How to prepare for the construction phase of your home renovation project

After the selection of your general contractor, construction work for your renovation project will begin. Here are the five steps that will help you get ready for construction:

  1. Establish the work schedule with your contractor
  2. Obtain any necessary building permits
  3. Purchase finishing materials 
  4. Prepare areas affected by construction
  5. Move temporarily, if required 
  6. Notify your neighbors of the type and duration of work

Never overlook the value of good planning to ensure the success of your renovation project. Do not hesitate to ask questions and surround yourself with competent and trusted partners.

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1. Establish the work schedule with your contractor

This first step will undoubtedly be the most decisive for the smooth running of your project. Taking the time to establish the duration and sequence of work with your contractor will above all allow you to manage everyone's expectations. Successful projects take time and you need to be well prepared. 

Establishing a start and end date with your contractor, even if they are only approximate, will allow you to plan your work. You must have obtained building permits before the start of the work and finishing materials must be available for installation at the appropriate time in the sequence of work.

2. Obtain any necessary building permits

This step does not apply to all types of projects and applications may vary depending on the city you live in. First, check with your municipality's planning department to find out if your project requires a permit, and if so, what documentation you will need to provide. 

The documents required by the city vary according to the type of project, such as:

  • Forms for declaring the type of work 
  • Certificate of location
  • Site plan by a surveyor
  • Development plan by an architect, a technologist, or interior designer (requirements vary by project and city)
  • Structural plan by an engineer (requirements vary by project and city)
  • Various technical data sheets (e.g. doors and windows)
  • Estimated cost of work (or quote from the contractor)
  • Contact details and information on the contractor responsible for the work

With the growing interest in renovation, permit counters are increasingly popular. It is therefore recommended to begin these steps several weeks, or even several months, before the start of the work. 

Before work begins, be sure to put up the hard copy of your permit in a window or glass door facing the street.

3. Purchase finishing materials

With the work schedule and your contractor's confirmation, establish the list of finishing materials that you will need to supply and the deadline by which they must be available for their installation. Before you start shopping, also ask your entrepreneur for store references where you can potentially benefit from their company discount (generally between 5 and 15%). 

Before making the purchase of any finishing material, be sure to validate the conformity of the product with your contractor. For ceramic, for example, the installation cost could vary depending on the format of the tiles (a small format mosaic will be more expensive to install than 12'' x 24'' tiles). 

If you plan to do your shopping online on platforms such as Amazon or Wayfair, be sure to check delivery times and the accessories included with the item purchased (e.g. a wall-mounted sink faucet must also include the custom plumbing connection that will be hidden in the wall and not just the finishing equipment). In order to avoid unpleasant surprises, it is important to obtain the technical data sheets for the equipment that you must supply and have them approved by the professional in charge of its installation, through your general contractor.

4. Prepare areas affected by construction

The preparation of the affected areas can vary depending on your project’s scope of work. In general, here are the elements to consider before starting construction: 

  • Remove all furniture and/or objects that could clutter the spaces being renovated
  • In the kitchen, bathroom, and wardrobes, remove all stored personal items;
  • If it is impossible to remove valuables, make sure to protect them adequately and place them out of the way
  • Clearly identify the elements that you wish to keep or not damage
  • Reduce or completely close your heating, ventilation, and/or air conditioning system 
  • Tell your contractor which areas you want to protect from dirt and dust, such as preserved floors and rooms not affected by the work

Unless contractually stated with your general contractor, it is not the general contractor's responsibility to move your personal belongings out of the way. Be sure to relocate, before and after construction, without having to contact the general contractor or his employees. If your contractor is required to do so, they may ask you to pay additional fees.

5. Move temporarily, if required

Living in the middle of a construction site is definitely not a recommended experience and depending on the work, it may even be impossible! Here are some examples of risks that may lead you to move temporarily:

Inaccessible rooms

Depending on the scope of work, some rooms may be inaccessible during construction. For example, if you have only one bathroom in your house and it is completely renovated, it will not be available for three to four weeks. 

Presence of dust

There is no construction site without dust! Dust production is caused by people moving aroun, the handling of construction materials, demolition, excavation, floor sanding, etc.  

Noise pollution or vibration

Construction sites are definitely noisy spaces, and depending on the type of work, they can also cause vibration. For example, the demolition of concrete requires a jackhammer, which is noisy equipment that generates vibration. Houses built of wood frame are similar to musical instruments: the empty rooms act as a sounding board and can spread noise and vibrations very far from the place where they are produced. 

Presence of asbestos or lead

Asbestos

If your property was built before the 1980s, there is a likelihood of having the presence of asbestos in materials classified as likely to contain asbestos, such as walls and plaster ceilings. During demolition work on materials containing asbestos, you cannot stay on the premises, because dust containing asbestos fibers is very dangerous when inhaled in large quantities. The presence of asbestos (from a few traces to a dangerous amount) can be found in walls and ceilings composed of materials likely to contain asbestos, such as plaster, acoustic tiles, and insulating materials around plumbing pipes. In order to check if they contain asbestos, you can have a sample taken and send it to a laboratory for analysis since asbestos is indetectable by the naked eye. To find out more about managing construction in the presence of asbestos, visit Health Canada.

How much does asbestos removal work cost (demolition of walls/ceilings containing an asbestos level greater than 1%)? 
Asbestos removal work is very expensive! Depending on the type of asbestos and, more importantly, the amount of asbestos present in the demolition materials, costs can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. 

Lead

If your property was built before 1990, it may contain lead-based paint. Exposure to dust containing lead is dangerous, especially for young children who absorb it more easily. To find out if your house contains lead, you can take and send paint samples to the laboratory or call on professionals who have an X-ray analysis device capable of detecting lead on painted surfaces. To learn more about managing construction in the presence of lead, visit the Health Canada

Presence of chemicals

Varnishing or painting work is not odorless. To reduce discomfort, coordinate with the contractor to assess the possibility of naturally ventilating the rooms. 

6. Notify your neighbors of the type and duration of the work

Whether your neighbors are above, below, or next to you, be sure to notify them of the construction work at least a few weeks in advance. Ask your contractor to identify potential inconveniences that could affect your neighbors, such as noise, dust, and reduced parking spaces.

To maintain a good relationship with your neighbors, be sure to be transparent with them and available to answer their questions before and during construction. 

Read our How to prepare for your pre-construction kickoff meeting for more tips on how to prepare for your renovations.