It’s December! Time to think spring By: greening homes

December 1, 2023
Planning a Renovation

December means holidays. It also means spring renovations, at least for me. I’m fielding a lot of questions from those of you hoping to start major renovation projects in April or May.

This timeframe is feasible if you have architectural plans in hand. However, even if you checked all the boxes with your architect, you may still have work to do before the boots hit the ground.

If you don’t have a building permit yet, your project may need to go before the Committee of Adjustment by January. After this public hearing, there is a month-long “cooling off” period for the project to be formally approved before you can apply for a building permit. Also, expect delays in this COVID recovery world. It may take an additional six to eight weeks before your permit is issued.

There is much to do while you wait.

First, you will need to hire an environmental firm to conduct a Designated Substance Survey (DSS), which identifies harmful substances in your home such as asbestos and lead. Any identified substances must be removed prior to demolition. It’s an Ontario Ministry of Labour requirement and failure to comply can mean a forced shut down of your project.

You will also need to hire engineers to provide you with a Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) plan, and a Reflected Ceiling Plan (RCP) which details your electrical scope. Home additions may require input from soil and/or structural engineers.

It often comes as a shock to homeowners that architectural drawings and a building permit usually don’t provide these key details. Builders are regularly expected to produce a detailed cost estimate without these additional plans or even a list of desired finishes.

Take an RCP, for example. Without it, a builder will often quote you the minimum legal requirement for your electrical work – although, in all my years as a builder, I’ve never had a client happy with the code minimum! Clients regularly want pot lights and three-way switches, etc. These details impact the quote, often substantially.

Unfortunately, far too many contractors will lowball a quote, based on the limited information they receive, to win the project. They then make their money through what are referred to as “change orders.” Once you realize that you want more than the bare minimum, your budget starts to grow. In this context, it’s not uncommon for a project budget to rise by 30 percent or more!

By bringing in the builder as early as possible they can help guide you in acquiring the information you need to have them properly cost out your project. This will help you minimize surprises and headaches in the months ahead.

Speaking of the months ahead, after some campaigning from yours truly, I’m thrilled to report that the National Home Show will feature the Green Building Learning Zone this March. The Zone will showcase what is cutting edge in making your home efficient and healthy. I’ll provide more details in the March issue.

In the meantime, Happy Holidays!

Chris Phillips, Greening Homes’ founder and President, is an expert contributor of Neighbours of High Park Magazine. This article appeared in the December 2023 issue.