3 Types of Remodels

I like to think about 3 levels of remodels:

The Cosmetic Fixer - This is the house with "good bones" and some good systems but in need of a limited number of major deficits. For example: it has a good foundation and framing, the electrical system needs some minor repairs and a few upgrades, it needs new paint and carpet and new kitchen cabinets and a 2nd bathroom.

In this case, the portions of the home that are in good condition still have a lot of value. Most areas might need some TLC and a select few need some significant upgrades.

Bulldozer Fodder - Tha's the other extreme end of the scale. The poorly built home or the home that has been mismanaged and used as a rental for the last 30 years. In reviewing the inspection report on this home it is hard to find a single system that can be left "as is".

It also lacks any "wonderful old charm". Whatever old trim might still exist has been damaged and painted over with many coats of paint. The electrical, plumbing, heating, roofing siding systems... are all in need of major rehabilitation or replacement.

It was not George Washington's home and he didn't sleep there. Its existence does not provide for some special zoning benefits.

It would be great if some of the material in the home could be salvaged. This might save some money and reduce global warming. But don't expect to make a lot of money on salvage.

The demolition costs could be high if some of structure contains hazardous material such as asbestos, an underground oil tank...

And then there are the ones in-between - and those are the projects that require a lot more analysis and planing and a lot of discipline - See A Building and Remodeling Checklist.

The devil is in the details. And possible the easiest way to convert a $100K project into a $750K project is to make a whole bunch of "small" changes. The light fixture that was going to cost $75 and ended up costing $400 and similarly a few hundred other like decisions.

The Bottom Line: Remodeling can save money if it is possible to save a significant portion of the existing structure. But if more than 1/2 of what is there now needs major rehabilitation or replacement then it might be less expensive to build new.