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What is a retrofit?

Have you ever stood in the aisle of a home renovation store and wondered why there’s so many different things and whether anyone actually uses them? If you’ve ever wondered what a retrofit is, why it would be good for you and your home or where to get started without dropping down into the rabbit hole of Google searches, you’ve come to the right place!


The Urban Retrofit is committed to ensuring that you get access to all the information you need to get started on your retrofitting journey. But first, what exactly is a retrofit?

Retrofitting, in the concept of buildings, refers to adding new or replacing existing features that can improve your building performance. This isn’t just limited to energy but can also be focused on water use or indoor air quality. Retrofit is an umbrella term that refers to a number of different things that can be done. Your building, whether it’s a condo, an apartment or a detached home, has multiple different components, and each of them contributes differently to the overall performance. Whether you’re a novice to the world of retrofitting or a relative expert who’s looking for new ideas, this is the place for you! 


On this website, you’ll find retrofits categorized primarily by the building component they are focused on (e.g. windows, roof etc.). Within each building component, retrofits are further categorized by the impact they have as well as the amount of work that is necessary to implement them. This second categorization is also used by the Government of Canada. 


Retrofits that do not require significant time or effort, beyond the investment of a couple of hours to a day, are classified as minor. Additionally, there is no significant cost associated with them and many of them can be done by yourself, if you have sufficient experience in this field. These are the baseline measures and it is preferable you take them first before moving on to more involved retrofits.


These retrofits involve more effort than minor requires and can have limited disruption for residents. It is also more costly than minor retrofits and it is always recommended to be done by an experienced professional. Major retrofits also require more investment of time and this has to be adequately planned for prior to the start of retrofitting. 


Typically require extensive effort on behalf of the owners and residents and can take much longer to implement. While these can have a very positive impact on your building energy needs, it is important to weigh the cost and time benefits and plan well in advance of implementing these retrofits. Ensure you consult a professional and get appropriate permits before starting a deep retrofit project.

Examples of each type of retrofit are provided in each building component category.

As you explore this website, feel free to contact The Urban Retrofit team for further information.


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1. Natural Resources Canada (n.d.), Retrofitting. Retrieved from: