Do It Yourself Renovations

Rachel in  Lifestyle, HomeBuying, Legal

With spring in the air and my tulips breaking the surface in my garden, my thoughts naturally turn to home renovations.  I enjoy taking on small ‘upgrade’ projects around the house and thus far have managed not to cause more harm than good.  If you are also experiencing the need to visit a big box store for the perfect solution to your design/ structural/aesthetic issues at home, good luck but remember that you could be exposing yourself to risk.

I think the most important thing is to keep perspective on your abilities, and know when to call in the professionals.  If you are planning major additions or renovations, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Surveys

A survey will allow you to verify the actual boundary lines of your property.  If you are planning to build a deck, a fence, or add any other structural element to your property, you want to make sure there will be no problems with the neighbors.

2. Searches

You will want to do searches to determine where the gas, water and other utilities are located on your property.  The first issue, of course, is safety and it goes without saying that you should call before you dig!  The second issue is that of easements.  I have discussed this issue in a previous post – and if there is a utilities or other easement on your property you may be limited in terms of the scope of your project.

3. Zoning

Make sure that you are compliant with zoning regulations for your area.  If you think that 2008 is the year you will start running a business from your home, you would do well to check that what you want to do is actually permitted in your area – especially before you start constructing your new storefront.

Other issues that come immediately to mind are community planning agreements – you may not be allowed to build the white picket fence of your dreams because you have an agreement that only black iron fences can go up in your neighbourhood.  Also, if you are in a condo, do not do anything without the express consent of the board.  Your condo documents likely require that any additions require board approval – they can force you to remove/correct whatever you have done if you didn’t get permission, so don’t take the risk.

I would recommend using a reputable contractor, especially if what you want to do will require permits, involve electrical or plumbing work.  My personal feeling is that some matters are just not intended for the DIY crowd, no matter how ambitious.

Rachel Loizos is an associate lawyer at Sotos LLP in Toronto. She practices in the area of real estate law.
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