Blog/Bathroom Renovation, Financing, Home Renovation/Condo Renovations: How to Plan for the Unexpected

Condo Renovations: How to Plan for the Unexpected

Mar 10, 2023
5 min read
  • A newly renovated primary bathroom in a Toronto condo with a freestanding bathtub and marble tiling.

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Claudia had owned her condo for over 10 years but had been renting it out and living elsewhere for the past 3 years. In 2022, her tenants decided to move out when they were expecting their second child, and they left the condo with some damage. This led to her decision to move back into the condo and renovate. 

The condo was in a state of disrepair, particularly the bathrooms. The main rooms had reddish brown floors and light pink walls, so it felt “very dated.” Since she really liked the neighbourhood and the layout of the condo, Claudia decided to finally tackle the projects that she had always thought about doing to transform her condo into a place she could live and enjoy for the rest of her life. 


An after photo of a newly renovated living room in a Toronto condo"


A before photo of an outdated living room in a Toronto condo that needs to be renovated


Claudia describes herself as a“super planner” and developed a crystal-clear vision for her home. Her goals for the reno included:

  • Complete remodel of master bathroom
  • Refresh of second bathroom
  • Scrape the popcorn ceiling
  • Paint the walls and replace the floors
  • Upgrade kitchen appliances and backsplash 
  • Redo the closets

Planning the condo renovation and hiring a contractor

A primary bathroom renovation design plan with marble accents.

Claudia did a large amount of research. “I watched a ton of HGTV and spent a lot of time on Pinterest and Wayfair. I built a mood board for my master bathroom and also paid a designer friend $300 to review my plans and layouts, and give me advice on the tile and flooring choices I had already sourced. I did even more research on the elements I knew I wanted like the niche over my bathtub, and I spent a lot of time understanding my options in terms of layouts and fixtures. I knew every little measurement so I could test my layout options.”

A floor plan for a primary bathroom renovation with a freestanding bath tub and shower with sliding door.

She was also careful about hiring her contractor: “I received quotes from 4 contractors. It ultimately came down to price, availability, and the contractor’s willingness to let me write the contract for the work. I used the four quotes I got and my conversations with the contractors to figure out what work needs to happen when, then I tied every payment to milestones of work and laid out exactly what I expected to be complete for every milestone. I also included the Condominium Rules in the contract that I needed my contractor to abide by.” 

Learn more about what to look out for when hiring a contractor and how and when to pay your contractor.

Example of a bathroom condo renovation contractor agreement and payment schedule

An example of a contractor renovation agreement and project milestones for a bathroom renovation

An example of a bathroom renovation budget and payment schedule

Setting a condo renovation budget and finding financing options

The total cost of Claudia’s renovation was $48,000, which included her move-in costs and the costs of new kitchen appliances and a new couch. She chose to use part of her savings and withdrew from her HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) to pay for her renovation: “If I had just used my savings, I wouldn’t have been able to do everything that I wanted to do – and I knew I was going to stay for a long time because I already knew I liked the area and the building.” 

Learn more about financing options for home renovations.

To manage her budget, Claudia had to make some choices:

Flooring material: “For about 800 square feet of flooring, I chose luxury vinyl plank flooring, which cost about $6K vs. $12K for white oak or $16K for herringbone. I went with the cheaper option so I wouldn’t have to stress out about my ageing dog damaging the floor, and decided to spend more on the master bathroom instead.”

3 types of luxury vinyl plank flooring samples from light oak to dark oak

Flooring: Brought the white oak samples (smaller ones) to a store and found matching Luxury Vinyl Plank samples (longer planks)

Buying all materials and fixtures herself: “Hand-selecting all the fixtures and the flooring materials myself was a ton of work, but it saved me money and made me feel like the condo was truly mine after my reno was complete.”

A newly renovated primary bathroom in a Toronto condo with a freestanding bathtub and marble tiling.

Challenges faced during a condo renovation

From beginning to end, Claudia’s renovation took about a month. She had a firm move-in day at the end of the renovation, but the master bathroom was not quite done so her contractor had to come back on two more Saturdays to complete the final work. Because she had tied payments to specific milestones in the contract, she knew she didn’t have to make her final payment until the work was completely done. (Learn more about handling potential disputes with contractors in our article.)

During the reno, there were a couple unexpected situations that came from renovating a condo in a shared building: first, the contractor was cutting tile on the balcony and the water from the tile saw ended up dripping down to the floor below, so they had to move to the ground floor to cut tile. This took much longer because they had to measure, then cut and wait for the elevator repeatedly. 

With the movement up and down and through the hallways, Claudia had to manage elevator bookings and daily cleaning in the shared hallway, which was challenging since she wasn’t living in the building during the renovation. 

Because of the configuration of the wall behind her tub, the contractor couldn’t put the niche she wanted so they agreed on adding a granite ledge instead. This ended up looking better since there was already a niche in the shower next to the tub.

Lessons learned: reflecting on a condo renovation experience

Looking back, Claudia is fairly happy with how she approached this renovation. “It was worth the extra effort for the right fixtures, and I love how it turned out. The renovation made such a difference to my quality of life.” Her biggest regret was that she let the stress of the reno get to her. “The stress just wasn’t necessary – I had all the protection in place in the contract so that everything would get done, even if it took a little longer than I planned.”



An after photo of a newly renovated bathroom in a Toronto condo with marble tiles and flooring.

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