Remodeling vs. New Construction: Which One is Right for You?

by Alexander Fraser

As someone who deals mainly with commercial renovation work, I can tell you that it can become a unique situation. 

If I had the choice, I would like to work on new home construction jobs. Unfortunately, this is not feasible for every specific project. 

I prefer new construction because there are fewer chances for unforeseen structural issues. Most renovation projects I’ve been on experience delays due to unexpected problems. 

It doesn’t mean that every project will have an unforeseen problem. As a property owner, you would be the one to make the final decision to either renovate or build new. 

In this article, we will look at the differences between home remodeling vs. new construction. 

If you’re a homeowner reading this, then you’ll see what might be the best option for you. But if you’re a general contractor, you’ll understand what to expect between the types of projects. 

Both options will have their pros and cons. You already know my preference for the project, but let’s closely examine their differences. 

I’ll cover the following topics as we compare home remodeling vs. new construction. 

Click on any of the topics above to jump right to the section you want to learn more about. 

comparison between remodeling vs. new construction, remodeling vs. new construction

Expected Timeline for Remodeling vs. New Construction

Duration for a Remodeling Project

Generally, your renovation-type projects will take less time to complete. 

Here’s why. With remodeling, you don’t need to bring down an existing building or perform site work to prep the foundation. You can work with the existing structure or framework. 

Using the existing components of the building can expedite the construction process. 

One word of caution, if you run into unforeseen issues like water damage or lead paint, this could halt your project. Depending on the severity of the problem, it could result in a change order and cost more to complete the work. 

Also, if you need to figure out how to get the funds, this will further delay your job. 

That’s just the risk you take when it comes to renovation jobs. The older the building or older houses, the more issues you will tend to find.

Duration for a New Project

Since you need to build from the ground up with a new project, you can expect it to take longer. 

It will start from the site work to installing the underground electrical systems to preparing the foundation. 

On the bright side, you’re less likely to run into an unforeseen issue once you break ground. You can plan the build well in advance to reduce mistakes on the job. 

Some other items that can drive the length of the project are material lead times. You’ll need to consider the supply chain. New construction will require much more material, so you’ll need to check availability. 

The Cost of Remodeling vs. New Construction

The Cost to Remodel a Building or Home

Home remodeling can be a great way to update the space without a complete overhaul. It’s more cost-effective than new construction since you can reuse the existing structure. As a result, you’ll be working with a smaller budget. 

You should remember that the remodeling cost can vary depending on the scope of work. Things like materials, labor, and complexity can impact the final cost of the renovation. 

For example, RocketMortgage found that the cost to remodel a house in 2022 was between $15,000-$200,000. The amount can range greatly because your scope can vary quite a bit. 

On the one hand, you can have small renovations of, say, just your kitchen or redo an office space. The cost here would be minor when compared to a total gut job. 

A complete gut job costs $100,000-$200,000 to complete. 

The scope will come down to if the building is in good condition. An older, more rundown building will require additional work. 

If you choose to add additional dwelling units or add-ons to a building, you can expect higher costs too. 

The Cost of New Construction for a Building or Home

New construction offers a fresh start to design your dream home or building from scratch. It is typically more expensive than remodeling but gives you greater customization. 

With new construction, you can build your home or building to suit your needs. You’ll be less limited by the constraints of the existing structure. 

Factors that influence the cost of new construction are land acquisition, permitting fees, and the cost of materials and labor. You’ll need to consider these when weighing the costs of remodeling vs. new construction. 

RocketMortgage found that the average cost to build a home in 2022 was $285,956. The dollar amount is much more significant than your average remodeling job. 

As mentioned earlier, there are benefits to pursuing the new construction route. You should decide based on your budget, preferences, and long-term goals.

The Flexibility of Remodeling vs. New Construction

Flexibility of Remodeling

Home remodeling provides flexibility to a certain extent, allowing you to improve and adjust your existing space. It’s a great option for buildings or homeowners looking to modernize or expand without starting over. 

You should know that there are some constraints to a remodel. Factors such as structural constraints, existing floor plans, and local building codes can impact your build. 

Take these things into account when looking at a remodel. It can affect your ability to achieve your desired result. 

The Flexibility of New Construction

New construction, on the other hand, provides you with great flexibility. You can design and build your home or building to your specific preferences. 

With a new build, you can choose the floor plan, materials, and design elements that will benefit you most. 

While new construction is more flexible, it also comes with its own set of limitations. Land availability, zoning restrictions, and budget constraints can hold you back. 

When we look at remodeling vs. new construction, both have unique benefits and limitations. Make sure you’re familiar with the flexibility and constraints of each before you make a big decision. 

Consider your Location for Remodeling vs. New Construction 

The Location for Your Remodeling Project

When remodeling, your project may be limited to the existing location of the home or building. 

You’ll need to comply with the local zoning regulations and building codes. These can dictate property setbacks, building height, and architectural style. 

Also, consider that some areas have homeowners’ association rules, further limiting the scope of your remodeling project. Make sure you research what these rules are before you begin construction. If not, you could encounter some issues later in the project. 

The Location for Your New Construction Project

Unlike remodeling jobs, new construction allows you to select the location for your new home or building. 

The rules for zoning regulations and building codes will still apply here. 

Zoning regulations can impact factors such as:

  • Type of structure allowed (residential, commercial, etc.)
  • Minimum lot size
  • Building height restrictions
  • Required setbacks from property lines

While building code applies to the occupants’ safety, health, and well-being. It strives to address the aspects of construction such as:

  • Structural integrity
  • Fire safety
  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing
  • Energy efficiency

Spend some time researching your desired location and the zoning regulations that apply. Doing this will help you avoid any surprises during the construction process. 

Sustainability in Remodeling vs. New Construction

Sustainability in Remodeling

When it comes to sustainability, remodeling can be a greener option. Reusing an existing building structure reduces waste and saves energy. 

However, older buildings might have outdated energy systems and insulation, which could impact their overall energy efficiency. Upgrading these systems during the remodeling process can improve the building’s sustainability. 

Sustainability in New Construction

On the other hand, new construction offers the opportunity to build an energy-efficient home or building from the ground up. You can incorporate sustainable materials and eco-friendly technologies from a clean slate, such as solar panels and green roofs. 

While new construction might require more resources initially, the long-term environmental benefits can outweigh the initial impact. 

Peace of Mind with Remodeling vs. New Construction

Peace of Mind in Remodeling

With remodeling projects, there’s always the risk of unforeseen issues cropping up. This can lead to additional stress and unforeseen expenses, impacting your overall peace of mind. 

However, you can minimize these risks if you have a competent contractor and a well-planned project

Peace of Mind in New Construction

New construction projects generally offer greater peace of mind. Since you’re building from scratch, there are fewer chances for hidden issues to arise. 

You can also plan the build more efficiently, allowing you to address any potential problems early on. This can lead to a smoother construction process and greater satisfaction with the final result. 

Examples of Remodeling vs. New Construction

reroofing project before tear down, renovation vs. new construction, remodeling vs. new construction
Photo of before the renovation of an existing roof
During construction of the reroofing project, remodeling vs. new construction, renovation vs. new construction, repairs
During the renovation of an existing roof, installing the final ply of a built up roof
Structural Steel and Roof Repairs, Renovation vs. new construction, remodeling vs. new construction, repair work
Structural steel repair project due to corrosion
remodeling vs. new construction, steel replacement project
Following the removal and reinstallation of new structural steel members
remodeling vs. new construction, renovation vs. new construction, high rise building, new construction project
Photo of new construction in Honolulu, Hawaii. The construction of a new high rise building.

Conclusion

When deciding between home remodeling vs. new construction, you must weigh the pros and cons of each option. Consider your budget, timeline, flexibility, sustainability, and peace of mind. 

Ultimately, the right choice will come from your personal preferences and long-term goals. Consult with a professional contractor or architect to guide you in making the best decision for your specific project.

Before you go, consider checking out my post on punch list for construction. Whether you’re working on a renovation or new construction job, this will come into play to correct any deficiencies. 

Thank you for reading. 

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