Is a Full-Scale Renovation More or Less Expensive Than a New Build?

by | Feb 5, 2024 | Custom Builds | 0 comments

Is a Full-Scale Renovation More or Less Expensive Than a New Build?

I will start this article off by quickly explaining our definition of a full-scale renovation (some people use the term full remodel) in bullet form:

  • All or most existing finishes (drywall, siding, tile, flooring, millwork, plumbing and lighting fixtures, etc.) are removed.
  • Spaces are being redesigned, requiring most or all framing and rough-ins to be redone. This typically includes the roof.
  • Major rework of landscaping.
  • New windows and doors throughout the home

We have executed multiple full-scale renovation projects, and there are so few similarities between them that they all deserve their own individual blog. However, the motivation for pursuing a renovation instead of a new build is typically the same. They are:

  • Current bylaws and setbacks would require an unrealistic compromise on the square footage, design or layout of the new building.
  • An emotional attachment to the current home and wanting to preserve parts of it or maintain its character. 
  • Wanting to grandfather in certain parts of the home that are no longer permitted by the current building code or municipality.


Now for some simple arithmetic. Let’s say a potential new build on your property is a 6000 square foot home at a total construction unit cost of $950 per square foot. The latest build will cost $5,700,000. Now, your renovation will cost $650 per square foot, but by grandfathering in the footprint of your current home, you are holding onto an additional 1000 square feet of home. The renovation cost will be $4,550,000, a little less expensive than the new build and have more square footage. I assume very little excavation and concrete work in this basic example. There are other important considerations at this point, the most critical being that there is much more risk to the budget for the renovation than for the new build. Since we are inheriting any deficient or deteriorating conditions from the existing home, remedial work is often required, which cannot be planned for until these conditions are uncovered during the course of construction. Of course, there are things we do during the preconstruction phase of our renovation projects to discover as many of these conditions as soon as possible. Still, there are always some surprises during the construction phase. For this reason, we carry a more significant contingency for our renovation projects, with the amount being dependent on the scope of work of your project.

Another consideration is the schedule. Sometimes, a renovation can be performed in a shorter timeframe than a new build, but this again depends on the scope of work. We have worked on renovation projects that took longer than the potential new build option based on the required remediation work to any existing defective conditions. I have also found that the number of design changes that occur throughout the construction phase of a renovation project is substantially higher than that of a new build, which invariably increases the cost and elongates the schedule. This is only natural, as some “possibilities” are revealed throughout the construction process instead of being determined in their entirety during the design phase of a new build. This can be an exciting part of the process, but this needs to be considered for the schedule and budget-conscious. We have an array of tools at our disposal to execute any changes highly cost-effectively, but they almost always cost something.

Determining your primary needs and wants will be crucial in deciding which route is best for you. Gaining a detailed understanding of what you have and what you can do with your current home is equally important on our end. If you would like to discuss your potential project and specifics, please schedule a time for me to call you or call anytime.

Harrison Gould
Vista Coastal Builders

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2321 Greenwood Way, Squamish BC

P.O. Box 1140, Garibaldi Highlands V0N1T0