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How Long Will My Toronto Home Renovation Take?

Answering the question “How long does a home renovation take to complete?” is a little bit like answering the question “How long does a math problem take to solve?” It depends on who’s solving the problem, and whether the problem is basic arithmetic or advanced calculus. There are so many factors that influence the length of a renovation that the surest way to estimate your timeline is to speak with a specific contractor about your specific project goals

That said, renovation timelines don’t have to be a black box problem. Estimates are available, and just as importantly, there are easy explanations for the factors that lengthen or shorten your renovation timeline. Today we’ll look at a general overview of the process, and we’ll also cover the causes for delay.

Process Overview and Timelines 

While so much depends on the size and scope of your project, as well as the contractor managing your renovation, the quick answer to how long a major renovation takes is: usually between nine and eighteen months. Here’s how the process works:

Phase 1: Detailing Your Design

As a general rule of thumb, fleshing out the design for your whole home renovation takes one to three months. SevernWoods clients typically begin with an architectural design. This timeline is dependent on the Architect you select and the architectural complexity of your vision. If you have a clear picture of what you’re looking for, the process will be expedited. If you are using the design phase to explore your preferences or innovate an unusual space, your design phase will take longer. One way to expedite the design phase is to choose an Architect with the connections to partner with an expert contractor early in the project. This collaborative design approach can help address construction-related design considerations and prevent later design changes due to building factors. 

Phase 2: Builder and Subcontractor Selection

If you don't have an existing connection with a builder you will need to find and approach several remodeling contractors first, then choose the one whose specialties align with your needs. This process can take weeks but if you are shopping for the lowest bidder, it could take longer. Take your time and be sure to verify all certifications and insurance. 

Once you have chosen the best builder, they will need to coordinate with multiple subcontractors, including electricians, plumbers, HVAC installers, specialty carpenters, masons, etc. Elite builders like SevernWoods know and work with the best and most professional subcontractors but this part still takes up to 4 weeks.  After your builder gathers competitive bids from subcontractors they should create a detailed and accurate cost estimate and construction schedule. 

Phase 3: Zoning and Obtaining Permits

In Toronto, Zoning approvals can be a challenge and time-consuming. If an owner is planning to add even a modest amount of floor area to their home an application is made by the Architect to the Zoning department for approval. In most cases, the existing home is too large for the current zoning by-laws for the property and an increase in floor area will require an application to the Committee of Adjustment for a minor variance allowing for the desired changes to the home. The initial application for Zoning review will take approximately one month and the wait time for a Committee of Adjustment hearing will be from 4 to 6 months. Once approved at the Committee of Adjustment a Building Permit can be applied for with the Building Department after a 20 day appeal period. Building permits will usually take about one month to be issued after the application is received. If you anticipate needing a minor variance for any aspect of your project it’s best to work with an experienced local contractor and Design Professional.

Phase 4: The Actual Renovation

Construction is the phase most people are thinking of first when they ask how long a renovation will take. Again, the answer is largely dependent on the size and scope of your renovation. House Beautiful lists the following estimates for various area remodels: six to sixteen weeks for a room addition, three to twelve weeks for a kitchen renovation, and three or more weeks for a bathroom renovation or basement finish (click here to see more). For a major whole home remodel, we estimate that this part of the process generally takes four to thirteen months. 

Common Causes for Delay

Not in Your Control

  • Weather: Extremely wet and cold weather may affect the timeline of your renovation project, particularly if it hits while you’re working on additions that require foundation work and framing or other outside work like roofing. Most people think snow is a big issue for builders in Toronto but rain can be more challenging due to high humidity. 
  • Materials being Backordered: Another common cause for delay is product backordering. Usually, this happens with certain types of materials at certain times of the year when home improvement projects are more commonly undertaken. Backordering can be difficult to predict for an unseasoned contractor so the right experience is critical. 
  • Uncovering Unexpected Damage: At SevernWoods, we specialize in uncovering existing damage within your home, such as water damage or electrical work that isn’t up to code. However, some damage is impossible to find or assess until construction begins. This is one reason builders recommend adding a contingency fund to your budget. 

In Your Control

  • Change Orders: Change orders are when you make a change to the design or materials of your project part-way through. This causes delays to your project since new or extra materials will need to be ordered and the construction may need to be altered to accommodate the new direction. This is one reason many people like to have their contractor involved during the design phase.
  • Communication Issues: Misunderstandings between architects, home builders, and subcontractors can also cause delays in your project. At SevernWoods, we make every effort to exceed client expectations in this area and use an industry-leading software program to keep everyone on the same page throughout the build. Communication issues can also be avoided by working with a mature, trusted home builder who works with experienced and trusted architects and area professionals.

See this video to learn how the team at SevernWoods works together to keep renovations on schedule. 


After completing 150+ custom homes and whole home renovations with no unhappy customers, we have a thorough understanding of best practices and processes to prevent as many delays as possible for your upcoming whole home renovation in the Toronto area. Let's get started!


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