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How Long Does It Take to Build a Custom Cottage in Muskoka?

How Long Does It Take to Build a Custom Cottage in Muskoka?

You’re ready to watch the sunrise from the porch of your summer home. You can see yourself on the deck, sipping coffee and enjoying the slowly changing view. Your luxury custom cottage may be closer to reality than you think. Augment your dreams by learning about the reality of constructing a custom cottage in Muskoka.

Ballantyne Builds creates beautiful luxury second homes in Muskoka. Our three generations of construction experience and expertise have equipped us to exceed your expectations. Our personal, transparent, and elite services make the difference you need to make memories in your custom cottage for years to come.

What Is a Luxury Cottage?

A luxury cottage is any home with high-end features that don’t function as a year-round residence. Though most cottages sit near a body of water like a river or lake, this isn’t required. Our beautiful projects on 6 Mile Lake, Lake Muskoka, and Isabella Lake are fantastic examples of custom cottages that pamper their people and support their aquatic adventures.

Steps to Build a Cottage In Muskoka

The steps to build a cottage in Muskoka look a lot like the steps to build any custom home. Our process starts with a consultation and ends with you standing on the front porch you designed with the keys in your hand. Steps to build a custom cottage and their timeline will help you plan your project.

Site Consultation

Your contractor should start by visiting your site.  The shape and topography of your land could dictate the size and shape of your cottage and the cost of building it. We recommend speaking with your township before you create plans for your cottage because each township has different regulations about setbacks and lot coverage. If you want something slightly different than what is allowed, you can apply for a variance, but we suggest knowing the township's expectations first. Having to completely overhaul your existing plans to satisfy your township can set you back in time and money. As it is, it can take up to 3 months to create the final plans for your cottage as you collaborate with your architect or designer on a custom plan.

Permit Application

It can take 2-4 months to secure the proper permits for your custom cottage; variances, lots on environmentally protected land, and additional approvals can add to this timeline. The first step in the permit process is getting approval from the planning department. We recommend connecting with your planning department when you have preliminary drawings. Once you have received approval from planning, you move on to the building department, which will require construction drawings stamped by an engineer and other documentation. It sometimes takes an additional month to receive permission to build your specific structure and have building permits in hand. 

Estimate and Agreement

While you're working on finalizing construction drawings and securing approval from the powers that be, your contractor is using this information to create a rough estimate. We move forward once we've signed a construction agreement and you've made a small deposit.

Site Preparation

We can get started on your lot while you work on getting your building permits. We usually allot 2-4 weeks for site prep, but this could take longer due to weather or your lot's unique topography. We are able to prepare building sites from May to October, with a bit of variance depending on how far north you are building in Ontario.


A homeowner typically waits about 10-12 months from the time we pour the foundation to the time they're ready to move in. This used to be a slightly faster process pre-COVID supply chain and labour shortages. If your building site has no access during the winter, we may have to pause construction, which can further extend your cottage construction timeline.


Your cottage isn't necessarily finished just because it's ready for move-in day. There are some adjustments that can only be identified through daily use. Though we do a walk-through before occupancy, we pledge to address concerns as they arise shortly after your move-in.

Don't leave your future memories in anyone else's hands.

How Long Does it Take to Build a Custom Home in Muskoka?

Custom cottages can sometimes take longer to build than a custom home. Depending on the drawing and permit process, lot and access, size of your build, complexity, finishes, and features, your cottage could take 2-4 years from inception to your first vacation. You can control some factors of your timeline, such as when you begin, how quickly you make your selections during the build, and the scope of the project you have planned.

Factors That Influence the Length of Your Custom Cottage Build

  • Site Preparation- If we are removing existing structures or changing the landscape to accommodate your new cottage, your build will take longer.

  • Size- Bigger structures take longer to build and present more opportunities for labour-intensive features.

  • Features- Cottage life is supposed to be easy. Luxury appliances, smart technology, and customization create a frictionless experience for your holiday house. Our upfront investment in getting these elements exactly right saves you time every day in the future. If you choose decorative or tricky-to-install elements, this will also add to your build timeline. Ornate copper work, imported tile, and other artisanal touches take time and expertise to get right. 

  • Engineering Challenges- Are we building on a cliff? At the edge of the river? Would you like large overhangs? We want your cottage to be spectacular and we’re willing to go to the necessary lengths to build it to its fullest potential, but this requires an investment of our time.

  • Exterior Living Space- Cottages need impressive outdoor living spaces, even more than year-round homes. Multi-level decks, pergolas, saunas, fire pits, and other custom outdoor living spaces set the scene for future fun. You are here to enjoy the outdoors, after all. These finishing touches aren’t always so important in your primary dwelling, but your cottage isn’t finished until we have the exterior living spaces done right.

Advice for Building Internationally

Many American or other foreign clients are drawn to Muskoka’s pristine and peaceful landscapes for their summer homes. Our mild and scenic summers are perfect backdrops for recreation and relaxation. If you’re considering making an international purchase for your Canadian summer home, we’re happy to share the nuggets we’ve gleaned while building cottages for our friends who make their permanent homes across our border. 

Canada currently has a moratorium on foreign real-estate purchases (2023-2025.) This doesn’t mean your custom Canadian cottage is impossible, as there are exceptions in the law, and it is expected that vacant land and cottages will be exempt from the ban, but this may delay your plans. We’ll talk more about that when we connect.

  • Ease Your Border Crossing- Apply for Nexus clearance for expedited border crossing for low-risk and pre-vetted individuals to cut your crossing time down significantly.

  • Hire a Local Expert- Use local professionals (like us builders) to take advantage of their regional knowledge about the taxes, policies, and ordinances when building.

  • Let Your Financial Team Help- Alert your financial team about your intent to build a Canadian custom cottage. Their help with international taxes and financing will ensure your project starts off on the right path and doesn’t veer into unexpected red tape.

Ballantyne Builds Beautiful Better

Our generations of experience and custom cottage results speak for themselves. Don’t leave your future memories in the hands of anyone else. We cannot wait to connect with you and begin to build your dream together. Reach out to Ballantyne Builds to discuss your custom cottage project in Muskoka. We cannot wait to show you what we can do for you.

Quality Custom Homes: Ready For Your Dream Cottage- Contact Us Today