Reno Update: A Snag

The Husband has been spending plenty of time with the computer, creating drawings and pulling everything together for our upcoming big renovation.

(Henceforth, said renovation will be known as Project Lift-The-Roof. Because a) that’s what we’re doing and b) that’s how much it’s going to rock my world.)

Two Fridays ago, he popped into city hall with what he had ready, not because we’re ready to submit for permits, but just because he wanted to talk to someone and find out if there was anything we hadn’t considered. What followed was a weekend of disappointment, reconsideration, frustration, reworking, research, relief, and a little replanning.

This is what we missed: in the city of Toronto, all new construction must be built 2 feet from the property line. Anyone who lives in Toronto or has even visited a residential neighbourhood of Toronto will know that this is a difficult bylaw to work around. When your lot is only 20 feet to begin with, accepting the fact that your house will have to be a mere 16 feet wide is a tough pill to swallow.

But wait a minute… our house isn’t 2 feet from the property line. In fact, it’s right on the property line. So, it shouldn’t matter, right? We’re not building a whole new house after all! Wrong. It matters. All new construction, whether it’s on top of an existing building or not falls under the bylaw.

At first, we went back to the drawing board. The Husband figured out the new dimensions we would need to bring the whole thing in 2 feet on both sides, we ditched one of the bathrooms and started playing around with the space we had.

It sucked.

The extra bedrooms turned into closets, the bathroom became a tight, bare-essentials kind of room and the whole layout lost the allure of luxury that had me so excited to build it.

We discussed not doing the renovation. We considered our other options – continue to deal with our tiny house, take over the basement when our tenants choose to move out, we even considered the list-and-move route… We were disappointed.

And then, we did a little more research. Originally, the Husband thought that, to get a variance (an exception to the bylaw), we would be looking at a cost of $20,000, way outside the amount we had any interested in paying. This seemed outrageous and had us a little confused. How did everyone else do it? So many developers buy bungalows in our area and turn them into ugly, box-like monsters of houses. Are they actually absorbing such a high price to do it?

A little more research revealed that we’re actually dealing with a minor variance. Far less expensive, far easier to complete. Unfortunately, a variance takes a lot longer to get than a building permit. If all goes well with getting our paperwork in, we won’t have the go-ahead from the city in our hands until, at the earliest, January.

But, we can wait. This will be worth it. I’m sure of it.

0 thoughts on “Reno Update: A Snag

  1. How frustrating! Hopefully it all works out, and at least it sounds like you guys are patient.

    Where we live, the local conservation authority is pretty aggressive (when our lot was severed from farmland they wanted to zone it as environmentally protected – meaning no one could live here!), and it's a total bear to build ANYTHING substantial at all. We are going to need an addition or a garage one day and it's going to be awful, haha.

  2. That sucks! But at least you (hopefully) have found a solution. And waiting until January just means you have extra time to save πŸ™‚

  3. It does! Also, it means that our framer will be less busy when he gets started and rain will be less of an issue. And, thankfully, since our house is terribly insulated and our radiators are kick-ass, our heating bill will only take a medium-sized big hit. πŸ˜€

  4. Getting our city permits was the most frustrating part of our entire reno so far! So many hoops to jump for no apparent reason. In our case, the ravine protection by-law required a separate permit which needed an arborist report, tree protection, a geo-technical report, and an extra 2 months wait time. We too really underestimated the requirements of this step. Hopefully it all comes together for you. If its any consolation, I know a few people who have been given variances for a lot more than what you're looking to do.

  5. Permits and such is such a pain….you even need a permit for building a deck in your OWN backyard! It's kind of ridiculous but i guess in a bigger picture it makes sense. But we're all excited to see the reno changes and please keep us posted with your updates! Good luck!

  6. I don't mind getting a permit. I mean, the city is really just making sure people are being safe and creating homes and structures that are going to withstand the test of time. But this variance thing? Augh! Such a pain! Thanks for commiserating! πŸ™‚

  7. Ah, that would add an extra twist! At least they're doing their best to preserve the natural resources of the city! But definitely a frustration. Fortunately, I'm ok with the extra 6 to 8 months it will take… At least we can enjoy the summer completely a fully with no renos getting in the way now!

  8. We are familiar with setback rule disappointments–we just had one of our own with permitting for our garage rebuild. Good luck with yours; I hope you can work out something acceptable.

  9. Oooh how frustrating! Glad that it's only a minor variance, but the waiting time is definitely an annoyance! Best of luck with the whole process!

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