Remodel or tear down and start over?

muddy_feetNovember 11, 2010

We have a house that was build around 1941. I've been told it's a half cap. It's very small, about 650 square feet.

The house was very run down when we bought it 10 years ago. We did have to do some remodeling to make the house livable before we could move in.

As of now it's in need of some major repairs like; new roof, gutters, insulation under the floors, new kitchen including tearing out the old sheetrock and insulating walls, installing kitchen stove ventilation (has none now), exterior siding to just to name a few. House has some mold in the kitchen and feels damp during the winter. A addition so we could have more room would be nice too. The house does not have much character like some old houses.

My question is, at what point does a person figure that it's a waste of money to repair something in this condition and is wiser just to start all over new?

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If you've got the finances, I'd say that "house" is long past its due date. People seem to be more clear-eyed about their old motor vehicles than they do about their old irreparable homes.

"Stop! I changed my mind.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 10:03PM
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I'd want to see a pic! "Irreparable"? The only major issue I read from your post was the need for a new roof.
New siding? I did that & regret it! What's wrong w/it, how BAD is it?
"Some mold" in kitchen? Not enough info for for euthanasia prescription, for me.
No kitchen stove vent? I don't have one, hope you have a wood burning stove if that's a huge, costly issue.

A 70 year old house "past its due date"? What forum am I on, must've clicked wrong "bookmark".

Sorry, to both of you! I've just got issues that are so much worse than the ones described, that I'm about to deal with. Sounds to me like muddy_feet just doesn't like the house and/or size. I first read the post - right when it came on - & cringed, thinking harsh "wrong forum" comments were coming...
It may be that the house is not worth saving. I don't even know what a "half cap" is, (but I will in a few minutes, lol!), but this is not the place I'd expect to see advocating destroying an old home without more info or pics.

I'm grouchy... It's raining hard now, and I suspect my NEW (6 year old) roof is leaking! (I'd better go check).
Or should I just tear the house down and start over?

    Bookmark   November 11, 2010 at 11:13PM
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Tear it down. Cart all the debris to the land fill. Build a brand new, much bigger house. Make sure to use as much petroleum based materials as you can. It's the American way.

I've lived in a house built circa 1810 for 40+ years, so I guess I'm really way past time for a vist from the past due date police.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 6:08AM
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Do you mean a half cape house?

Here is a link that might be useful: A half cape house

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 9:07AM
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OK, I get the part where an owner might want more space, ot something new. But what I don't get is the tearing it down part. A lot of times they can keep the thing for... I dunno, studio, guest house, wood-working shop, living space for the kids. More square footage always adds more value to a property.

That said there can be such a thing as too far gone so that's where I too would need more info. Some zoning makes you get the entire house to current code if your project exceeds a certain amt. (in our city if over half the value)

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 9:42AM
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OK, let's get serious.

How much is it going to cost to bring your sacred old home up to more livable standards vs. the cost of new energy efficient construction? And, most importantly, can you afford to carry the cost?

This ain't the Carson Mansion.

This is:

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 9:43AM
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Please, I'm not trying to start an arguement here. I am just looking for advise/opinions is all. I did leave out lots of details because many forums or people that are on them get irritated with those that ramble (which I tend to do).

I understand now that more info is needed on my part so I'll get to it.

The house has the original rectangle ceiling tiles which, I would guess contain asbestos and would need to be removed. Of couse lead paint still exists in most parts of the house. There is dry rot in the floor joists on the southern side some of which was cobbled up so we could move in. Rot on some of the studs on the southern wall. Some of the worst studs were replaced when we installed the new windows. The siding is rotted out in sections on the southern side of the house as is the "sheeting" underneath. The sheeting is tongue and groove (1" x 6" aprx.) fir. Basically anywhere there was a window in the house there was rot in that area. The corners where the siding joins has rot. Some of the wiring in the house is still original which needs to be replaced. The whole house would need vents installed. The roof sheeting appears to be rotted in places. The sheeting is the same tongue and groove sheeting used on the walls if I remember correctly. The house would need gutters as it has never had them. My husband says that even if we remodeled and did an addition that you will never get rid of the "old house" smell and I think he means the musty smell but I'm not so sure that I agree though. I will post some pics of the house when I figure out how to.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 11:59AM
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This is the only picture that I have today of our home but it does show that it fits the half cap description.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 12:17PM
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Anyone reminded of 'Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House' of my favorite movies. Several consultants said 'Tear it down' said, 'It can be fixed, but for the same money you could have a new one...'
Doesn't look very big--I think my garage might be bigger--it's 18x22'. If it really needs all that work, do your finances stretch to repairing or replacing it--I think you have to pay off the original debt to tear it down.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 9:57PM
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Actually, from the outside & a distance, at least, I think it's very cute. Up close - and the interior - may spell a different word, I realize.
Ironic, but you'd mentioned an addition... Which is what the Half Cape was designed for in the first place! (It IS "Half Cape", not "cap", as in Cape Cod - except 1/2's were started as a "base" for financial reasons of the initial owner, w/specific designs to allow for additions when able, without changing the style of the home). It seems clever to me, the fireplace in position to be central AFTER the add-on! (In the cases I've read about - perhaps not all). Muddy_feet, is your fireplace still there, & if so - is it central or off to a side? Just curious! :-)
Regardless, YOU bought it - you own it! You can't be told what to do with your personal property! (God bless America, & a serious "thank you" to any veterans out there, even if a day late!) If you want to build new, perhaps you could list it as a "free house", you can have it if you haul it off to your own property? (Craigslist, other local sources). If that worked out, you'd be free of it, and someone else would benefit as well.
I never intended to start trouble - I was just grouchy! :-)

    Bookmark   November 13, 2010 at 10:31PM
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Based on the info you gave, I'd tear down and start over again.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 12:19PM
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Muddy feet- Cute house...and I love the nutcrackers :)

You're not starting an argument (LOL) just in the middle of one that seems to be constantly going on. Whether to tear down your house of not, is only a decision YOU can make.

Figure out what you want to add to the house and then get some contractors to give you some idea of what repairs and the addition would cost (make sure they're FREE estimates). Then, compare that to the cost of new construction, in your area. Sometimes, you can save a lot by ripping everything down to the studs and rebuilding...sometimes not.

If you have mold, that's something you should have a professional check on for you. If it's an easy fix, another plus in the remodel column, but if it's a major problem, that might be more reason to start over.

Once you get some real prices and know what has to be fixed and what is cosmetic, I think you'll make a much better (and more informed) decision.

It's a cute little house, so if the numbers make sense, it might be worth considering a repair and remodel :)

    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 6:03PM
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What I meant so say in both my posts is that I was told its a half cape. I just left off the "e" twice. Sorry but I had a CRS moment there. :-) I did get some good information from this thread and a couple of things that I never thought of like, the possibility of having to pay off the loan before tearing down if that is what we opted for. It made perfect sense once that was pointed out.
That is funny that "my house" was originally meant as an addition. They guy that built the house did so for his mother and I guess she didn't require much room.

KS Toolgirl, there is on fireplace in the home and never had one. What you are seeing is the chimney for a woodstove. I'm guess that she must have used it for heat or possibly a wood cookstove since it's located right in the kitchen area and off to one side (front to back).

Thank you lavender lass for the nice words :-) We have small u-cut christmas tree farm and have the nutcrackers at the main gate to greet everyone. It just seemed like the prefect place for them.

Now, we just need to try to find a contractor or two to give us bids on the needed repairs and a addition. A new house is appealing but we will see how it goes.
Thanks all for the input.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 6:59PM
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I live in a house that began its life about that size. Over the years various owners added extra wings and rooms, remodeled and remuddled, and it's now 1400SF. It's pretty entertaining to analyze what was done when and how as we open things up to carry out repairs and upgrades.

There were exceptions, of course, but in general that's the way it was done back then. People bought or built what they could afford. As the family grew, the kids would double or triple up in bedrooms if necessary, until the breadwinner advanced enough in his job and the family could afford to move into a larger home or add on to the existing one.

It was pretty rare for anyone to demolish a perfectly usable home. Generally when a home was rebuilt it was because of a disaster such as a fire or tornado.

Things are different today, of course.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2010 at 8:56PM
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You can get rid of the smell by painting the exposed good wood with BIN as you are making repairs. In other words as you are replacing damaged with new and leaving old but musty smelling good wood you can paint it with this product.

Good is a cute house. c

Here is a link that might be useful: BIN

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 12:05AM
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Before you tear it all the way down to start over, make sure that the setback laws are not different now. For us, it was an old garage that needed restoring, and if we'd removed it entirely, then we'd not be able to build a new one in the same spot.

And just what sort of plan do you think would REQUIRE a blank slate to have a home you want to live in? Is there absolutely NO redeeming quality to your little house?

Sort of go by the rule, "Measure twice cut once,....or Think twice, tear down once."

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 3:55PM
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Muddy- Do you have a rough sketch of your house plan, with maybe what you want to do, with an addition?

I've been "playing around" with my old farmhouse, for a while, and one thing I've noticed is that the house has influenced some of my decisions, but I've also thought of some fun "out of the box" ideas, because I've had to work within the constraints of an old house :)

A small Christmas tree farm? What a fun idea! The nutcrackers are perfect!

Where do you live, with all the pretty trees, behind your place? I live in eastern Washington, about five miles from Idaho.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 10:44PM
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Good advise and the old gears are grinding now :-)

Trailrunner, I see your point with the primer and never thought of using it in that way but what about the attic and the crawl space? Would you just assume those areas would be sealed from the living space during the remodel?

Lavender lass, I can "try" to do a rough sketch and it would be very rough. I would just post it here in this thread?

I live about 25 miles from Mt Hood towards Portland out in the country. Lots of big trees around here. We just went through your side of the country a few months back on our way to Montana. Nice area and lots of sun over there! :-)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 12:10AM
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I guess I can't edit my previous post...

Here are two rough sketches that I did with Paint. The one below is how the house is setup now. I know things are out of proportion LOL.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 2:06PM
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This would be one of my dream addtions. I would love to have a kitchen/dining area where I could actually have company over for a small holiday meal. I have never been able to do that as there is zero room now. Off to the left, I see in my mind, a area where I could have a booth type dining area that would seat four people and maybe a chair on the end for an extra person. I would like a flat type roof on that part (I saw it in a magazine and fell in love).
I am not sure what to do with the rest of the house but would like more room in the living room and definitely more room in the bedroom. We are both tired of having to walk sideways to get out of bed.
A larger bathroom would be nice too so we could have a bathtub :-) Heaven!!
I don't know if bumping out the front would be a good idea due to the way the roof line runs. Maybe just a addition off the side like I did with the kitchen?
The other thing on my list would be a nice covered porch on the front. Since the house is on a farm I think a porch would be fitting.
I don't think either of us wants a two story house since we are getting older.
(Please tell me if I am not posting correctly or if the pics are too big)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 2:22PM
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Is there no foundation - what's it standing on? No wonder it's damp and musty. Maybe it's composting, returning to nature.

I would look at it this way: Old though it is, I don't think your house has historic value. And life in a house that old and small requires a lot of compromises. If you sold it, I suspect it would be torn down and a new house built. So do you want to make those compromises or will you envy the next owners who live in new?

And yes, you can enjoy new if you build to your specs with the materials and methods you choose. Every old house started out new, so I don't get the sneering.

But building is not for the faint of heart any more than renovation is - what do you have the stomach and the budget for??

I think I'd tear down and start over, if I could afford it.

That Carson mansion is going to keep me chuckling for a week! I wonder if it was considered attractive when it was new?


    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 7:56PM
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Oooh! Pretty area. We do get a lot of sun, but not the past few days. Did you get a lot of wind yesterday, too? What a mess!

Well, I don't know what your budget is, but the first thing I thought of was making the kitchen into the dining room (changing out the front window, to match the one in the living room) and adding about 15' to the back of the house.

To put on an addition, you just need to run your roofline parallel to the existing roofline, making a gable. I set the gable back a few feet on each side, from the main part of the house.

This gives you room for a galley kitchen that flows into a corner banquette, with access to a back deck. I moved the bathroom over to the bedroom area, with a closet and the bedroom, behind it.

If there's room (I know the measurements aren't exact) I added a pantry, a small hall closet, and possibly some linen shelves, behind the chimney...otherwise, picture wall. (LOL) That's always what hall space turns out to be, isn't it?

What do you think? Would something like this work? I really like the front of your house and your little mudroom addition, so I put the new addition on the back, with a wrap around deck...and maybe a hot tub?

Sorry it's such a rough sketch, but I don't have any software. Hopefully, you get the idea :)

    Bookmark   November 16, 2010 at 9:43PM
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Lavender lass, we just got a little bit of the wind here but Portland got hammered. Some folks lost their power for a bit. It's the windy season.
I like the plan but we have a septic tank located at the back of the house and would interfere with any addition off the back in that particular area. Darn cause I was loving the idea of a hot tub. The plan that you sketched out would forsure go right over top of it. I don't think it would be good, when the septic tank cleaner guy comes to clean it out every so often, to have him stick the hose through my new kitchen (lol). To move the septic system and possibly the drainfield would be very costly in my area. I think going out the front or off the side would be about the only option that I can see anyway.
As for my budget, well I have no clue what anything like this would cost. I don't even know anyone who has had something like this done before to get an idea. I will have to do some more homework to try to figure it out.

Btw, the house is sitting on a foundation.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 7:28PM
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Muddy- I saw you had the septic tank there, but I was hoping the field was in a different you'd only have to move the tank!

I don't see why an addition out the front wouldn't work. If you brought one out, perpendicular to your home, you could always add a front porch on, maybe facing the driveway. Then the new living room could be in the addition, and maybe re-arrange some of the other rooms. The kitchen could expand into the bath, the bath to the bedroom and the bedroom to the old living room. Just one of many possibilities.

Do you just want one bedroom, or were you hoping to add a second bedroom/study? There's the dream list, the wish list and the must-have list, but it's nice if some of the dreams and wishes, get included with the must-haves :)

    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 8:03PM
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It's possible that the bank would allow you to tear down if the remaining balance on your mortgage was less than the assessed value of the land and outbuildings, not counting the value of the house. So don't feel like you have to completely pay off your mortgage before you can proceed.

My grandma's house did not have a dining room. We ate with our plates on our laps in the living room, or on lawn chairs out in the yard if the weather was fine. Many happy gatherings there, and only as an adult did it even occur to me that her house lacked a dining room. Kid wisdom-you gott a love it.

Keep in mind millionaires living on sailboats have less living space than you do. It's all relative. I go camping every year to keep things in perspective. Nothing like cooking a meal in the rain and sleeping in a tent to make me appreciate my house, my indoor plumbing, and my 50 year old kitchen.

So, I hope you both enjoy your house as it is and achieve your desired remodel or rebuild. If I were going to rebuild, I'd buy a secondhand 5th wheel to live in while out of the house, and then sell it when the house was ready to move into. You might get nearly as much as you paid for it, and it'd be an inexpensive place to live during the build, if zoning allows it.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 11:14AM
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