Renovate or Rebuild: Should I Demolish or Renovate my Home?

So.  You’re ready to create your dream home.  Chances are, you’ve already picked your finishes and fixtures.  You probably know what color you’re going to paint the kitchen.  But let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: how are you going to get to that point?  Should you save the old bones of the house and give her a complete renovation, or tear down and build new?  Which option costs more?  Which is more of a headache?  Isn’t demolition messy?  This is a conundrum in which many homeowners find themselves.  The trouble is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to these questions.  What it really boils down to is what works best for you?

Here are some things to consider when deciding whether to demolish or renovate your home.

First, let’s find out a few things about your current home:

    • Is your home up to safety standards and requirements
    • Is the foundation secure?
    • Does the home have limited damage or wear?
    • Can the layout of your home be renovated to create the floor plan you desire?
    • Is it a historic home? (Old verses Historic: Whereas a home that is over 30 years old can be said to be old, a historic home holds more than just years of life.  It holds culture, history, architectural significance and beauty.  It also may serve as a time capsule, so to speak, for a particular era.  You may need to verify with The National Register of Historic Places to find out if your home qualifies as a historic home.)
    • Does the square footage of your existing home hold enough space for what you seek to create? Is there room on the property to add on to the home?
    • Does the existing home hold special significance for you and your family?

If you answered yes to a majority of these questions, you may realize that renovating your current home is the best option for you.  If you answered no, then it may be time to start with a clean slate.


Whether you choose to keep the bones of your house and renovate, or tear it down completely and build new, you will need proper demolition done.  Here are a few things to remember about demolition of your home:

    • Strategic demolition of the interior or exterior of your home is often more challenging than a full tear-down. We do not recommend hiring your brother, neighbor, or the guy at the gym to do demo for you.
    • Not only does most demo require a permit, it could cause irreparable damage to your home if it’s not done correctly.  Load-bearing walls must be shored properly so that the house is supported.  Asbestos must be removed carefully so it doesn’t become a health risk to you and your family (see our article What you Should Know About Asbestos).  Freon must be safely removed from air conditioning units.  These are just a few examples of things that could show up during a demolition project like this.

    • We do not recommend living in the house while demolition or even construction is being done. Any construction project is going to be messy, no matter what precautions are taken to seal off different areas of the house.
    • Be prepared to find a few surprises during the demolition phase of your project if you’ve decided to renovate, and don’t shoot your Contractor if he sends you a change order for additional work after demo. It is very rare that a remodel goes exactly as planned, seeing as how you can’t always see what’s behind walls and under floors until you do demo.
    • If you do decide to completely tear down your home, be sure to hire a demo company that is licensed and insured and does everything above board. The last thing you want is an accident happening on your property while crews are using heavy machinery, in which case you could be liable.

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