Saturday, June 11, 2011

Renovating an older home VS Demolishing and Building New (Part 1)

Building new vs. Renovation/addition Part 1

Here is a question that is posed to me at least once a month. Do I renovate my existing home or do I demolish it and start from scratch with a new build.
Part 1 will focus on the benefit of renovating/additions aspect of it.
Part 2 will focus on the benefit of demolition/new building aspect of it.

Most people always think that it’s cheaper to renovate an older home then to knock it down and rebuild it. This is true to a point.
There is a fine line when you are renovating were you need to know if you’re going to start wasting money fixing a house that is not worth fixing.
If your home is structurally sound, the outer shell of the home has been properly maintained (the roof, the siding/brick and the foundation) and it was properly done at the time of the construction then there is probably no need to demolish it.
If most of the changes that you want to do are inside the house and are more cosmetic/ updating then you should renovate. Tearing down interior walls and moving plumbing and heating lines is not that big of a job and can be down in a moderate budget. With new dust stopping protection and floor protection a lot of the work can be down without causing damage to the rest of the house that isn’t being altered. Plus this allows you to leave your furniture and other possessions in the house while it is being worked on.
Depending on your financial situation this option allows you to do the work on the house over many years instead of all at once. One thing that some home owners do when they are doing multiple renovations over many years is that they do some of the work themselves to save some money. These tasks should be limited to small demolition, cleaning up and painting. If you deviate away from these three things you start to open yourself up to problems that you will have to pay a professional to fix later. Also there is safety issue; if you start playing electrician you could hurt yourself or someone else.
If you want to add square footage adding an addition or several additions can easily be done, as long as you have adequate space on your property. Additions are an easy way to make your house more enjoyable and add value. It allows you to do something completely different than the rest of the house which would allow you to leave more of the original features in the existing house. This would allow you to bring a modern touch at a lesser cost then trying to reshape the whole existing interior.
If you have heritage laws where you live you might not be allowed to demolish the house and renovating might be the only option you have. Additions can allow you to do what you want, where a heritage society might not let you change much on the outside.
Permits for a new house are more expensive usually then the permits for renovations because of ever increasing development fees for all new buildings.
There are government grant in Ontario for raising the energy efficiency of the house from insulating to new furnaces. These grants can add up to a lot of money and are usually exactly what your house requires. They are not hard to attain, you simple need a pre renovation inspection by an energy auditor and a final inspection when your renovation project is complete.
By renovating an older house it allows you to keep the character of the house and the history of it. There are unique features in older houses, like stained glass and wood that you just can’t find any more. Sometimes taking a large older house and renovating it can add superior value to the resale of the house that you just wouldn’t get out of building a new house.
If you have to build a new house, you will be required to replace the septic system (if you have one) and sometimes you will have to drill a new well (if you have one). Renovating a house does not require you to do any of these things.
There can be a strong emotional attachment to an older house; it might be very difficult for the neighbourhood that the house is in to deal with the loss of this house. You could experience delays when applying for your building permit because it would first have to go through several committees and be open to public comment. Simply renovating the house can easily speed up the process; it will also put you in good standing with your neighbours and the community at large.
If you have an older house that is already a century old and has been properly looked after then there is no reason that the house should not last another century with proper maintenance and upkeep.
Look for part 2 of renovating vs. Demolition/new build
Part 2 will deal with the benefits of a new build.
If you would like to discuss this or any other topics in the construction industry, please feel free to email me at
Or visit our website

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.


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