Renovations: Are you Ready?


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A Beginner’s Guide to Renovations in Kitsilano

I sure dream of my perfect living space! Spending hours viewing other properties, both in person and online, having friends in the interior design world, as well as doing renovations for myself and for profit, I’ve got a good sense of what I’m looking for in a home and how I can possibly achieve it. There are a ton of older homes in Kitsilano, both condos and houses that could be great if you’re willing to take on a renovation. Older homes can also pose interesting problems, however, you can’t beat the character that these homes can give you. 

The renovation process is long, arduous and costly, though the end goal is why you do it! Every renovation is different: from reno-ing a Kitsilano condo to overhauling a Kits Character House, from changing fixtures to changing layouts, the process will be slightly different for each job, and this process changes based on what you find as you go about the renovation. Sometimes you’ll discover something half way through a demolition that changes your plans, and sometimes the city won’t permit you to complete the renovation you have in mind.

However, there are a *few* common denominators within each type of renovation project, and I will detail them below.

Renovations: Managing it Yourself or Using a Project Manager

One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make it how you are going to manage the renovation. This includes everything from who will be designing it, planning it, ordering materials, organizing the labour, demolishing, installing, getting the permits and more.

The obvious difference here is the amount of work you have to do. Sourcing materials and ordering enough of them, ensuring everything is renovated as per the city permits, finding and organizing the labour (i.e. plumber, electrician, etc) to come in when necessary, the hands on work of demolition and install, among other tasks, all requires a lot of hard work, time, and answers. For rookie renovators, this can be very overwhelming.

However, the other big difference is that Project Managers charge a fee, which can send the renovation way over budget.

My advice is to interview a few different project management companies to get a sense of what they do for you and what they charge. Perhaps you can do the planning yourself, but use contractors to do all the work.

A few keys points to ask project managers and contractors prior to signing any contracts:

– Do they have a business license? Is their work warranted?

– What services to they offer? Will they be able to give you an itemized price list of everything they charge?

– Where do they order their materials from? Are there different levels of pricing when it comes to materials?

– Are the trades they use in house or are the contract?

– Can they give you an estimated timeline?

Basic Renovation Process

This process is open to many changes that are almost impossible to predict. However, this is a very basic starting point for completing a renovation:

Determine the general scope of your project and, if necessary, submit a Renovation Request to the Strata Council in your condo. They will need to approve it first. You’ll also need to provide them with city permits once you have approval. Pull together ideas from the Internet and magazines so you can shows potential contractors, project managers and stores exactly what you want.

Interview Contractors or Project Managers (if going that route) to review the space. Get multiple quotes, and determine what the contractor will do (i.e. demolition, drawings, filing for permits, bringing in the trades, etc.). If you’re doing the renovation yourself, ask your friends if they’ve ever worked with a reputable contractor or tradesmen.

A quality contractor is of utmost importance when renovating. Ensure they have experience, good reviews and review the contract prior to signing it. 

Get design plans done. You’ll need a design plan of the current space and one of the proposed renovation. The contractor might do this for you. Otherwise, Pixilink can do design drawings. Make copies of these drawings. The proposed renovation needs to show location of plumbing, electrical. This is something you will need to submit to the city.

Apply for a Building Permit with the City of Vancouver. There is lots of paperwork in this step. Take a look at the City of Vancouver’s site detailing How to Apply for a Building Permit in Vancouver. Going to City Hall to speak with someone there can also be helpful. Getting approval from the city then takes 2-6 weeks. If they don’t approve your request, you’ll have to make changes and re-submit (and wait, again)

– While waiting for the permit, you can go ahead and order the new materials (i.e. cabinets, flooring, fixtures, etc) since it typically takes a few weeks. However, if the scope of your project can change significantly based on approval by the city, you may want to hold off on ordering the products. Remember, you’ll also need a place to keep the material.

For example, a new Kitchen could require Cabinets/Counters/Lights/Backsplash/Paint/Fixtures/Sink/Floor/Appliances/Etc.

Demolish current space.

Install. Proceed with the rest of the renovation once you get permits and, if necessary, pass them on to Strata Council. This portion of the process requires a proper timeline. You need to know what tasks need to happen in which order. Sometimes your project can be put on hold because you’re waiting for one job to finish before you move on to the next.

Organization is a must here! Unless you’re using a project manager, you will need to organize all of the materials and labour. Keep good records of everything. 

That is renovations in a nutshell. There is much more to say about materials, possible roadblocks, contractors and more, though we will answer those questions and more in our other posts.


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