Things you should know before renovating your House

What you should know and do before renovating your house in Vancouver

burnaby architect

burnaby architect


It’s that time of year again. Many people are thinking about building a new house or renovating their existing home.

There is so much to consider and think about; it can be overwhelming. First and foremost, do your due diligence and ask the questions before you start. You can also take a look at another article on our website that goes into more detail and provides tips for a Successful Renovation Project.

In a series of blog posts, we will take you step by step through the process for renovating an existing house, demolishing an existing house, building a new one in the City of Vancouver. The procedures are similar in other municipalities, but there are differences. Visit the website (and City Hall itself) of the municipality you will be renovating, demolishing or building in.

Here are some questions you need to think about and ask before moving forward: Are you going to renovate or build? Do you need to demolish? Do you need permits? Which ones do you need? Do you need to fill? What is fill? What is your budget? Who do you need to hire?


This is the first and a very important part of the process. You need to have an idea of how much you can afford to spend so that when you meet with Architect/Home designer they can base their designs on your budget. It also might be a good idea to have a little bit of flexibility built into your budget for those unexpected events that might come up during renovations.

A couple of good articles to check out for setting a budget are listed below:


Money Sense is Canadian and has a series of articles to read about getting started with renovations, being realistic about expectations for costs and time, and where you should focus your time and energy with your renovations. According to Money Sense, “for a kitchen or bathroom reno, you can expect to recoup about two-thirds of your cost.”

Zillow, located in Seattle, has similar thoughts to Money Sense. They also provide a cost guide for your ROI (return on investment) and the principles listed here are universal.


It is recommended that a designer (building designer, architectural designer) be hired prior to finding and interviewing a contractor for a house renovation.

A professional designer can provide a better idea of the scope of work for the renovation without being influenced by the contractor. This prevents contractors from adding more work than is actually needed and contractors are not specifically trained to provide proper design ideas that meet industry standards.

When it is time to interview the contractors, the blueprints are ready and you have a better idea what to ask your contractor. A good designer will have a good idea of the construct-ability of the design and be able to ball-park the budget price to fit the renovation.

Depending on the complexity of your design it could take as little as two weeks for your design plans to be completed. However, if the details and your preferences are more intricate, it could take longer.
You have to keep in mind if your renovation requires permit, the permitting process can take several months, so be prepared.

house renovation

house renovation


Interview, interview, interview! Get referrals, check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and interview again. The most important step in the renovation process is choosing the right contractor for your renovations.

You want someone who understands what you want, your vision and is willing to work with you each step of the way. The contractor is going to be a large part of your life for a good chunk of time; from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the scope of the project.

Some questions to ask any potential contractor:
1. How long have you been doing renovations in Vancouver (insert City of choice)?
2. Is your bid an estimate or a fixed price?
3. Who are your suppliers?
4. Have you ever done business under another name?
5. How can we get in touch with you?
6. How long will it take to have the design plans ready?
This list is not exhaustive, but it will get you started.

Some other things to consider asking for is their license number, referrals (get the phone number of the referral and call them). Where are they located? Is the address on their business card a PO Box number? Do they have insurance? More importantly, do they have WorkSafe or Worker’s Compensation insurance. When it comes to insurance, they should provide the insurance number or a copy to you. If they don’t, ask for it.

home design vancouver

home design vancouver


Speaking of insurance, while your house is being renovated, there will be tools and people in your house. It is, in effect, a work site. If something happens whose insurance will cover it? Will yours? Of course, we don’t want anything to happen to anyone while your home is being renovated, but it’s always a good practice to be prepared.

Some good articles to read, again, before getting started are listed below:

Globe and Mail – Before starting work, check your liability and Don’t forget insurance when planning a reno

Square One Insurance – Renovating your home? Square One advices you to tell your insurance provider or you may not be covered.

modern house designer

modern house designer


There are so many things you can do to protect yourself and it is very important that you do it before you get started.

Now that you have selected a contractor, what’s next? Now you have to go to City Hall and get some permits. Your contractor can do that on your behalf, but you should go with him for the initial visit. There are questions you should ask the Building Department at your local City Hall. They will be discussed in the next article.

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