticing.


  • Kitchen staff must be on the ball, as there are more distractions.

  • The restaurant can become rather loud as clients will speak louder to drown out the noise from the kitchen.

  • Clients might find it less fancy.

How much time will the work take?

Post-budget, this is THE question, but one that’s difficult to answer. The duration of the work and the overall process surrounding the project will depend on a whole lot of factors. Hence, it’s not easy to get a realistic timeframe. Depending on the scope of the project, labour availability, and material and permit reception, the project could take a few days or just as likely spread out over the course of a few months. 

Here’s a list of factors that could influence the duration of the work:

  • Amount of time dedicated to making plans;

  • Getting permits;

  • Complexity of work;

  • Calling in numerous experts from various fields (conforming to their schedules);

  • If the space isn’t yet designed for the eventual services (plumbing, electricity, hygiene/sanitation regulations).

While pondering over the project, take note of the ideal timeline. Then, when discussing it with the contractor, it’ll allow you to determine whether or not it’s manageable. You’ll also have to factor in that some unpredictable delays may occur, so if you absolutely need to occupy the space by a certain date, jumpstart the process as soon as possible to avoid any delays that’ll end up penalizing you. 

Will I need to temporarily close the business during renovations?

If your business is located street-side and offers in-person services, you’ll be all the more anxiously awaiting the work to be completed, since the longer your business is inoperable, the more costly it becomes. For large-scale projects, you may need to completely close the area for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. Bear this in mind when completing the budgeting phase of your project as well as its ideal timeline. In the meantime, you may also have to lay off some employees or reassign them to other duties when possible. 

Some entrepreneurs will come up with temporary solutions, such as renting an office space for the duration of the work (which implies everything in terms of adapting and procedures) or turn to other sorts of services (delivery or teleconferences with clients). Having already pondered various ways to keep the business functional during the work, you’ll avoid dealing with major stresses should certain things not end up as planned. 

Here’s an example to highlight the above-mentioned: A bakery local to my neighbourhood decided to vacate its former location to move into a friendlier area. However, the space they chose to rent wasn’t ready to house this type of business, so they had to go through extensive transformation renovations. Due to issues encountered in receiving materials and supplies and lack of labour, the work is taking a lot longer than anticipated. 

In the meantime, they’re offering the possibility of ordering pastries online for in-person pick-up in a section of the bakery that’s already renovated. That way, their business remains publicly active, enables some employees to work, and money keeps coming in while the renovations are being completed.


commercial renovation

Source: Canva

In Quebec, commercial construction and remodelling work is highly regulated. All persons involved with such a worksite must hold a valid CCQ (Commission de la construction du Québec) certificate at the time the work is taking place, as well as an RBQ license relevant to the work planned. In other words, you can’t put together your commercial space with simply the help of a few trusted, albeit handy friends. 

The same applies to small renovation work such as painting or patching up small holes. The law is strict and inspectors are vigilant. However, should you try your luck, you risk heavy fines. 

Check out this article to learn more about the CCQ. (French only)

In other Canadian provinces, the laws regulating who can carry out work aren’t as clear-cut. To stay on top of things, check out your province’s Construction Code and consult renovation experts. They’ll be able to help you work in accordance with the law. 

As a side note, bear in mind that the contractors with whom you’re working on your renovation project are professionals that must absolutely adhere to a high-value insurance policy. With commercial-like renovations, we’re generally referring to insurance policies with a coverage of 2 million dollars in value. However, for commercial space renovations, it’s best to ensure that the contractors have opted for a higher-value coverage. 


For a large-scale project, you’ll most likely need to hire multiple tradespersons. Now, the question is whether you want to entrust the project’s management to a general contractor (CCQ-certified if in Quebec) or to specialized contractors with whom you’ll deal yourself. 

Dealing with a team of contractors is a lot of work, more so when dealing with a large-scale project. That’s why you really need to carefully consider this question. Note that you can also assign management duties to an interior designer or architect, as most of them offer said service. 

What’s the difference between a general and a specialized contractor? To sum it up, a general contractor is authorized to complete numerous tasks and can supervise other contractors. On the other hand, a specialized contractor is qualified to carry out certain tasks but cannot intervene in areas beyond their expertise. 

This article could help you make up your mind on the matter and better understand the role of a general contractor, especially when it comes to a commercial renovation or remodelling project:

And this article will help you choose the right contractor:


commercial renovation

Source: Canva

As soon as it involves a large-scale commercial construction or remodelling project, it’s highly recommended to work with an expert in design. You’re likely to need blueprints to obtain the necessary permits, and these plans can’t be hand drawn on the corner of a napkin.  

Team up with an architect (or architectural technologist), an interior designer and/or an engineer to come up with renovation blueprints. You can even ask the expert (except the engineer) to manage to project from start to finish, as many of them offer “turnkey” services. 

When it comes to an interior designer, they’ll also help you choose your interior layout (and exterior if needed), shop around for select furniture pieces, pick out materials, and complete numerous other project-related tasks. 


You absolutely need to get construction permits prior to starting any work-related aspects of your commercial construction project. If you work without permits, city inspectors can request you to stop work immediately, which will lead to extensive delays and could possibly halt the project altogether. It’s not a risk worth taking. 

Inquire with your municipality to know what type of permit is required. The staff responsible for issuing permits will be able to tell you what kind of permit is needed for the type of work you’re planning. Then, you’ll need to put together a file and send forth a request. Permit delays can vary depending on the type of project, the time of year, and the complexity of the work. 

The moral of the story: Don’t wait too long before getting your permit. You can also ask your general contractor or other experts you’re working with for help with this matter. They might have a few tips to put together a file that’ll favour a positive response from the authorities in question. 

Other articles to read regarding commercial remodelling

We have some other articles that might be of interest to you regarding this new project you're mulling over. Here they are:


commercial renovation checklist

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Last modified 2023-11-07

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