By Herb Lagois
Building a new home has many advantages: flexibility with architectural design; energy-efficient solutions; indoor air quality control; alternate construction techniques; and green building techniques.
So why renovate?
Being able to stay in existing neighbourhoods with existing schools and mature landscaping are definite advantages for renovating and /or building additions. You can usually avoid up-front service costs such as Hydro fees, Lot development fees, driveways, and culverts.
Architecturally incorporating existing conditions can be challenging. However, the results can be spectacular, making your home meet your present day and future needs. An energy audit analysis can determine your home’s strengths and weaknesses and qualify it for Eco Energy Retrofit Grants http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/residential/personal/home-improvement.cfm?attr=0 This evaluation will suggest energy upgrades such as insulation, window replacement and mechanical upgrades. With energy upgrades, it is also important to consider indoor air quality, because renovating causes homes to become air tight, thus requiring a mechanical air exchange.
Green building techniques are easily incorporated into renovations and additions. In fact, renovating typically lessens the environmental impact by using fewer materials and by recycling existing materials. Furthermore, alternate construction materials such as ICF (Insulated Concrete Forms), SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) and spray foam insulations are easily incorporated into additions.
Renovations can be simple aesthetic changes up to completely removing all interior wall surfaces back to the basic structure, allowing for upgrades of electrical, mechanical systems, insulation and finishes. Heritage renovations often require elements to be restored, opposed to replacing with “modern style” materials.
Be aware, when considering major renovations and additions, that the work can be disruptive to everyday family living. Often the best solution is to temporarily move out. It’s a great opportunity for a family vacation!
Torn between “building new” or renovating?
Consult professionals: real estate agents for resale advice; architects or designers for design advice; RenoMark™ renovators for construction and cost advice. Qualified professionals are able to point out advantages and challenges so you can make informed decisions.
Critical to the success of any project is planning. Always use a design professional who is experienced with the type of project being considered and be sure there is open communication. Will they listen to your requests? Do they have experience with local zoning and by-law requirements?
Renovating or adding an addition is very rewarding. Watching your home transform into something that is designed for you and your lifestyle, designed to be energy efficient, designed to reduce the environmental impact, and designed to be healthy and comfortable: priceless.