Major Renovation or new build

bryan4August 20, 2012
We are at the decision point on whether we should complete a major reno or start from scratch with a new build. What is the tipping point?
How did you decide which way to go?
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We are in the last 2 weeks of a major reno that has lasted 1.5 years. Funny to see your post! Right now I am just ready to be done with it and get all these people out of my house. :)

For us there were 2 tipping points. 1. We bought our house because we love the exterior style; mid-century modern, so we didn't want to change any of that. 2. We knew that if we rebuilt the house would have been twice the size it is now and that is absolutely NOT what we wanted.

Once we decided to go with a reno we looked at the cost of cosmetic vs. gut to the studs. Since the house was built in 1963 we wanted to know what was behind the walls. Better to find out when the house is half torn apart than after it is all put back together. Then, we just couldn't bring ourselves to do anything half way. So, we ended up putting all the exact finishes and amenities we wanted. And while I'm very tired of the process right now, in the end we have a house that is exactly the way we designed it; right down to where the soup ladle goes. We're way over what we thought it would cost but every decision was made deliberately.

We lived in the house during the renovation which I probably wouldn't do again. I'd just stay out and have it all done at once.

Good luck and enjoy the process as you go; whichever way you decide.

Maybe the pics will inspire (or scare) you.

1 Like    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 5:22PM
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Do you have children? Can you afford to live someplace else during reno? Take these things into consideration. We did it with toddlers...don't recommend! Good luck! I love older homes:)
    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 5:54PM
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Dirt Digger
My husband and I went thru the same the end, we renovated. The factors that swayed us were location, amount of land and mature trees. We Couldn't find what we have now in that respect so it wasn't worth it to us. I will say, though, that we have been very mindful to not over do it in regards to going too overboard for the neighborhood that we are in. We met with an architect and a designer, developed a plan, and are doing it in stages.
3 Likes    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 6:38PM
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Marie Hebson's interiorsBYDESIGN Inc.
Hi karenanywild, I just discussed this very topic with clients moving from one city to another. Their are three tipping points 1). is location, location LOCATION! 2). is value for your renovation dollar, and how much is too much for the area you are in, and 3). is your personal preference to old over new. I personally prefer new homes over old. Hope this helps, and good luck with your project.
    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 7:25PM
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Elyn's Library
We're still in the throes of a pretty major reno. Like many others, we love the location and the basic "bones" of the place and after many months of talking, calculating and looking at what else is out on the market we decided to hunker down and stay. We decided that this is the LAST time we're going to do this so we are taking our time. We do have an overall plan - and we are making all these changes "wheelchair friendly" so that we can stay in this lovely space as long as possible in our retirement. Yep - we're living here while we do it and taking it in stages. Master bedroom and bath were the first to be done so we would always have a "sanctuary" while the rest of the house was covered in sawdust and/or curtained off with sheets of plastic. And we're still married . . .lol!
2 Likes    Bookmark   August 20, 2012 at 8:43PM
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We just contemplated the same question and decided to build. The tipping point for me personally was that our current home has a very dark first floor due to a porch that wraps 3/4 of the way around the house. Also my kitchen/eating area, where I spend a great deal of my day, faces north and east and so would be too dark for me no matter how many windows I add. Finally, we are on a hill and adding a pool would require a lot of retaining walls, etc. So, we just finished new plans so I can have a better flowing light-filled home with a pool. I guess the whole point of sharing that is to recommend you think about the placement of your home on your current lot, the current light levels, and if your yard works for you. It's so much more than just square footage or style!
1 Like    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 5:44AM
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I keep asking myself same question every day. Our house was built in 1957 so it is old but in good shape and at least it is made out of brick and concrete blocks, not wood. :)
Area is nice with mature trees and good location. Area itself is rapidly changing,more homes are thorn down and huge new ones are being built. They go over a million at the moment ,mine would be about 600,000.
I would not renovate mine,one day hopefully I will build a new one. I would not do addition on 55 years old foundation and old pipes . Friend of mine has house same age and same type like mine but in pretty bad area and I believe for him renovation would not be solution either.
    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 7:46AM
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@lesliemahler - I can completely relate. We sold out of our last house because it was too dark (and a small tract home not worth renovating). As you can see from the pic above the 'new' house is more than 50% floor to ceiling glass; nothing like going from one extreme to the other. But, to your point, this house is so well laid out on the lot that the views are awesome and everything about it's position on the lot is just perfect. I concur that it makes a big difference in the enjoyment of your home. Good point.

@sondramartina - agreed about the old pipes. We totally re-plumbed and re-wired as part of our renovation. Not worth having a problem behind our beautiful new walls down the road. Definitely needs to be part of the consideration when the home is old.
    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:12AM
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Carlsen & Frank Architects
Are you happy with your neighborhood? Could you purchase other housing in your neighborhood that is just what you want or close to it? One way to evaluate the options is to hire an architect to measure your house (if you don't already have plans) & do a "schematic design" that would be based upon your "program" or things about your house you would like to change. A schematic design would be relatively simple floor plans with some notes. This might cost between $1,000 and $2,000. You could find an architect who does residential work and take on the schematic design for a set fee. You could then have a general contractor give you a ballpark estimate on the schematic plan for your remodeling. Many contractors would be willing to give you an estimate if they believe they will have a good chance of getting the job if you proceed with your project. Once you get the contractor's estimate, you have some cost information that will help you make a decision. The contractor can discuss with you how the work could be organized, staging his work so you can continue to live in your house with as little disruption as possible. You can evaluate if the disruption would be acceptable. If you decide to proceed with your project, you could work with your architect, after agreeing upon a fee for his or her services, to complete the design, and then get a firm bid from the contractor. If you decide not to go ahead with your project, sell your house and move, you've invested $1,000-$2,000 in some plans to that may help you sell your house.
    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:31AM
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The show 'Love it or List it' (despite the added drama for entertainment) is a good show to watch for this. It's amazing how many people choose to 'love it' and stay in their current home after it is renovated. This show brings up a lot of the real issues that can arise during a renovation and might make you think of things you would otherwise miss.
    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:33AM
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@Carlsen & Frank - good point about loving (or not) your neighborhood. We live in a very small town in CT and this is our third home there. Obviously we love our town and even our section of town. How you feel about neighborhood could definitely figure into the stay or move dilemma.
    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:50AM
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Did you keep just outside walls and foundation?
New build vs addition on existing foundation,what is the cost difference?
    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 9:01AM
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The realtors are right, LOCATION always comes first ! Even if you have to do major renovation in an older house, the value will be there compared to a new build where there are hundreds of competition at any given time when it's time to sell.
    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 9:48AM
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Adapt Architecture & Construction
If the location is set, meaning you can renovate or build new on the same lot, the tipping point then depends on value of what remains after demolition. We have found in doing over 40 historic renovations and 35 new projects in old neighborhoods that the tipping point is generally when what is left after demolition is less than 20% of the total value of construction. This percent changes for each for project.

My house, for instance, built in the 1930 had value after demolition of 11% of the project. We were not living there and could carry the cost of our existing home during construction. This allowed us to keep the remaining historic value and finishes we loved. We did pay for it in time, about three months extra work, and interest cost. Overall our construction cost the same as new. New construction is much faster if doing an entire house with the added benefits of efficiency, engineering and code safety.

Your best path is first to study the scope of demolition in a subtractive method. Demolition scope is always larger than people think in renovation. Are windows being removed? All the gyp board? Second floor added? Bad foundation? All the siding? All the electrical and plumbing? Then study the associated costs of renovation time and end product and evaluation it against a new house. It is not an easy task which is why many people hire professionals to help such as architects and contractors.

As a side safety note, we never allow new electrical to be attached to old and many municipalities won’t allow it under code. Old electrical is really dangerous and not worth saving. Replacing it causes more demolition and cost but I have never had a client regret it, especially when they go to sell.

Harrison #1 · More Info
2 Likes    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 10:22AM
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@sondramartina - yes the exterior walls and foundation were pretty much all we kept. We also have flagstone in the entry way which we kept and one ceiling fan that we recycled. But otherwise everything else is new. New walls, new floors, new ceilings, new cabinets, new counters, new switches, electrical, plumbing, tub, shower, tile, faucets, lights, windows, glass (see my pic above), glass garage door (our splurge), custom closets, appliances (double ovens, microwave drawer, induction cooktop, french door fridge, bar fridge, ice machine, dishwasher, one double sink and one full size single sink both with garbage disposals), icynene spray foam insulation, security system with cameras, central vacuum etc. etc. With the level of finish we did we were going to be at about a cost of $225 - 250/sq ft as new construction. With the same finishes in our reno we are at about $138/sq ft. and that includes everything down to the portapotty rental for the construction workers and demolition. Demolition was pretty cheap for us; not a significant factor in the cost. And some of the material was re-purposed via Habitat for Humanity and people driving by who wanted stuff. The impact fees and bigger house we know we would have built if we built new would have been much more significant than the demolition costs. ... oh and we have a big stone fireplace that we kept from the original too. BTW - our house was built in 1963 and we kept the exact same footprint.
1 Like    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:47PM
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And of course, as the others have said location is key and was the ultimate driver for us looking at houses in this area. Here's our view.
1 Like    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 8:55PM
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Charmean Neithart Interiors, LLC.
Such a great explanation by DeWitt.. I would have to agree with the location element, pricing yourself out of your neighborhood is also a big factor. The last point I will add is that at least on the remodels I have been involved in, there are always surprises with older home renovations. Any time you open up a wall on an older home, there can be unanticipated set backs, additional costs, delays. If this sort of thing is not a good fit for your temperament and there is no historical value in your property, consider new build.
Good luck with your project. Charmean Neithart
    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 1:56AM
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Vikrant Sharma Homez
I'd suggest go for a new one if the present house is in a Sad Condition .
    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 2:02AM
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Joseph I. Mycyk Architects, Inc.
I suggest you sit down and establish the following:
-What are the negatives in the existing house?
-What are the positives of the site?
-Will correcting the negatives improve, maintain, or negate the site positives?
-What is the condition and age of your HVAC, electrical, plumbing, roofing, windows?
-What is your budget and your cash flow for the unexpected?
-How is your cash flow affected if you live in the house if you renovate, or out of the house if you renovate or demo and build new?
-What is your time frame?

This the point I always say, call a local architect and walk thru with him/her and see what their input is based on viewing the existing structure and conditions.
1 Like    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 4:39AM
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K.O.H. Construction Corporation
Let me address another issue "Stess". I built many homes and major remodel jobs. People stress themselves out over decisions, cost, scheduling, living conditions you name it. I think I'm a part time marriage counsler. My advive is to hire someone you trust and believe in and remember why you hired them. Keep a cool head, things will work out and every decision is not life threatening so keep thing in perspective.good luck
    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 5:09AM
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Thank you so much for all these details.You were soooo right about the impact fees and bigger house you would have built.
Your lake view is priceless.
    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 1:30PM
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Shannon Ggem ASID
I specialize in remodel so I am pro-remodel! But my husband specializes in new construction. I agree with the cost analysis $250-$300 persqft build, $150+ remodel for the most part. For our personal homes, we remodel. Old growth wood, innate character and some romantic notion of homes having soul are what drives our decision.

Often my clients are choosing to remodel for permits, certain aspects of their homes were permit- able at the time built and are grandfathered in, they could not get the permit with a new build as height restrictions, frontage, deck sizes and placements, etc have become more defined.

Some, like me, are just plain old preservationists. I hate to throw away walls and floors just to put up new walls. Drives me bananas. I love to save and reuse elements of the home being remodeled and work around and redefine funky layouts, oddly placed openings, etc. In many cases what was done was done for a reason and someone came along and ruined the original intent with THEIR crappy remodel or thoughtless addition. I love digging out the intent and making homes make sense again, and sometimes, for the first time!

I agree with all above, if you live off site it goes MUCH faster, cleaner and more smoothly. I ultimately think you cost yourself money by living on the jobsite (not to mention the aggravation). I say this to you sitting in an office with plastic for walls, as I wait for the nanawall install- do as I say, not as I do. Tee hee!

Whatever you do, keep in mind that making a great home is a noble and worthy endeavor and one that it is a great honor to pursue & enjoy the process!
1 Like    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 1:50PM
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Thanks all for the very thoughtful comments, this decision is obviously about more than bricks and mortar. We just surfaced after moving out to allow for the next phase, which we think is going to be a major renovation.
    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 7:44PM
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