Planning Your New Construction or Major Renovation Project

Particularly for clients who have not been involved in a new home build or renovation before, deciding how to go about beginning the project can be confusing and stressful.

Once you have decided to go ahead the first step, even before investing in land or an existing house, may be to consult with the professionals who will ultimately guide you through the process. In addition to information provided by your Realtor, having a discussion with an architect or residential designer, as well as a contractor, could be valuable time spent.

You may choose to work with an architect, whose design aesthetic you admire, and who will provide services that can vary from initial design only to design and oversight of the project through its completion. An alternative is a residential designer who will draft a complete set of working drawings, appropriate for permit and construction purposes. This individual will usually work from your ideas, ensuring structural integrity, code compliance and can provide input to improve layout, flow and livability.

Before committing to a general contractor for the project, we suggest that you speak with two or three candidates to get a feeling for personality fit. References from friends whose homes you like, and who have had a positive experience with their builder, are always a good place to start.

It is important to have a good rapport with both your designer and contractor. You will be working very closely together through many decisions, and for a considerable length of time.

General flow of a project:

  • design consultations and preparation of preliminary plans through plan finalization with design professional. The general contractor may, or may not, be involved in this phase.
  • general contractor reviews plans, and visits the building site with the client
  • preliminary costing, based on plans and conversations with client
  • preliminary costing review with client
  • costing estimate revisions and complete building specifications presented to client
  • contract and authorization documents signed
  • applications submitted (building permit, home warranty if applicable, etc.)
  • construction begins


The design phase can take as little as a few weeks to many months or even years. Typically, new custom homes and major renovations can take approximately a year to complete from construction initiation. This will depend on the complexity of design, accessibility of the site, availability of materials specified and the decision-making capabilities of the clients, as well as external factors such as weather.


Since every project is unique and level of services can vary, speaking with a number of architects, designers and contractors will give you a feel for their pricing structures.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Contractor:

  • Ensure that the company, or individual, is in good standing with WorkSafeBC, and is fully insured
  • Is the contractor licensed to provide home warranty coverage?
  • Is the contractor a good “fit” for your project (eg. if you are interested in sustainable building, are they licensed by Built GreenBC, or similar?)
  • Ask to see other projects the contractor has built and speak with previous clients.

Building or renovating your home should be an enjoyable and satisfying process. Taking the time in the beginning to ensure that you are choosing your team wisely, will allow you to realize your dream with a minimum amount of stress and great deal of enjoyment.