Renovating vs. Rebuilding: The Top 3 Things to Consider

Apart from putting in a Starbucks order for someone you don’t know very well, few decisions are as daunting as the question of renovating vs. rebuilding from scratch.

Between building regulations, structure assessments and comparing costs, it can be overwhelming, and easy to feel anxious about making the wrong decision. 

While an informed analysis should be the basis of your decision making process, after 20+ years in the business I can tell you that in the end, sometimes it will come down to a gut decision of what just feels right for you.

To help guide you towards the right decision, we have put together the top 3 things to consider when deciding to renovate or to demolish and rebuild from scratch. While there will be other considerations that factor into your unique situation, if you can answer these 3 questions, then you’re on the right track.

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new home build by Whitehall Homes, Oakville

1. Layout and Size


Are you looking to add a little more floorspace to your existing home, or to dramatically alter either its shape and/or size?

If it’s the former, you may want to extend the rear of the house to help make your ground floor living area larger. A small and simple addition is a practical way of creating more living space. However if what you’re after is a fresh start on your floorpans or higher ceilings than what your current home has, then a new build may be your best bet. There is a tipping point where the amount of work required to create new or different overwhelms the savings of working with what’s there. Renovating or adding to an existing structure generally has its limitations, and it can quickly become more favourable to build a new home.

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Heritage home renovation & addition by Whitehall Homes, Oakville

2. What is the Quality of your Existing Home?

Just like people, homes can look healthy on the outside, while its bones tell a different story. For example, will your current house be able to handle additional floors and changes, or will the renovation work uncover previous illegal or non-conforming work that will need to be corrected or brought up to current building code requirements? What is the state of the services to your home (ie. water, sanitary, and hydro) and does it have show any signs of deterioration, for example with a damp basement? 

A structure with “good bones” will be able to support new renovation work without issue, while an unhealthy one can lead to unforeseen costs.

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new home build with heritage look by Whitehall Homes, historic Oakville

3. Location


Depending on where your home is, there may be regulatory issues such as heritage or site density restrictions which can present a challenge and often extend a project’s timeline (you can find a list of helpful links regarding permits and building restrictions here). Even if you chose to demolish your existing home and start from scratch, depending on zoning and setback guidelines you may end up working within the same footprint as the existing house. In this case, renovating an existing home can often avoid the municipal regulations or approval uncertainties associated with a new build, and may mean a simpler way of adding floor space. Having said that, depending on the neighbourhood your home is in, sometimes only a new build will match up with its land value, meaning that your renovation investment may not add full value to the property.

While there are many things to consider (and likely a few sleepless nights to accompany your considerations) it will all be worthwhile when you finally step into your new space, whether it’s an addition to your existing home or a completely new build. I can confidently say that whatever you decide, it will be worth it in the end!

What advice would you give to someone trying to make this decision? Let us know in the comments below!