Tips For Renovating During COVID-19

What can you – or should you – build or renovate during these crazy times?


Construction has been deemed an essential service.

So should you, or should you not renovate during this time?  Perhaps you’re in the middle of a project, and you need to finish it.  Or there is some other compelling reason to proceed with the work, such as safety issues or accessibility.

Here are some things to consider as you think about renovating, or continuing renovations on your project.


Vacant Homes

Many homeowners move out during major renovations, sometimes even for smaller projects.  Since the homeowner is not present, the risk to the homeowner is lower.  Risk is to workers on site, and we recommend the practices listed in our Staffing section below.


Occupied Homes

With the homeowner is living in the home, this is a higher risk project.

If you do have to renovate during this time, consider some of the following:

  • Separate the work area from the remainder of the home with plastic, and tape every seam
  • Have a separate entrance for workers that is not used by homeowners, if possible
  • Provide separate washing and bathroom facilities for workers; bring in a portable toilet; set up a separate wash sink
  • Set up an air cleaner in the work area


Building Permits & Inspections

Building permits are required for a variety of projects, for example:

  • removing walls to create open concept spaces
  • adding walls, for example when finishing a basement
  • changing the size or doors and windows
  • adding or moving plumbing fixtures
  • building a deck that is attached to the house or is two or more feet above ground level

Building departments have closed or reduced their services at this time, so unless you already have a permit, it will be difficult to obtain at this time.

If you have a permit you will need to have building inspections at various intervals during the work.  Some municipalities may not be performing inspections.  An alternative could be to use a Professional Engineer to inspect and issue written reports.



Condo renovations often require the approval or condo management or the condo board, who may or may not grant permission at the current time if the project is not considered essential.  They also control access to the building, so they can ask for work to stop at any time.  Getting approval to start a new project at this time may be difficult.

If you do proceed with a condo renovation project at this time, it would be best the unit is vacant – since most condo units are small and don’t provide for a great ability for social distancing.  It would also be necessary to have a specific plan to ensure workers do not contaminate common spaces such as hallways and elevators, and ensure workers don’t contract the virus from any building residents.


House Additions

House addition projects require a building permit.  Unless you already have an approved building permit, we would strongly discourage building a house addition without a permit.  The risks are too great.

In addition to building code compliance, a house addition will need to comply with zoning by-laws, and depending on the location, may have additional approval requirements such as conservation authority, Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment, etc.

If you were hoping to add on to the house – now is a great time to get started on design.  But probably not a good time to start construction.

If you have already started the project and wish to continue construction, read our suggestions on Staffing below.



On all construction sites, we recommend staffing at levels that provide social distancing as much as possible.  This means there may be fewer workers on the jobsite than typically.  On our jobsites, we have reduced staffing levels, often having only one person working.   One person working in a vacant home is quite safe, in our opinion.



Some suppliers have shut down during this time, while those that remain open have reduced their hours and significantly restricted access to their showrooms.  If you are a homeowner looking to select tile, cabinets, countertops, plumbing fixtures, it will be difficult to go out and browse through products.  If you’re working with an  established contractor or designer, they will likely have some more flexibility to get access to showrooms and product samples.


What questions do you have?

Is there a question you have that we haven’t answered?  Give us a call or send us an email, we would be happy to talk with you.