Renovating a Condo VS a House


Live in a condo and want to renovate? Make sure you know the important differences between renovating a house and renovating a condo before you get started.

Approvals / Permits

House – For any house renovation you must adhere to the proper building codes, and you need to get approvals from the city by way of permits and inspections. This will ensure that the structure and everything in it is safe and sound.

Condo – Condos have a lot of rules and policies about what can be renovated – both for the sake of safety, and the disruption to other tenants. Because of this you will need to submit a proposal to the condo board telling them what you want to do and when. While traditional building permits may not apply in some buildings, the condo board has final say. When submitting your proposal make it as detailed as you possibly can. The more information you can provide, the better the chance it will get approved without too much hassle.

Layout / Functionality

House – In most cases, when it comes to renovating a house, if you can afford it, you can do it. You’ll need to go through the right channels and get the proper permissions from the city, but if you want to take down walls, add rooms, or switch the layout around, you can usually do it. It may come at great expense, but almost anything is possible.

Condo – When it comes to layout, what you see is pretty much what you get. Whether it’s an oddly shaped room, or a random column in the middle of your living space, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to change things. Structurally, it is what it is. That said, it’s always worth checking with the condo board because in some cases there may be exceptions. But don’t move into a condo with the assumption that you can make structural changes.

 Condominium Interior


House – With a house there are very few limitations as to what materials you can use. Occasionally there may be roadblocks due to structural or other issues, but for the most part you can use whatever you want.

Condo – You’re somewhat at the mercy of the condo board when it comes to materials. The reason is for the safety of the building and the comfort of other tenants. For instance, some condos don’t allow hardwood floors due to noise transfer. So it all goes back to the proposal you submit to the condo board – include as much materials information you can, and be ready with a backup in case something gets vetoed.

Work Hours

House – Most municipalities have noise bylaws that prevent construction work from being done at certain hours (usually 7:00am to 7:00pm or something similar). You can keep doing other work outside of those hours, but keep it quiet. If you don’t follow the rules and someone complains, you could face a pretty big fine.

Condo – Condominium buildings can have their own rules about work hours and it’s important to follow them. They will also have specific rules about booking elevators and carrying materials through the building. All this is done for the safety and comfort of other residents, so be sure to communicate the guidelines with your renovation team. While in a house you can have people come and go at any time, in a condo it needs to be a bit more regulated.

Tribeca Loft JayLazarin

ROI (Return on Investment)

House – When renovating a house, good ROI will only be achieved if the renovation is in keeping with the quality of the rest of the house and the rest of the neighbourhood.

Condo – When renovating a condo, good ROI will only be achieved if it’s in keeping with the quality of the rest of building. If you do a high-end renovation in a building where all the other units are rundown, you won’t see a great return.


Top photo courtesy of Skit Inc. Other photos courtesy iStockphoto.com /JayLazarin, /pawel.gaul

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The planning stage is arguably the most important part of any renovation. Remember, If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.