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Renovation vs. Demolition -- What's Best for Your Home?


renovate or demolish?

Anyone who works in the home construction business will tell you the most common question they are asked is, "should I renovate my home, or demolish it and start over?"

Both have their benefits, but usually there's a clear cut answer of which option you should choose.

So, when should you renovate?

The first thing you need to determine is if your home is structurally sound.  If the home was properly built -- meaning that it met all government building codes at the time of construction -- and you've maintained the primary structure and outer shell, chances are you don't need to demolish.

In other words, as long as it's not collapsing, and you've done basic upkeep (including maintaining the roof, outer walls, and foundation), you probably should aim for a renovation.

Even if you want to make an addition to your home, a renovation is most likely the better choice as long as you feel the home is still safe and sturdy.  Knocking out a wall seems like a big task, but not for a trained professional contractor.

And, if your wish list of repairs and renovations includes smaller upgrades, you definitely don't need to demolish.  In fact, if some of the indoor repairs are simple and fairly inexpensive, you can do them yourself, and save money on the labor.

If you have multiple changes you want to make, renovating is the way to go because you can do them over time, and you won't have to pay for all of them right now.  After all, it's much tougher to get a loan these days than it was back before the housing bubble burst.  Odds are much higher you'll be paying for everything out of your own pocket.  Considering that the average American has lost nearly half of his net worth since the recession began, that's a big expense!  So, do each renovation when you can afford it!

Speaking of money, permits for renovations are usually cheaper than new construction.  And in some places, there are government grants that will help you make an existing home more energy efficient.  So, even if you can't qualify for a traditional loan, you might be able to get some help.
Then when should you demolish?

First and foremost, if your home is starting to deteriorate to the point where it may eventually collapse or begin to come apart, a demolition is absolutely necessary.  You can't live somewhere that’s unsafe.

Demolitions also come into play with extremely old houses.  Having an older home is very appealing to some people, but updating one can be very costly -- sometimes to the point where the repairs actually cost more than knocking it down and starting over!


Because often times, a contractor will have to come back more than once to do renovations and repairs.

A perfect example is replacing your plumbing.  If a plumber updates your bathroom in an older home now, he may have to come back a few months or years later to replace the rest of the plumbing in the house.  And, because this is considered a separate job, the warranty from the first plumbing updates he did won't cover the costs.

The same goes for rewiring a home.

When it comes to updating fireplaces, heating, and air units, a contractor is required by law to make sure the repairs are up to date with current codes.   If your home is so old that these elements have to be completely replaced instead of renovated, it could be cheaper just to demolish the home and start from scratch.

Also, remember that all the renovated items in a home are new, but anything that hasn't been fixed is still old.  So, if you replace the inner walls -- but the foundation is still the original one -- the home may need additional repairs in the future.  Ultimately, you'll have to decide how you want to spend your money.


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