Many homeowners opt to start with an existing structure when embarking on building a luxury lake home. Whether falling in love with the property, the home itself or, ideally, both, it is important to carefully weigh all options and really know the home before deciding how to proceed with a renovation: demolition versus renovation or somewhere in-between. The first step is really to consult with custom home building experts to determine the best way to achieve the perfect home solution. 

The home’s age is always a major factor, which can swing the pendulum both ways; a 100-year-old home provides several logistical and structural challenges for modernizing, yet the home may boast uniquely appealing or historically significant architectural and structural details. Additionally, the older the home, the more surprises may be uncovered once a renovation project is in full swing, particularly if it has had multiple owners. With that in mind, a good place to start when deciding whether to salvage some, all or none of the existing home is to know the following: 

  • What the real value of the home and property (lot) is 
  • Whether the home and/or neighborhood has any historical significance 
  • Whether the home has any structural problems, such as rot, mold, fire damage 
  • Is demolition a cost-effective option/procedure in your particular city/county 

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Permits are required for any demolition project, regardless of the extent of the demolition; this ensures that noise, potential exposure to hazardous materials and interruption to the neighborhood is documented. The demolition must conform to building codes and bylaws, which is agreed to upfront when obtaining the permit. Costs vary greatly by municipality, as some wish to discourage total demolition, instead encouraging extensive renovations; thus, a demolition permit alone could be more than $10,000. 

Lake homes also come with their own challenges. If you build on the existing footprint you may be able to actually keep the area that you can build on. When tearing down a lake home, current laws come into effect on your impervious space and distance the home is to the lake. 

Aside from the permit, other demolition costs can vary greatly, factors of which include: 

  • Size of the structure 
  • Foundation type and whether it needs to be demolished 
  • Home’s building materials; brick (more expensive) versus wood 
  • Hazards that need to be removed (asbestos, lead paint, debris) 

Total demolition may initially seem more attractive in terms of both time and cost; deconstruction is slower as elements of the building are carefully preserved and stored for later use. While deconstruction or partial demolition is more time consuming and expensive on the front end, it could end up being more cost effective once the project is complete, once factoring in associated tax breaks and the sale and re-use of salvaged materials. Oftentimes, a middle of the road between total renovation and total demolition can be the best solution, particularly when the original home held great appeal and was purchased as a labor of love. 

Custom lake home building professionals, such as those at Colby Construction, have a long history of advising their clients towards the solution that best satisfies their criteria. Their main concern is to properly assess the conditions, advise on the advantages of all options, and proceed in the client’s best interest. Whether speed, cost or preservation is the ultimate goal, it is good to have the professionals chart the course.