Why go to the trouble of rebuilding a house from the ground up when there are plenty of beautifully renovated homes on the market? In the core of a city like Toronto, the housing stock is mostly old. The reality is that an older renovated house cannot offer what a well-constructed rebuild does: less maintenance, greater energy efficiency and more cohesive design.
Like cars, the older a house becomes, the more likely it will need major repairs because its component parts have limited life expectancies. The typical lifespan of the key components of a house are listed in Carson Dunlop’s The Home Reference Book. Naturally, they vary depending on climate, design, quality of workmanship/installation and maintenance.
But what if the house has been renovated and many of these elements have been replaced? The house will inevitably need greater maintenance than a completely new home. When will depend on: (1) the condition of the remaining pre-existing home parts; (2) the quality of the renovations; and (3) how effectively and appropriately the updates were integrated into the existing structure.
With a completely rebuilt house everything is brand new, state-of-the-art, with known variables. If designed properly, it all works well together too. This allows you to relax and enjoy your new home with minimal preventative maintenance.
Greater Energy Efficiency
Old homes are notoriously energy inefficient. Even with retrofits, there are limits to how energy efficient a house can become. Have a look at the EnerGuide ratings of older homes as seen on knowyourenergyscore.ca. According to this table, a renovator would never be able to achieve the same energy rating score as a new home that was designed to be energy efficient. Older homes score from 0 to 50 points. The most an energy efficient upgraded older home can score is 66 to 74.
When you rebuild a house from scratch, you have the opportunity to use design, higher construction standards and materials, and new technological advances to minimize the amount of energy the house requires. Design choices that maximize energy efficiency include window placement and effective use of the lower level (basement) of the home. Higher construction standards and materials create building envelopes that are better sealed and insulated, and reduce heat loss and gain. New technological advances include more energy efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems like air-source heat pumps. Energy efficient new homes score 75 to 79; with highly energy-efficient new homes scoring 80 to 90. This is more environmentally sound, and also reduces your monthly utility costs.
More Cohesive Design
Renovations are often limited by existing features of the home that might otherwise be too expensive to move–like exterior walls, windows, stairs, chimneys or plumbing. Because it’s not ‘good value’ to move them, it’s common for renovators to maintain many of these features and design around them. This creates design limitations that can make a renovated house often look and feel disjointed at best, or result in a complete failure in creating the desired look and feel of the space.
In a rebuild situation, the architect has a blank slate. They set the footprint and floor plan of the house, giving them much more flexibility. This permits design that’s very creative and space efficient. They are not limited by anything other than the lot–its size and features, and the applicable by-laws, so they can design and build your ideal space.
Don’t get swept away
Renovated homes present well at showings, especially if they are in great neighbourhoods. Keep these things in mind and be careful not to get swept away by beautifully staged homes–look deeper. A rebuild may seem like more work, but it will be more sustainable and enjoyable as a long-term home. If you are interested in discussing what a rebuild might look like for you, please feel free to contact me for an appointment.