Elmer Lee Klavans, 63, a Washington contractor who was active in civic organizations, died Monday at his home in Washington. He had cancer.

Mr. Klavans had operated his own contracting firm in this city since the late 1940s. He became an authority in the remodeling and restoration of this city's row houses. In the early 1960s, he and realtor Jess Fisher remodeled a series of row houses near Judiciary Square into office-residences.

This type of building had been common in New York City but was then new to this area. The three-story buildings had waiting rooms on the ground floor, offices on the second and living quarters on the third.

Buildings Mr. Klavans helped remodel included hotels, embassies, warehouses and offices, as well as homes.

During the late 1950s Mr. Klavans was chairman of the ACTION Committee of the Urban Renewal Council in Washington. ACTION was the American Council to Improve Our Neighborhoods. It was a nonpartisan group favoring planned city growth.

In 1961 Mr. Klavans was appointed to the city's Board of Appeals and Review, which ruled on building code violations and similar matters. He also has been on city's Board of Condemnation Review.

He was a member of the Washington Board of Realtors and was a consultant on housing and urban development to several government agencies.

He received public service awards from both the Urban Renewal Council and the Board of Condemnation Review.

He was a director of the Guardian Federal Savings and Loan Association.

Mr. Klavans was a lifelong resident of Washington and a graduate of the old Central High School and of George Washington University.

Survivors include his wife, Minnie, of Washington; two daughters, Sue K. Simring and Judith Lynn Klavans, both of Englewood, N.J.; a son, Richard A., of Newton, Mass., and four grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to a charity of one's choice.