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How long does a home renovation project take?

A common question that comes up are project timelines. Largely, each project can vary depending on a number of factors, and may not be linked to a project's complexity or ambition.

Simple things like creating a basement rental suite or enclosing a front porch can take a surprisingly long period of time, especially in Toronto due to the zoning by-law process (which will be discussed in another post).

From a baseline perspective, this post will discuss a general timeline for the majority of home renovation projects (not triggering a by-law issue).

Project Timelines

You have decided to move ahead with a renovation to your home. The first step is to find an architect or designer who is qualified to provide professional design services. This process can take a few weeks to find an architect who matches well with you.

In most cases, it takes an average of 6 weeks for any home owner to make a decision to go with a particular architect. Like any relationship, it takes time to foster an initial trust and develop a working chemistry between architects and home owners. Most home owners would shop around to "feel-out" each architectural practice, and whether they would be a good fit. Choosing an architect is an important decision, and there is no benefit in rushing this process. From a customer service standpoint, not all architects are made equal.

After you have chosen an architect, then it becomes important to measure your existing home and to begin the process of documenting what exists (drafting an as-built set of drawings to base all designs from).

Once an architect has established the existing conditions, the schematic design process begins. We would explore the various design possibilities from a high-level approach. At first, we would try not to be hindered by the practical issues of construction which may stifle creative ideas.

Over time, as the project's vision becomes more clear, the practical issues of structure, mechanical and plumbing would begin to be incorporated from a schematic level.

The schematic design process can take a number of weeks to a few months, and would include periodic meetings and discussions with the home owners. It is important for our clients to be a central part of the process, and they would feed their comments and thoughts for us to consider in the design. The final schematic design would be a manifestation of a clients' hopes and dreams into some sort of architectural vision.

Once a schematic design has been signed off, the architects would then begin the design development process. This is where we would be looking at the details and start any necessary engineering to ensure the building will function. This process is more on the technical end, and would be the time when specific details and products would be decided upon - all based on the original schematic design vision as a guide.

When ready, the design development process would ultimately lead to a permit submission set of drawings - something that can be submitted to the municipal building department that shows the overall construction scope (with a focus on life safety, barrier free accessibility and fire safety). The municipal building department would typically need a month to review, and if all is well, they would issue a building permit to start construction.

From an overall timeline standpoint, below lists out a barebones process. It is extraordinarily difficult to try and reduce the timeline without greatly sacrificing some other aspect of the project (as an example: budget and quality of construction could be affected by a rushed process).

General Design and Construction Timeline

6 weeks Search for an Architect

Milestone: Proposal Signing

2 weeks Time for measuring your home and drafting the existing house

1 to 2 weeks First schematic design set prepared for your review

2 to 4 weeks Potential time for back-and-forth with you to tweak the design to your liking

Milestone: Schematic Design Sign-off

4 to 8 weeks Permit drawings are prepared. The time is dependent on the complexity of the project and any requirements for engineers (HVAC, plumbing or structural).

Milestone: Submission for Building Permit

3 to 8 weeks City review of building permits (depending on the municipality)

Milestone: Building Permit Issuance from City (you can break ground at this point)

6 weeks to 6 months Construction periods dependent on the size of the project. In some cases, projects can be in construction for over a year.

2 weeks Final inspections and permit closure

Design takes time and hiring an architect is not like buying a product. It is more like buying the services to envision a product to be made - which boils down to a design process

Thanks for reading, and I hope this post helps you decide whether or not you would like to take the plunge into a home renovation!


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