Remodel vs. Tear down

tear down house Remodel vs. Tear down
If you’re new to a fixer-upper, or even if you’re just considering remodeling your old house, you’ve probably addressed the renovate vs. tear down question. If not, now’s the time to do it. Of course it’s a personal decision, but there are pros and cons to each one but it’s worth further scrutiny.


This article is geared specifically towards houses on the Cape and the Islands, but professional architects and contractors weigh in on making a decision, and their advice can be helpful for any homeowner.

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timothy dahl profile Remodel vs. Tear down

Timothy Dahl

Founder/EIC at Charles & Hudson
Timothy’s background includes stints at This Old House, ELLE DECOR, Metropolitan Home and Woman’s Day. His work has been published on Wired Design, Bob Vila, DIY Network, The Family Handyman and Popular Mechanics and he has been featured on the Martha Stewart radio show and as a speaker at the ALT Design Summit, K/BIS and the National Hardware Show.
  • http://www.happylivingdesign.com Erinn

    It is great that you are bringing up this question. Whereas years ago a lot of our clients come into the office assuming that they will tear down an existing home to make way for a new one. But moreso we are seeing them be a bit more conscientious about their decision both from a historical preservation standpoint and from an environmental one. We send so much building material to landfills each year it is scary. Thank goodness for salvage yards that are popping up. And new construction uses so much more energy than renovating when it is feasible. We are now strongly encourging our clients to renovate and add on now and also to build smaller. And I hope this trend is here to stay and not just a symptom of the supposed ‘soft’ real estate market.

  • Timothy

    Thanks Erinn – you make a great point. There is now a much bigger market for salvaged materials and homeowners are finding decorative and functional uses for these pieces that would be to costly to reproduce new and they often times wouldn’t have the same character.

  • Allison

    I am a big fan of restoration and I think the main reason that many houses are torn down is because the contractors don’t know how to fix them. You need an old house contractor who understand the nuances — not a modern home builder. They have their place if you want new construction, but you will never get the same level of character.

  • http://www.happylivingdesign.com Erinn

    Allison, Definitely contractors’ knowledge and even willingness to work on existing homes comes into play. Some of them don’t know where to begin when doing renovation or restoration work. Others just can’t be bothered. But fortunately we are seeing more contractors appreciating that type of work.

  • Timothy

    As with many choices in life, money is many times the main culprit that makes the decision as to whether or not an older home is restored or torn down. The intentions to maintain a home can be there but if it doesn’t fit into the budget then something has to go and its usually the structure. Time is also a major concern as homeowners typically don’t want to wait months or years to restore a historical home when they could have a brand new, albeit more sterile home, in a short time.

  • Allison

    Just be careful of contractors who throw out huge cost estimates for redoing old houses. Oftentimes, the contractors just don’t want to remodel and would rather build new. One friend got a quote for $300K for new electrical in a 2,500 square foot house. Really? What could they possible do for all that? If you break it down by hour, it’s outrageous and not in the realm of realism.Always question those estimates!