Design phase, where to begin?

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Posted by: from Toronto
3/6/2015 at 10:50:05 AM


I would like some advice on how to get started planning and designing a renovation project on our semi-detached house in Toronto - depending on what we come up with and budget it could be just removing some non-retaining walls and re-configuring the current space, but it could potentially involve as building a rear addition to both the main and second floor, and require foundation work

We already have a contractor we want to work with but need someone that will assess the current use of our space vs things we are wishing to fix or improve, and help us choose the best option (remodel or addition) and create the design. We want something that the contractor can refer to when estimating and also that will guide him in the building process for layout, lighting plan, etc.

Should we approach a designer or an architect for this? Do they typically charge for the consultation or just for completing the designs? Could you let me know what it is we should be asking them to do (floor plan, layout and lighting plan, elevation drawings...) I've heard all these terms but not sure what it is we need?

Lastly, If permits are required, is that something the designer, architect or contractor takes care of?



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James from Odd Job James in Scarborough
Date/Time3/6/2015 at 1:03:33 PM

If you have a contractor you are working with, he should be able to refer you to a designer or architect. These are the best choices for what you are looking for. A reputable contractor will have a team that he regularly uses and works well with. If your contractor does not, you may want to reconsider given the scope of work. Team work is essential on any project and having a contractor that does not work well with the architect will make the renovation that much more difficult and probably more expensive.

If an architect is involved, they will take care of permits, plans, etc. If not, the contractor should handle all of this.


James Ingram

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Luis from LM Building Design in Barrie
Date/Time3/6/2015 at 1:17:12 PM

Hi Taira,

You don't necessarily need an architect, you can hire an architectural designer registered and qualified (BCIN).

- You need preliminary drawings so your contractor can give you an estimate.

- First consultation is usually free.

- For the permit either the contractor or the designer take care of it, no big deal.

Kind regards,

Luis Mendez

LM Building Design

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Fernando from Lima Architect in Burlington
Date/Time3/6/2015 at 6:15:56 PM

Hi Tara,

Yes, hiring an Architect is the way to go. An Architect will provide you with all the drawings and the building permit. They will also ensure that your needs and expectations are met.


Fernando Lima, OAA

Lima Architect

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Date/Time3/8/2015 at 7:22:08 PM

Hi Taria,

We are a design and Build company. Mostly the established and reputed contractors should have Architect and other team that they are dealing on going basis.

In your case you need an Architect, Structural Engineer, HVAC designer as well all in one team who can do small residential works. ( as you are doing addition with foundation so may be extension )

If you have the copy of the survey and drawing of the existing house then it could be cheaper if not then your Design with permit fees and complete with getting permit to you could be costing from anywhere starting from 2500$ to 4000$ depending on complexity of the work involved, site visit required etc.

When choosing an Architect check references, experience of similar type of work, details of the scope of work involved ie Floor plans, HVAC design with calculations, and structural design all included in one fee and should include till city approval with necessary changes if city recommend different suggestions, ( Till the drawing is approved by city ) Small deposit to start with full payment plan on getting permit in Hand. Very important is within how much time the drawings will be submitted, and maximum by what time you will receive permit in hand?

I have seen some clients going with the cheapest Designer / Architect without checking experience or references - getting people from Kijjiji and cant finish City drawings in Time, drawings with full of mistakes, so called designer do not know that a structural beam and post are required when removing a load bearing wall , lots of horror stories I have seen in my 15 years of Toronto renovation business.

There are a lot of excellent designers / Architects and General Contractors available BUT they are extremely busy and not cheap !

Good luck.

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G A Fraser Custom Contracting Inc in Norwood
Date/Time3/10/2015 at 3:40:15 PM

Hi Taira,

Good contractors have a regular team they work with including architects, designers, structural engineers etc, as ideally they should all be working together.

When we become involved with a project we liaise with all parties involved from design stage forward. That way everything is extremely transparent, with no misunderstandings and we assist the client with budget figures so they have some idea of what can be accomplished within their's not helpful to have a designer/architect draw up elaborate plans if it's not within your budget. Also it is helpful to have your contractor's input at design stage.....after all, he is the one that is going to build what is being designed!

A good General Contractor should be able to bring everything to the table including designers, structural engineers, HVAC, electricians, plumbers, masons & any other trades that may be required as well as obtaining permits on your behalf.

If you are going to GC this project yourself it will certainly cost you more time & may cost you more money in the long-term, particularly if you are unsure of what you want.

Good luck with your project!

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