Renovating your Condo Not Always a Walk in the Park

Renovations of any kind can be challenging, but high-rise condominium (condo) renovations, well – those come with a whole other set of issues. 
Aside from the usual obstacles and decisions that need to be made when renovating a house, there are several additional factors to consider when thinking about upgrading your condo. A little extra research, forethought and communications will save you a ton of time and potential headaches in the long run. 

If not properly planned, renovating a condo can be a very stressful and complicated endeavour. To ensure your renovation goes as smoothly as possible, start by contacting your condo board and discussing your plans. They will ensure you start out on the right foot, which may include having you fill out a renovation request form and then giving you a copy of the current condo rules and/or bylaws. Read them (and pass them on to your Contractor), they may contain important information that could impact several aspects of your project. 

Be aware that mechanical changes in your condo may be limited, as well as dramatic layout changes depending on factors such as load bearing walls and mechanical systems. Most designs will need approval from the condo Board before any work can begin. An experienced contractor will be able to identify design changes that are likely to be scrutinized by the board. 
Flooring products also need to be researched and preapproved, as there are specific Sound Transmission Class (STC) and Impact Insulation Class (IIC) minimum standards that will need to be met. Your Building Manager 38 CCI – North Alberta Chapter and Contractor will be able to assist you to learn more about these requirements. 

We’ve worked with clients who, before consulting with us or contacting their condo board, had hired an inexperienced designer to come up with a floor plan for their renovation project. The design required significant changes to mechanical systems to allow for the new layout to work, which the condo board would not approve as it contravened a variety of existing condo bylaws. As a result, the client could not use the design that they had paid for and ended up hiring us to come up with a new design that was fully deliverable as it fully complied with the condo by-laws. 

Choose a Contractor with experience in condo renovations. Many contractors underestimate the additional care and effort needed to successfully deliver condo renovation without upsetting residents, condo boards and property managers. Your contractor will need to be considerate of your neighbours, mindful of the build – ing, familiar with condo bylaw and operating protocols, and they require the appropriate liability insurance and licensing. 

Exceptional customer service from your Contractor and their team is essential to your project. Your neighbours will be affected by your project, whether its noise, having to wait for the elevator or sharing visitor parking stalls. If you hire a Contractor who treats you well, chances are they’ll extend that courtesy to the other tenants in your building. Conflict with a neighbour could potentially harm your project, adding time or unnecessary road blocks along the way and an experienced professional is aware of that. 

The Contractor will need to work closely with the Building Manager to ensure that all condo bylaws and building protocols are met. This includes items such as permissible working hours (usually 9-5 Monday to Fri – day), when they can use the elevator to transport tools/ materials/debris, details about preventative care need – ed in protecting common areas, and securing enough parking stalls for their team, so they don’t use all the guest parking spaces. If your Contractor will need to modify plumbing and/or the fire sprinkler systems, they will need to know to facilitate the process, and how to effectively communicate this with the authorities and to all affected residents impacted by shut downs. 

Some buildings may require you to put down a damage deposit to cover any damage to common areas in the building. There are logistical issues to consider also, such as having someone wait at the door to accept deliveries or having someone carry oversized materials like standard 14-foot lengths baseboards up 18 flights of stairs because they don’t fit in the elevator. Your Contractor will need to know how to remove debris from the site and where to dispose of it. These things may add extra costs to your project because they add extra time to your project. 

Planning ahead, on-going communication with the Building Manager and the Board, and finding an experienced Contractor will definitely keep your project moving along smoothly. Your renovation may seem complicated, but with the right team in place it can be a walk in the park. 


This article originally appeared in the 2017 Summer issue of Insite to Condos from the Canadian Condo Institute. Read it here.

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