A Knock-down Rebuild – Is It Right for You?

As renovation specialists, one question we are often asked when people are considering an extensive renovation which includes major structural changes to their home is, “Is a knock-down rebuild the right option for me?” For those who haven’t heard the term ‘knock-down rebuild’ in a building sense, it is pretty self-explanatory. Instead of renovating the existing home, the whole structure is knocked down, taken away in trucks, and a ground-up build is undertaken—essentially building a brand-new home.

With literally thousands of different home designs across Canada, filled with thousands of different families who have varying needs and reasons for deciding to renovate, the question of whether a knock-down rebuild is the right option depends on a range of reasons, which we will explore below.

It is critical that you understand the intricacies of both options so you can make an informed decision—this is where the right advice can come in very handy.

What Is the Ultimate Goal of Your Renovation?

While a glossy brochure may tell you how much easier a knock-down rebuild is, the first thing you have to consider is the ultimate goal of your renovation. For example, your goal may be more space, or perhaps increased functionality and flow through the floorplan. Once you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve you should now consider whether this can be done via changes to your current structure?

As we take our clients through the design phase of our unique Design-Plan-Construct methodology, time, and again we find that with some experience and creativity we are able to achieve what clients want without resorting to drastic knock-down measures.

A major home renovation is a big decision, affecting not only your immediate circumstances but also how your home will function well into the future. This is why we do a lot of work upfront to make sure your renovated home suits your current and future requirements. In the discovery process we dig deep into how you and your family currently use the spaces in your home, what you need/want/hope for, and what you anticipate your future needs will be as life goes on. With these bases covered we can ensure that we provide the right solution in terms of both value and the long-term liveability of the result.

Again, in many cases, getting creative and thinking outside the box can avoid a complicated, and potentially expensive, knock-down rebuild process.

How Is Your Current Home Constructed?

Another factor in the knock-down rebuild vs major renovation decision is the way in which your current home has been constructed, and how conducive that construction method is to either option. Multiple different construction methods have been employed across the decades in Canada and each has a significant influence on the feasibility of a knock-down rebuild or a major renovation of the existing home.

An example of the way in which the construction of a house comes into the equation can be demonstrated in the scenario where a family wishes to increase the overall size of their home. If the existing house is of block construction—which can safely support a second storey on top without extra reinforcement to walls—then instead of knocking the entire structure down as a knock-down rebuild, it may be more efficient to add another storey.

Instead, if the house were of a style unable to support the upper storey, walls would need to be stripped back and additional bracing constructed—this is a significant extra expense—and so alternative options might be considered. This is just one possible scenario. Your home’s construction method can influence the decision to renovate or to knock-down and rebuild in numerous ways.

What Condition Are the ‘Bones’ of Your Current Home In?

Another major factor to consider in the knock-down rebuild vs home renovation choice is the condition of the ‘bones’ (or structural integrity) of your current home. You don’t have to be in the building game to understand that superficial improvements made on a sub-standard starting point are less than ideal and won’t survive the test of time.

There are, of course, properties that cry out to be knocked down. This is evidenced by properties being advertised on the market with phrases like, “Knock me down and start over”. These are properties that are very dated, are built with potentially hazardous materials, or may have rot or other structural issues that clearly mark them for demolition.

On the other hand, most people living in the average suburban house don’t really know what state the ‘bones’ of their home are in—what does that truly mean and how good is good enough? This is where an experienced builder can help out by inspecting for signs of underlying issues, such as cracking walls (internal and external), lifted tiles, or other concerns in wet areas, sagging rooves, and many other small indications of problems.

If the bones are no good this is an indicator that things could get expensive when you start to pull walls down and is certainly something you need to take into consideration when deciding between a knock-down rebuild and a home renovation.

What Is Your Capacity to Handle Lifestyle Interruption?

What we mean by lifestyle interruption is the level at which you and your family can live without the full functioning capabilities of your home. How well could you and your family handle being away from home for an extended period of time (three to four months if everything goes according to plan)? If you have travelled extensively with family, this is a good indication!

Let’s face it, even with a basic bathroom or kitchen renovation there is going to be some level of inconvenience. With a major renovation, there will be disruption to your lifestyle, but in some cases, you may still be able to live in your home, albeit in and around tradespeople/inspectors/deliveries and more. By no means will you have the comfort of your usual home, but a good builder will do their utmost to make life as easy as possible during the process.

With a knock-down rebuild there is no doubt that you will be moving out of your home for at least three months, and likely longer. They say that moving house is the second most stressful life experience—and that’s when you’re out of one house and in the next on the same day. Consider how you will manage a protracted relocation in the event of a full demolition—the inconvenience, the expense, or at best, the possibility of outstaying your welcome if the process is delayed. Then, of course, there is the storage of all the items you are not taking with you to consider. You can see how this can become a major operation.

Environmental Factors

There’s no doubt that environmental sustainability is at the forefront of conversation in today’s society, and the manufacturing and construction industries are especially tasked with finding ways to reduce their impact and carbon footprint on the planet. One of the key differences between a major renovation and a knock-down rebuild is the simple fact that a home renovation takes sustainability much more seriously, as many of the products which have to be purchased new in a knock-down rebuild scenario are retained or used again in a home renovation.

For example, timber walls and structures that are able to be left in place in a renovation mean that new timber does now have to be brought in, reducing wastage in the production, storage, and transportation of the timber. Concrete is another example of a product whose production is quite energy-intensive. Renovating an existing home in lieu of a complete rebuild saves many, many cubic meters of concrete. In a nutshell, any material that can be reused rather than replaced means less impact on the environment.

Cost

One of the final points which will influence your decision to renovate or rebuild is, of course, cost. Determining which option will be the most cost-effective for your unique situation is key. Note that we said, ‘cost-effective’, not cheapest. Thinking solely in terms of the cheapest option is the quickest road to disaster you can follow.

The biggest piece of advice we can give is never to simply go with the cheapest option. Instead, make sure to fully compare quotes in an apples-to-apples frame of mind. You may pay a bit more for a better builder, but think of what it could cost, now and in the future, if a builder rushes a job, lacks comprehensive project management skills, or just flat out gets it wrong.

When weighing costs, it’s not just the cost of the build you need to consider. If you are thinking of a knock-down rebuild, you will have to take into account the expense of alternative living arrangements for a period of months, not to mention moving and storage costs, which could add up to a surprising figure.

So How Do You Decide?

While many builders can give you a rough quote for a knock-down rebuild, you do need a specialist renovation builder who understands the challenges and complexities to give you a thorough estimate of a major renovation. This will allow you to gauge the full list of pros and cons of each.

Ensure that your builder can show you evidence via testimonials that they are confident and competent with both large-scale major home renovations and knock-down rebuilds before you commit to them.

Also, allow yourself plenty of time to make the decision. Gather all your data and talk to as many people as you need to in order to feel comfortable before you leap in. Whichever way you decide to go, whether it be a major home renovation or a knock-down rebuild, the team at Smith & Sons are able to complete both types of projects, from design to completion.


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