Should you stay or should you go? Perhaps the better question phrased for many homeowners – and homebuyers – is should you rebuild or should you reno?
If you need a significant change to your existing home, whether it’s to add more usable space, update the floorplan or modernize overall, it’s essential to weigh your options, and with them the myriad factors a renovation or new home build will entail.
The same considerations are key for those eyeing a home purchase where the property might be ideal, but the house, less so.
Only with all the necessary details in hand can you make an informed decision, says Blaise McDonald, from MAC Renovations.
“Renovate or tear it down and start fresh? There are a lot of factors – many of them personal – but there are financial and practical considerations as well,” Blaise says.
- Siting: Where a home is in an environmentally sensitive area – by the waterfront, for example – a complete tear down may require a new, less optimal siting to comply with today’s standards. By renovating within the existing footprint, however, the same siting can often be retained.
- Efficiency: If an older home’s “bones” are good, but it’s in desperate need of modernizing, energy-efficiency programs like the Canadian Home Builders Association’s Net Zero/Ready renovations can provide guidance, Blaise notes. When modernizing, DO ensure your renovation professional understands the “house as a system.” Simply sealing the home tight to prevent heat loss, without allowing for ventilation, for example, can create moisture and health problems down the road. Adding square-footage can also impact other areas of the home like demand on the plumbing and electrical systems, perimeter drains and heating.
- Personal preference: Tearing down and building new does allow you to achieve the design goals you want, within municipal regulations, making the home truly your own. While many cosmetic and even structural improvements can be made by renovating, some limitations can remain, depending on the home, budget and design goals.
- Time – now and later: New builds, even with a tear-down, can be quicker than a major renovation. Additionally, new homes are typically easier and more affordable to maintain, following the initial up-front cost.
- Environment: While many of today’s building materials are more environmentally friendly, there are environmental costs to tearing down and building new. Some prefer to mitigate that by choosing a renovation that saves or reuses materials where possible, Blaise says. “There is intrinsic value in keeping some of those materials out of the landfill.”
Should you tear down or renovate? The question will be tough to answer without a thorough pre-construction assessment to evaluate your goals, and what you’ll be able to achieve through each option. In addition to some of the factors discussed above, the assessment will look at key areas like municipal regulations, building code requirements, plumbing and electrical, and hazardous material remediation.
“Before we go forward with a renovation, the first step is always a feasibility study to ensure the homeowner’s goals can be achieved within their allocated investment,” Blaise says.