Renovate or teardown? That is the question! Many customers begin their building odyssey with great ideas of saving an existing structure by renovating, a trend so popular on television and across the internet. Renovation is a great option that makes sense for some projects. For most customers, however, especially those who are considering major changes to a building, a teardown is definitely the best option. There are a several reasons for this – regulations, energy, lead and cost.
Regulations: The current regulatory environment almost forces an owner to tear a house down instead of renovate. Current building codes on Cape Cod have become stringent, especially with regard to structural integrity. Older homes often require major structural work to meet today’s codes.
Energy: Energy code requirements, under the International Energy Conservation Code, changed insulation requirements dramatically. Major renovation work requires a complete upgrade of an existing home’s energy envelope, using advanced materials such as urethane foam. The cost of compliance on an older home or cottage can cause the homeowner to reconsider their renovation dreams.
Lead: Lead is another major factor to consider in the renovate or teardown decision. Currently, regulations dictate that any home built before 1978 must be treated as if it has lead paint unless it has a documented abatement. The cost of lead paint removal is expensive and is fraught with liability for contractors and homeowners alike. A teardown decision is considered an unregulated activity with regard to lead. The house can be broken down and hauled away in a matter of hours, with minimal risk to all involved.
Cost: For these reasons and many others, it can be more costly to renovate vs teardown. A major renovation of an existing building requires a contractor to touch everything twice – first to remove and secondly to reinstall walls, floors, building systems, to name a few. A teardown is much less expensive than correcting floors that are out of level, walls that are crooked, and basements that are still musty after the major renovation project has been completed.
With an aging building inventory on Cape Cod, most towns have accepted the idea that raze and replace projects will continue to be a realistic option for many homeowners. Municipalities have even written specific sections of their zoning by-laws allowing these projects to go forward without major restrictions.
I can’t speak enough to the value of starting with a clean slate when considering such a project. After the demolition, work begins on a completely new home! Emotional anxiety quickly fades when homeowners see a clean, modern foundation with straight walls; new framing, doors and windows; and modern mechanical systems and finishes which provide exceptional comfort along with great performance and efficiency!
This New Cottage, written by its homeowner and its builder, is a tale of color, nostalgia and the challenges of rebuilding a Cape Cod cottage. Watch for it in bookstores soon!
~ Matt Teague