Building vs. Remodeling

lavender_lassJune 17, 2011

Why is it there seems to be such a bias (on some of the other forums) against remodeling? While I can appreciate the pros and (let's face of building a new home, I can see that remodeling is often a good choice, too.

Lately, I've been reading a lot of statements, on other forums, that building new is so much cheaper than remodeling. However, no account is given to whether the new lot has water, sewer, electric/gas, phone/internet, or landscaping, driveways, etc. These are all expensive items that existing homes (usually) already have.

My other 'cringe moment' seems to come with the attitude that the old is inferior to the new. I know a lot of us take pride in working with what we have and coming up with creative solutions to challenges. I think Mama Goose's vent/hood is a wonderful example of taking something no longer used and making it into something wonderful!

I want to make it clear, I think building a new home is a wonderful opportunity to get what you want in a house. It also presents its own challenges, and this is not an anti-new home rant. It's more of a repurpose/reuse 'green' question. Why not work with what we have...if that option is available?

So does anyone have any insights, opinions or ideas about this? I hope so, because I think it might make an interesting discussion. Thanks in advance :)

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

LL when we put in our new manufactured home we did not have a choice. At the time we tried to find an existing house to buy. I REALLY did not want new. There was nothing available here.

As far as the landscaping water septic power all of that it was a REAL PAIN!!!! I remember crying over and over because the winds were so bad that year we moved here and dust and dirt in everything The brand new house was filthy from the very heart breaking.

I was not able to get a lawn going until the second year. There was grading still needed after we moved in. I am still working really hard to get a nice yard going here. So dang much work.

There are those that can have their yards landscaped right off with sod and hard scaping. And have a professional draw up the plans and the money to buy the plants. I would much rather take on an already established landscape and just add my touches to it. And it is great for those that can afford to have this done. I really wish we could have. So three years and the fourth summer later I am just now starting to have a yard. It is still crappy. Tacky do. But I do have some lawn and some flower beds and some fencing.

So even though we did do brand new it was not our first choice to do so. I know you were not directing this at me. But we did do new. This is our second new house. We built a log cabin in 1986. An by we I mean Joe our friend Ray and myself did the actual building while we lived in campers.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 6:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Shades- My mom put in a new manufactured home a few years ago, too. I know how much work it is...and that's how I know how expensive all the hookups can be! She was lucky to have town water and sewer and it was still a lot of money.

As for landscaping, we've been working on it for about four years now...and it's finally starting to look like she wants it. A few more years and it should be to the point, where it would be like her old yard. That's a lot of work and time, just to get the basics in place. Of course, she loves to garden, so her basics might be someone else's very nice garden :)

As I said, I think building new is a wonderful opportunity and can be a lot of fun. My mom had a great time making modifications to her little manufactured home and it turned out exactly as she had hoped. She's so happy and it was fun helping her with the process.

What surprised me was the statement (by several people on other forums) that remodeling is a waste of time and money, unless you have a beautiful old house, with lots of character. As you know, I plan to remodel our farmhouse...and have been told I should tear it down and start over, since building new is so much more affordable. That's what surprised me. Although some people were interested and/or supportive, many seemed surprised that I would want to spend so much time and money on a remodel...when building new was cheaper.

Maybe that's true in their area, but not here. Having an existing foundation, utility hookups, and a basic structure, save a lot of money over new construction. I guess I was just surprised with the attitude and the idea that I'd still have an old, run down house...instead of a nice, new one.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 7:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

NO LL you will not have an old run down house. I wish I had pictures of the little house across a couple of alleys from us It was so bedraggled and sad. The people worked on it a few years. Starts and stops. I am not really sure why it took so long.

When my friend moved into it I was stunned at how lovely it turned out. It was a total gut job. We could see through it when it was being remodeled. Now it is darling. Well planned out. I loved the new floor plan. The flooring is lovely. You would never know it was a really old house to start with. YET it's charm was retained as a darling little cottage. Friend is now putting her touches on it. Unfortunately over the years the yard was lost. So she does have to start all over on that.

I used to love to garden. I think because I re-did so many yards and put my heart and sole into them. Then walked off and left them. I have lost interest. Sad because this time I know I will not be walking away from this house and yet I am just not excited about gardening any more.

My hands back and neck are in so much constant pain. Kind of takes the fun out of it. My dear hubby helped me to rebuild the kitty kennel the last two days and now I can barely walk.I am not done yet. He had to open the zip lock bag of frozen fish tonight for dinner.I could not pull it apart. GGGGRRRRRRR I am not one bit happy about this.

I do not know how it can be less expensive to build new verses remodel. Unless there are that many builders out there desperate for work. If that is the case then they will remodel for you too.

My husband did our water hook up and ditching for water phone and power. He did get an electrician to hook up the house mostly to get the process of inspections done faster. We were under time crunch. 60 days to get out of sold house and moved into here. We did not dare even break ground before we had our house sale complete. We did have the house all picked out and in line up to be built as soon as we said GO and handed them the money.

Back to work on that kennel. I really want it done. Have about an hour and 45 minutes of daylight left.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 9:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Oh my goodness! I think it is wonderful that you are able to remodel! The advantage is that you have been living in your home so now you know exactly what you want and how you will get it. Building from scratch is not always a lot of fun. It can be very rewarding, but by the time you get to the fun stuff you want it to be over and get living in the darn thing.

One thing I can say for is NOT less expensive to build from scratch. The materials are going up in price rapidly.

If there had been a quality home, in the old Florida style that I wanted, on a really nice piece of acreage, and had a workable layout I liked, no question I would have bought it and remodeled.

That said, we have absolutely no regrets building this house from scratch. We have put our hearts and souls into it, and the bond we feel with it is strong. But, you can have that with a home you mold into your own as well.

No, it's not always fun putting a new garden and landscape in. I don't have money for a professional to come put it in, though my husband has suggested a few times maybe I need to hire some help with it. Hmmmm.....I'm stubborn. I want to do it myself or it won't be the same. So I will take my time. I'm enjoying seeing my fruit trees starting to get new growth. It wouldn't be as much fun seeing that if a stranger had planted them.

I lurk on the home forums a bit, but I don't feel I have much in common with the mindset there.

Lavender lass, old is not inferior to new. Not at all.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 10:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This is a drawback of an old home. Storms, if you live in tornado alley. They are not of the same material that new ones are. I would say that nothing will help in an F5 but I see a new building near 20th and Connecticut in Joplin, MO on my way to work and it stands while everything else is just GONE.

I live in an old house on the north end of town and we have rethought our opinion of not being scared of storms since we have trees that could kill us now. We lost our last house May 8, 2009 at 0721 and we understand that our old house will not stand up to some forces of nature.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 12:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

tierbunny. My Nephew and his wife live close to you then. Brandy was sucked out of her office building in Joplin in the tornado.

True what you say. Even here in Idaho where we do not usually get tornadoes we had specs to have house tie downs on the house and hurricane straps added to the garage.

I think LL is not too far from where we live. I know mother nature can wreck havoc anywhere and I pray for all of us we always be safe.

I too was in a disaster and had our house ripped apart around us while in it. I pray you will be safe.
BTW my nephew and his wife are Adam and Brandy Hagerman.Maybe you know them. Adam is the drummer with the Band Live Wire.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 1:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I guess I've missed those posts in other forums, but then I don't read every post in Remodeling & Building, just the ones with subjects I need.

I too don't see how it's possible that new is cheaper than remodeling old. Like you said the foundation, plumbing, electrical is all there already.

I also think it's what a person wants in a house, and what one person loves in a house, someone else hates. I think that's what makes it so hard for some people to find an existing house that fits their wants and needs. My house bugs me because of the musty smell I can't seem to get rid of. It's not the age of the house, just something with this house as my neighbors' houses don't have this smell. But I've just decided to live with it, and with the cracks above the windows, the stupid roof configuration, and everything else. But I don't love this house. To get what I really really want in a house, the direction it faces, the lot size, and the physical elements on the lot, I would want to build a new house.

I don't think it will ever happen though. I think the last time I leave this house, it will be feet first.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 10:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Having lived in 20+ houses since I moved away from home I know there was always some thing I did not like about one house over the other. Even our house now. We tried to put everything we loved in other houses into this one. STILL there are things about this house I would like to be different. Like you say Marti. You learn to live with what you have.

As far as facing this on the lot the way we wanted . It did not happen. We did buy this floor plan because it would fit this lot better than any other plans. We have a triangle shape lot and a good part of it can not be built on because of the steep hill.

If I had had it to do over I would have put the front porch on the back of the house. A smaller porch on front.But then the porch is so inviting.

So nothing is ever perfect even when you build new.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 11:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I also don't see how new can be cheaper than remodeling - well, depending on what you do.

dbf was willing to buy a new 'last yr's model' mfg home for me - but it was smaller than this one and would have been more money. I figure either way it wouldn't totally be my 'dream' house so with a little work and money with this one I'd have a lot more room. I didn't want to be cramped with the dogs - and if I ended up needing a walker in time (or who knows what). Either would be better than what I'm in now.

People are so different. My sister would always take new over old / used. I'd take old over new - lol! I always think things like that are weird since we were raised together - in old houses. I guess she never wants to 'go back' while to me it's a feeling of 'home' I think.

We're so alike in so many ways - then different in so many too. I KNOW she'd NEVER live in my 'new' mfg home even with it fixed up. but then, she'd never 'live' with my old furniture either. And i don't care for her newer stuff.

While newer homes might be better to withstand tornadoes, i don't think any normal house built in the US will withstand a storm that's strong enough if it's in the pathway. Best to have a basement area - at least a partial basement - or a fixed up dug out type one. To me when your time is up, it's up no matter what kind of house you live in.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 1:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Lav, I have to go somewhere in a minute, but I HAVE to tell you how I feel right NOW.

There are people who want the quality found in the older homes, which have endured, and have quality workmanship. There are those who wish to have an OLD STYLE HOME, and go to a great deal of trouble to find the old materials, restore them to good shape, and spend the extra money to get this quality. The real economical thing would be to get a stock house out of a contractor who is looking for a NO BRAINER type of house plan, which won't last until the warranty signature is dry on the paper.

Read the book CREATING A NEW OLD HOUSE by Russell Versaci, another Taunton Press book like the Sarah Susanka books. I got the paperback edition because it was cheaper by a LOT. It was mentioned in a recent article in Southern Living magazine which featured the house some folks had built and this was their inspiration.

I'll be back later, this is a most important topic. NO NO NO do not think that you will have a lesser product if you remodel instead of building new. Folks who'd agree with you are the ones on OLDER HOMES FORUM, forget what they say in those instant gratification places where they don't want to put in the time and effort to respect the past and build on it. Love what you are doing, do not be discouraged.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 2:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for all the responses! I plan to remodel, regardless, but I was surprised that more people don't want to remodel, when 'green' is such a popular topic. I mean, what is more green, than repurposing an older home? There's such a challenge to try to find a plan you love that will work with the existing footprint. At least it has been for me...which has been pretty obvious! LOL

I don't think everyone should go out and buy an old house, but if you have one, why tear it down and start over, if it can still be used? Unless it's in such bad shape (and maybe huge) that it's a money pit...then I can see where it might be cheaper to start over, but with a smaller home. Maybe that's what they're thinking?

Anyway, I guess my point was more that it's fun to try to save an older home, especially if there's a bit of family history, some happy memories and a good start to the remodel. Maybe it's my grandmother's scottish influence...but I hate to throw anything away that still has a lot to offer.

As for tornadoes, not really a problem, but having lived in a tornado area at one time...that would make a big difference! NOT give up on your gardening! It's been a wet, rainy year so far, but maybe start with a little space at a time. My favorite thing is to have a few beds around the front of the house and around a seating area. I like to be 'in' the garden, when I'm sitting out, enjoying the view. It's just so alive, with birds, bees, butterflies, etc. Even a covered bench or a table with a few chairs is wonderful. I like to have veggies, fruit, herbs and flowers all together, kind of a kitchen garden with seating in the middle. It's a lot of fun :)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 4:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mama goose_gw zn6OH


Thank you for the kind words about my hood! I would never have been able to afford a comparable hood if I hadn't built it myself, using the old feed bin. The same goes for our home--I haven't read the threads about new build vs remodel, but I really don't understand how building new can be less expensive than remodeling.

I'll have more maintenance issues than a new build, but surely not enough to justify tearing down a structurally sound old house, and starting from scratch. Barring an earthquake, sinkhole, or tornado, this house should last as long as I'll need it. Now I need to go knock on wood!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 9:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I plan to remodel, regardless, but I was surprised that more people don't want to remodel, when 'green' is such a popular topic. I mean, what is more green, than repurposing an older home? There's such a challenge to try to find a plan you love that will work with the existing footprint. At least it has been for me...which has been pretty obvious! LOL

I've wondered the same with people who tear out perfectly good kitchens just so they have the newest, latest, greatest trends. I think this was even mentioned lately on the KF. But again, even if the kitchen looks great to other people, only the person living there knows if there are things about it that are just not working.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 9:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'll chime in quickly since we're a house divided.

I love the idea of remodeling for countless reasons.
DH's argument for "new" is that there *should* be longer before he has to fix anything in a new house.

Yeah, maybe....but I think old houses are so charming!

If I build, it will be a small house designed to look old.

I would imagine many people choose new because you don't have to work around an existing foundation or frame at all. Perhaps having that control is appealing.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 10:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If I ever got to build, I would also make it a small house designed to look old. I just love the look of big porches and wood siding.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 11:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It comes down to a cost benefit analysis...but not just in dollars.

I also notice an unfortunate aversion to remodeling instead of building new on these boards.

But, remodeling is expensive, stressful, and certainly not always the best choice. For example, the house that my partner will inherit would be great to remodel...except for the 6'8" and 7'5" ceilings!!!! And, unfortunately, those things cannot be changed cheaply. It's an essential design "flaw" (for whatever reason, they must not have seen it as a flaw) that I simply won't be a part of. After having 9' ceilings, it would be difficult to go back to 8' ceilings, let alone 6'8"!!!!!!!

Likewise, he'll probably get his parent's house which is much larger, and was built in 1978. I don't want that one either, though. Some of the ceilings on the first floor aren't even quite 8', the ceilings on the second floor are 7'...there's just no easy way to remedy that. Plus, there are more walls than I would care for, and the living areas aren't close enough together. The family room is too small, and the living room is too large. It's just incompatible with us, and incompatible with remodeling.

Some houses are more amenable to remodeling. If the other house he inherited didn't have such low ceilings, we would remodel it in a second. We can't tear it down because 1. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the house and 2. A part of it seems to have been built around 1800 and we don't want to bulldoze history.

And many times, the associated costs of a home have to be spend when remodeling anyway, to bring it up to the standards of a "new" home. The septic tank may need replaced to deal with more bathrooms and kitchen appliances. The well may need to be moved or dug deeper. The driveway may need repaved. Landscaping may have to be re-done anyway, depending on the invasiveness of the remodel. Old energy sources (oil tanks for example) may need to be replaced with newer ones (natural gas or propane) leading to those costs.

Then you have to add in the extra costs that may crop up. It may come to light that the electric needs totally replaced. It may come to light that insulation was not done properly and needs redone. Various other problems could be found in the engineering process thatl eads up to the remodel. New foundations will have to be built/dug/poured in the event of building out instead of up.

It depends on the person, their emotions, their situation, and their $.

We will be building on a piece of land. Mostly becasue I refuse to deal with low ceilings.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 9:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hmmm, I can tell you from watching Mike Holmes' shows on TV that I cannot afford a GOOD new house, based on the problems he routinely fixes on the supposedly GOOD new construction.

And, with an old house, I think I'd rather get one, like this little stucco cottage here in Mobile, that had not been remodelled before. Nancy in Michigan is still going through a lot of problems with the house that was remodelled by the PO. And it was a ghastly mess that she is dealing with.

DH's cape has low ceilings, and I think in that house which is traditional New England, it is okay. But I also would not want to lose a single inch of ceiling height. It is a cozy house, very charming, it wraps around you. Like Krycek says, when he put in a new heating system and removed the old radiators and steam pipes, and also hooked up to the city sewage, and got rid of the septic system, we took out all of the landscaping in the front yard. Glory be, it was not a matter of just digging a ditch, it was hauling out those huge fantastic rocks and breaking through the ledge. Oh, I learned a LOT about rocky soil. (I still have rock envy though) That meant all the old plants across the house front came out (ugly ugly ugly) and more modern design was planted (by moi, a southerner who knew nothing about gardening up in New England)......but it looks GREAT now, two years later. The septic tank would have to be opened up and rebuilt by the us before the house was sold anyway, so it made sense to disengage it and connect to the city sewage. Right now, he is also tearing out the MCM blue fixtures and tile in the original bath, and it will be all new and up to code when he is done. I hope I get to take ONE bath in it before we sell. It will look so sweet, I bet the first family who sees it will fall in love with it.
What is not to like about an old cape that is mellow and ripe and obviously comfortable and well loved? THAT is to me the charm of an old house brought up to snuff with modern conveniences. I'd remodel. NOT build new.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 12:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

new construction versus remodeling.
There are certain aspects of remodeling where you will not get the level of contruction that "a new well contructed" home will give you even if you spend alot of money. I give a caveat that the new construction has be well built. Obviously, there are shabby new construction.

You can build a brand new house that looks as if it has been standing there for a 100 years. It only costs money! There are many new houses in my city that has been built that way. They are extremely popular and hugely expensive.

1. Foundation: older foundation has no steel rebars in the concrete. Concrete has a finite life time. It can start to crumble and leak water like crazy when nearing 100 years old. Rehabbed foundation is no where as "strong" or "water tight" as new foundation, IMHO.
2. Shear strength to wind and earth quake; new contruction is built to code that makes sure that house can withstand certain amount of wind and shear motion during earthquake. (I live in an earthquake zone.) I spent tens of thousands of $ to do very technically up to date earthquake retrofit. Even so, the house is not nearly as strong as what could be built to the new standards.
3. Tightness/insulation for energy conservation. No need for explanation. Again, unless you tear everything out to the stud and remodel, you cannot get this degree of tightness. I hate old drafty houses. Life is too short for that at this point in my life. I have lived in enough old houses with leaky windows to know that I will not do it again. At a certain point, certain types of remodeling is not really a "remodel" but a "rebuild" on an older foundation. (re: issues regarding foundation above.)
4. When remodeling, there are issues that are inherant in the house that becomes obstables to a good floor plan/house, ie terrible design flaws already in the old house. Sometimes, these are WAY too expensive to fix, ie ceiling height, not enough windows, location of the stairs etc. Maybe the house is not sited well on a lot, for example. These are obstacles that can be thought through and remedied when building new.
5. If you are rebuilding new on an old foundation, it is more expensive than tearing down and starting over. Been there and done that and that's how I know. After having spent all that money, because of the stupid things that you inherit from the house, you still have many things that are not quite right.

I will not do it again. Next time, if I do it again, I will identify a house that I can tear down for the lot that I want.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 4:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Tearing down an old house and building new is what they are doing in many places. Like the dwellings (I won't say HOUSES or HOMES) built along our river, they were mostly weekend getaways, fish camps, such as that. But the lots are huge, there is not much value in some of those houses, and it is easy to see that the value is in the land itself. I'd really agree that starting over is the best option with a house like that. Hurricane Katrina did some urban renewal too.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2011 at 9:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The little house next to us that is for sale is really on the fence to tear it down or redo it. There is no foundation. I think it is on rocks or blocks. The septic needs to be new. BUT the house is really cute inside. Needs updating but it could be a doll house. So tear it down fix it up. That is the question. I think they were asking in the 30K range. A little high for just a lot.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 12:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

it really depends on what you have at the starting point.

a LOT of newer homes will not last 100 yrs.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 2:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A great many of the yuppies in our town are flocking to what is "MIDTOWN" where the homes were built in the 1920-1930 era. Many are Craftsman or A&C, some may have been kit homes, but they all were individual stick built homes I'm assuming. The streets are all tree lined, have curbs, mature landscaping, and oh my do they look sweet. They went through an era of neglect, or ragged appearance, but no longer. It is such a pleasure to drive into those neighborhoods, see the young folks jogging with their pony tails swinging and the babies in the carriages sucking on a juice bottle. And the lawns all perfectly manicured. It is a sign of rebirth and renewal.

Those people did some remodeling, and adapted the homes to modern needs. I'd trust a house in that area, which is approaching the 100 year mark, a lot more than I'd trust the new build going up in the former dairy pasture on the outskirts of town, with no mature trees or landscaping to speak of, get everywhere by car and no sense of historic community at all.

Sometimes you buy more than the house, you buy the history of a place.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 10:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Lavender Lass~~

I have read so many of your/and other's posts...and there are pros and cons to everything.

If your farmhouse has a good foundation and has a sound structure, I think it is not only the "house", but you have so many memories and emotions attached to that house... that is where you heart will be. If this is so, you will never be as happy in a new build.

I have had several new builds...and believe me, it isn't all it is cracked up to be either. Those older homes are sometimes built better than the ones being built now...with the cutting corners to save costs.

Follow your heart and you will be happier with the results..good luck :-)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 2:11PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you all for the great responses and comments. I think there is a lot to be said for how well-built some of the older homes are...and if they weren't, they're probably not standing anymore. Newer homes can be great or not, depending on craftsmanship, budget, materials, etc. Maybe what we need is a new version of the Sears kit homes, for the 21st century.

I doubt I would build new, because there are so many other costs associated with it. Right now the septic is 'grandfathered' in as is the well and the power, etc. New build (even nearby) would mean a lot of additional costs. Also, there are parts of the house that are very well built and parts that need some work (original 1904, addition 1950s). This means there are areas I might totally redo, but other parts that won't need much more than an electrical upgrade, new sheetrock and refinished floors.

Outside, we do need a new roof, but this allows me to make some changes that would be very unpopular (cost wise) if we weren't getting a new roof. A dormer or an added gable is not such a big deal, when we're doing all new plywood/roofing, anyway.

I think one of the biggest advantages to remodeling is that you can keep some of the architectural details/finishes that you just can't afford (or find anyone to build) these days. Since this is a simple farmhouse...trim materials and windows will not be expensive to match, but replacing that fireplace...expensive! I can also refinish and use most of the wood floors and the basement fireplace still looks like it's in good shape, too.

Again, thanks for the responses and please keep adding 'your two cents' because I think this has brought up lots of good points and ideas for others, who may be debating between building and remodeling :)

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 2:59PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
upper shelves in kitchen
Ok I am having someone make me some upper shelves in...
Fancy expensive 'niche' market appliances
Just now reading @appliances, and there is ever more...
Help for me coming soon...
My family and friends have been praying for that all...
Tiny add on worth it?
My small home has two doors. The secondary door is...
It's Thursday....right? Let's have tea :)
Another Thursday (had to check the calendar to make...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™