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How to renovate a condo or townhouse

How to renovate a condo or townhouse

Exterior renovationsHow to renovate a condo or townhouse

With city populations growing rapidly, and space becoming dense and limited, many are choosing to live in a townhouse or condo in lieu of more traditional housing choices. There are plenty of benefits to townhouse and condo living, but what are the rules and regulations for those interested in renovating?

In most instances, the rules that dictate what you can and can’t do with your interior space will be building, or even unit, specific. However, there are some general rules that you should follow if you’re currently living in a townhouse or condo and planning to make some serious changes or alterations.

If you’re in looking to renovate your townhouse or condo, and wondering which renovations might make sense for you, read on and we’ll help you to make some decisions.

Guidelines to follow when renovating a townhouse or condo

What are your reasons for renovating?

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An important question to consider before taking on any form of home renovation is to define your reasons for renovating in the first place. This is especially true when it comes to renovating your townhouse or condo, as it’s crucial to have a set idea of the project is a necessity. 

In many cases, townhouse and condo owners will need their renovation to comply with local building codes as well as municipal codes. On top of these regulations, townhouse and condo renovations will need to follow rules set by their associations. Yes, the majority of these types of buildings are governed by specific associations.

Therefore, townhouse and condo owners are unable to make changes on their own fruition. For this reason, it’s recommended that you ask yourself why you're renovating. Obtaining permission and permits from both your townhouse association and your local municipality may be difficult and take time. Make sure you're ready for the amount of energy and effort this project will require.

Are you renovating to add resale or rental value? Or are the renovations you’re undertaking simply cosmetic? Of course, it could be that you’re looking to accomplish all of the above. Knowing the answer to this question can allow you to prioritize certain aspects of the work you’d like to accomplish. Be as honest with yourself as possible. If you’re redesigning or renovating for your own enjoyment alone, it’s important to think about how long you intend to be in the space. If you believe you’ll be there less than 3 years, your focus may be to add pieces that you can take with you when you move, instead of replacing materials that are fixed to the interior space.

If you’re renovating for resale, focus on areas that will bring you the best return on investment. This can include kitchen cabinets, floor tiles, bathroom materials and fixtures, and walls. Avoid wasting time on cosmetic details.

Is approval for your renovation required?

As mentioned, the rules and regulations that apply to townhouse and condo renovations can be quite strict. The rules for buildings that share walls, backyards, balconies, and additional communal spaces will generally include restrictions on what owners are allowed to do in or surrounding these public areas. Further, the rules generally applied can come down to things as specific as to where owners are allowed to place their renovation trash as well as exterior restrictions on design, trimmings, and finishes.

If you're interested in making changes to your townhouse exterior or outdoor appearance, it’s important that you get permission from those governing your development as well as your neighbours. In many cases, these rules will not determine what you’re allowed to do with the interior of your home. However, bear in mind that sharing a wall, front lawn or otherwise with another home may further dictate what’s allowed to do as well as what hours you’re allowed to renovate.

Plan ahead

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Planning well in advance before taking on work or hiring contractors for your home renovations is key, as working hours for your renovation are likely to be restricted. Many townhouses and condos will place specific regulations on the hours during which you can complete home renovations. It’s important for you to know the days and hours which you are allowed to work. As mentioned, this information will be especially necessary if you are hiring contractors, as it'll allow you to get a more accurate idea of the length of time your renovation may take.  

Not checking logistics in advance can lead to massive issues in the long run. Your condo or townhouse board and its policies are in place to keep your neighbours comfortable and happy. But as mentioned, they can greatly slow down your renovation process. We’d recommend laying out a projectable timeline with a member of your condo board as well as the designer or contractor you’re working with. Then, we suggest adding 2 months to the timeline in order to be realistic.

If you’re completing renovations in a condo and are planning on moving between floors, it’s recommended that you look into booking an elevator to transport any equipment or materials between the worksite and ground level. Booking in advance will greatly assist in saving valuable time, and in turn money. Remember, it’s fairly common for condos to set a number of restrictions. In some cases, even if the renovation itself has been approved, there may be other rules in regards to bringing in, carrying, or removing materials by way of access points in the building.

Parking is another aspect that needs to be considered. Booking one or even a few parking spaces may be necessary, as you wouldn’t want contractors you hire to park their vehicles way down the road. Booking parking ahead of time will ensure that your workers have a convenient place to park. Make sure to get in touch with contractors before booking anything, in order to find out which vehicles they’ll be bringing or if space for waste bins will be required. Limiting the distance your contractors need to travel can limit renovation as well as cleanup time. This can keep things running on schedule.

Sharing a wall? Rules and regulations

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When it comes to sharing a wall, as well as the rules governing plumbing, electricity, common spaces, and so on, it's necessary to keep your neighbours in mind for a variety of reasons.

If you are sharing a wall or two with a neighbour, then this will have an impact on your interior renovations. As we mentioned, speaking to your townhouse or condo board before taking on a home renovation is necessary to protect you from the rules opposed by not only the board itself but by other tenants. Your townhouse or condo may have areas within your interior that are unable to be renovated due to the potential for damage to your home as well as the surrounding homes or even common spaces.

Therefore, there may be safety regulations in place regarding your desired renovation. When it comes to shared areas, it’s necessary for you to gain the consent of all affiliated tenants before starting work. This includes spaces such as hallways, elevators, and courtyards.

Consider layout over renovation

In many cases, your townhouse or condo will have specific fixtures that cannot be moved. This can include the kitchen and bathroom sinks, toilet, and shower. If you’re really invested in changing these areas that cannot be changed, it may come down to moving things around or investing in certain fixtures, materials, and paint colours so that the eye perceives them differently. This could include choosing a finish or paint that’ll help certain sections blend in and others to stand out. What you do will depend on where you want the eye to be drawn. Consider things like glass panel doors for your shower to open up the bathroom, all-white walls, and a bold cabinet as a statement piece or an intricate accent tile. 

Lighting is another very important element when it comes to interior space. It has a huge impact on how our homes look and feel. Many condos come equipped with cement ceilings, which makes it impossible to drill or insert lighting fixtures into them. If you’re looking to make changes to your ceiling, you may need the addition of a drop ceiling. This can be helpful if you’re wanting to add new overhead lighting or alternatively if you’re hoping to reroute the ventilation hood of your oven.

Electricity and plumbing

For certain developments, plumbing and electricity may also be shared between tenants or neighbours. This can include water usage and drainage. For this reason, moving the location of sinks, toilets, baths, and showers could prove to be exceptionally difficult. In some cases, it may be possible to extend pipes to your desired location. But of course, check to make sure this won’t interfere with your neighbour's plumbing. If you’re completing maintenance and turning off your water supply, your best bet is to inform your neighbours a week in advance.

In regards to electricity, electrical work should involve the same precautions as plumbing. It’s less likely that your electrical work will affect other tenants, but your options may be fairly limited regarding electrical renovations depending on the building or development. It’s also worth mentioning that any electrical work completed will require the approval of a certified electrician.

Age of your building

If your townhouse or condo has been built in the last 10 years, then it’s likely all finishes and appliances are in good shape. In this case, even if you do choose to renovate, there’s a good chance new renovations won’t make too much of a difference to the resale value of your home.

Do be sure to deeply consider the reasons for taking a project on, as living in a townhouse or condo development can definitely create additional layers of stress and pressure to an already complicated renovation. Make sure that you seek help from professionals where and when it’s a necessity.

Get quotes for your townhouse or condo renovation project can help you get quotes for your renovation project. If you submit your project to us, we’ll put you in contact with top-rated contractors. Fill in the form on the homepage (it only takes a few minutes), and you will receive quotes from companies that are specialized in home renovations.

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Last modified 2023-11-07

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