Rebuild or Renovate – or Something In Between

Clients beginning their journey towards a better home often wonder whether it’s best to renovate or to rebuild.

It is an important question to ask, so let’s have a look at your options. There are three logical options in response to this question, and which one is most appropriate for you will depend on your budget, your location, and your design aspirations.

An open light extension to an existing home
Creative design opportunities with new building enclosure – second storey void over the living room increases natural light to the adjacent dining and kitchen areas. 

Option 1 – Build a New Home

Building a new home provides many great opportunities, the biggest being that beginning from scratch means you are working with a blank canvas.

With a great design your home can incorporate the natural features of your site, including views, particular landscape and vegetation, and solar orientation. A smart design would incorporate passive solar design[1] in the design and the materials used for your new home, to minimise the cost of heating and cooling.

Working with a blank canvas means that you do not have to work within the confines of an existing layout (plan). A custom designed home can be designed around you and your lifestyle. It can be as big or small as you desire, and tailored to the specific needs of you and your family – now, and for the future.

The internal planning of your home can be designed around you and your site’s features. We can design your home so the spaces where you spend most of your time during the day will optimise daylight and result in a pleasing indoor-outdoor integration.

The only limitations affecting a new home design are the location of your site, your budget, and your imagination.

Pros: You can build a home to suit you entirely that will last many lifetimes, with sustainable features that will make your home highly efficient to heat, cool and maintain.

Cons: It can be expensive. It also has a bigger impact on the environment to tear down an existing building: (where does that rubble go?), and the manufacturing of new building materials uses a lot of resources.

Ornate Entry Hall to a grand old home
Renovations to an existing stately home in Clifton Hill.

Option 2 – Renovate your existing home

Renovating an existing home can be satisfying and highly rewarding, but also very challenging. It comes down to the quality of your current home, and what small changes can be made to have big results. Regardless of the size and features of your current home, the key to renovating is getting maximum value out of what you already have.

No matter how long you have been in your current home, it is likely to hold many happy memories for you. Consider why you want to renovate. Is it because your family is growing and your home simply cannot accommodate the different needs of your family? Maybe you want to update the look and feel of your home, or maybe you simply want to make a drafty house more efficient to heat in winter.

A lot depends on the current conditions of your home, so we put together a few notes on this titled Other matters to consider” towards the end of  this article.

The limitations to renovating are the state of your current home, your budget, your objectives and your imagination. It can be very helpful to have an expert with a trained eye have a look at your home to see what its potential and limitations are.

There are many benefits of renovating. You know and understand the nuances of your home, as well as your location and your neighbourhood. You can keep the character and features of your much loved home, and update it to suit your needs.

Pros: You get to keep your current home, and change it to suit your lifestyle better, and you’re ‘recycling’ your home in a way.

Cons: You have to work with what you’ve got, which can be challenging, and possibly live in a building site for a period of time.


Pergola addition and pool
Rebuild or Renovate? Small adjustments and additions to an existing home can make huge improvements – new extension to the rear of an existing home plus the addition of pool, Clifton Hill Home (just completed).

Option 3 – Renovate and Extend your Existing Home

As well as renovating, you can also add to your existing home to give yourself some more room. With this option you will also keep the character and features of your current home, and adapt the existing building to new function(s), adding new areas designed specifically for you and your family.

This is the most common choice for a lot of people, and there are good reasons for that.

You bought your current home for a reason – there is something about it that you fell in love with. Perhaps it just no longer accommodates you comfortably, or you want to add some light to certain areas.

When you use smart and sensible design to renovate and extend your home, it can set you up for your current and future life stages. With contemporary and smart design, older homes with charm but an awkward layout can be made into welcoming, light and spacious homes. Connect your living areas with your garden, bring light into dark corners and use sustainable design to maximize natural resources for heating, cooling and maintaining your home.

Pros: You get to keep your current home and making it bigger, change it to suit your lifestyle better, and you’re ‘recycling’ your home in a way.

Cons: The restrictions of your site and current home can be challenging, and you may have to move out or live in a building site for a while.

Whichever option suits you best, we recommend speaking to an expert at the very beginning of your project. This will quickly clarify your project motivations, whilst establishing the most cost effective and appropriate way forward considering your needs and budget.

Our Site Appraisal Service will help you get the most out of your block of land, and our Briefing Service can help you get all your ideas and wishes turned into a clear design brief.

Call or email us today to discuss your project needs, or book either our “Site Appraisal Service” or our “Briefing Service” here. Our “Discovery Package” combines the two options. These bite size services will get your home design off in the right direction.

Other Matters To Consider

Location of Your Site – If your site is located in area requiring a planning permit, and you have an existing building on your site, you may have to keep part of your existing home. In many cases this means that you will be compelled to retain the ‘front’ portion of your home.

In cases such as these we highly recommend checking the statutory planning requirements that affect your site specifically, before too much of your time and efforts are spent on developing any ideas. Our Site Appraisal Service could help you here.

The Condition of Your Home  – You may be considering keeping a significant portion of your existing home to save money. Will it really save you money though, and what will you need to compromise along the way?

When renovating a home, often a decent proportion of the construction budget needs to be allocated to rectification works. This might include reconstructing the subfloor and wall structure simply to make the floors level, or to support new areas to be constructed over.

Or maybe you simply want to update those areas to bring them into the 21st century, adding new lighting, cabling and appliances. Often flooring and internal linings need to be demolished and replaced – this can add more time and money to the cost of your construction budget.

But there is a strong argument to keep what you can – the old can often be character-filled, quirky, or simply be full of memories. Or maybe you are aware of the carbon footprint of your home – to rebuild requires destruction of all those materials.

Turning a home around to engage with northern light and garden aspect
Renovations and Additions to Existing Residence, Thornbury. A great example of adapting an existing home to serve its contemporary requirements. Only a modest multi-purpose room and deck were required to complement the renovations.

CASE STUDY – Bringing an Old Love to Life

“I could see Cathi understood where we were at. I knew how I wanted it to function but I didn’t know how I wanted it to look, or how it could look. That is where Cathi came in.”

– Donna

This project was a complete overhaul of a very much-loved two-bedroom residence. Our client wanted their old home renovated and extended into one that embraces contemporary living and entertaining outdoors.

The renovation included improved integration of the house with the rear garden and northern orientation. A new multi-purpose room was added, and the existing kitchen, bathroom and laundry areas were renovated.

The new design simply turns the home around to face the garden at the rear of the site, and embrace solar opportunities of northern exposure.

Head to our project summary to learn more more about the transformation of this home in Thornbury.

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