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Renovate or Demolish and Rebuild? Which is Better in Toronto?

If you live in an older home, you’ve likely asked yourself whether it makes more sense to do a gut remodel or demolish the home entirely, creating a blank slate on which to rebuild. The answer to this question is multifaceted. Not only should you carefully assess the quality of your home’s structure, but you should also look at area-specific home laws and analyze the costs and benefits of each option. Below, we’ve outlined the key factors you should consider before making your decision. 

Assessing the State of Your Home 

First, it’s important to evaluate your home’s structural integrity. If only individual pieces need to be replaced -- like new windows for added insulation and ease of use -- it will be more cost-effective for you to renovate. However, if your home suffers from widespread disrepair like a compromised foundation, poorly insulated walls, and water damage in the basement or roof, you may want to consider a full demolition and rebuild.

It’s a bit of a misnomer to say that any home is “beyond repair,” as skilled remodelers can shore up and fully replace materials in any existing structure, but the cost and effort of doing so is often not worth saving the old space. If you’re not sure whether your home needs only isolated repair or is extensively compromised, ask an experienced renovator to conduct a walk-through with you. 

Evaluating the Scope of Your Renovation

In addition to assessing the overall health of your home, it’s important to consider whether the alterations you have planned are minimal or extensive. Evaluate the disparity between your home as it is and your home as you imagine it could be. If your vision goes beyond simple layout reconfigurations, generic materials replacements, and a single addition, you should absolutely consider crafting a custom home rather than trying to significantly reshape your existing structure.

Cost to Renovate vs. Cost to Demolish and Rebuild in Toronto

It may come as a surprise that a gut renovation can be more expensive than demolishing and rebuilding. The national average cost to demolish a home in Ontario ranges between $3,000 and $35,000, with $20,000 as an approximate Toronto demolition cost with debris removal included-- and if you’re planning to renovate your home’s basement, you’d need to hire excavation services anyway.

Demolition costs aside, even building a custom home can be more cost-effective than performing a gut remodel. In Toronto, the average cost of building a custom home is between $375 and $550 per square foot, depending on a number of factors, such as the architectural complexity of the new build, the quality of materials selected, the number of luxury finishes included, and the location of the lot. 

This means that for a custom home measuring 3,300 square feet, the cost would be approximately $1,237,500 to $1,815,000, and a 6,600 square foot home might cost between $2,475,000 and $3,630,000. Because a gut remodel requires more sophisticated planning and execution in addition to multiple materials replacements, an extensive remodel can actually cost more than a custom home build.

Another very clear way to know it’s time to demolish is when your lot could be more valuable without a compromised home structure than with it. Considering that an average-sized lot without a structure costs more than 1 million dollars in Toronto, it often makes more sense for homeowners to demolish and rebuild their dream home in the exact style they want. 

Timeline: Demolition vs. Renovationnew home build in toronto lytton park

Homeowners may also be surprised to learn that building a custom home is often more time-efficient than performing a full gut remodel. This is in large part due to the demolition phase. Whereas a full home demolition in preparation for a new build takes only four days, demolishing specific areas of a home in preparation for renovation must be done by hand with manual tools to avoid excessive damage to whichever parts of the home’s structure remain. Because of the complexity and care with which a gut remodel must be approached, the full timeline of the renovation may exceed the time it takes to build a custom home.

Added Benefits of Rebuilding

Demolishing your existing structure and building a custom home has many ancillary benefits besides time and cost savings. Often, you’ll realize cost savings in energy efficiency down the road since you can capitalize on advances in building materials and technologies. This is especially true if the original home was not well maintained or was built with shoddy quick-production home methods. It goes without saying that the best part of building a custom home in Toronto is that you can craft the home of your dreams.

Best Neighbourhoods to Build Custom Homes in Toronto

One important caveat to the answer that it can make more business sense to demolish and rebuild than to perform a gut remodel is that certain neighbourhoods in Toronto, like Rosedale, are protected by heritage home rules. If you own a protected historic home, you won’t be able to demolish and rebuild it without investing significantly in legal proceedings. This often costs time as well as money. 

However, there are several other Toronto neighbourhoods with older homes and more lenient demolition laws. A great example is Lytton Park, where SevernWoods recently collaborated with Paul Raff Studio to deliver a BILD award-winning contemporary custom home.

Getting Started with Your Renovation or Rebuild

Want to know if your historic home is better suited for a renovation or a rebuild? Don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation.

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