House Addition vs. New Custom Home

House Addition vs. New Custom Home

Throughout the Toronto area, homeowners are looking to add more space to their homes.  Some are choosing to build a house addition, while others decide to tear down and build a new house.   Which option is better when adding on more space?  Is it better to build an addition to the home, or simply tear down the house and start again?

We look at many house addition projects every month, and usually we determine that a house addition makes sense.  But recently, we have looked at several home addition projects where we recommended the homeowner look at tearing down and building a new home.

Here are the primary items we look at when deciding whether to recommend a house addition or a new custom home.

Foundation & Basement

The foundation and the basement of the home is one of the keys in deciding whether to add on or rebuild entirely.  If a basement has water leaking in, it will need to be waterproofed.  Exterior waterproofing is an expensive process, and can often be similar in cost to building new foundation.

Older basements in Toronto often have low ceiling heights, and homeowners sometimes look at lowering the basement floor to gain some ceiling height.  Lowering the floor, and underpinning the existing foundation is a manual and expensive process, which far exceeds the cost of a new foundation.

Most importantly, the foundation must be able to support the additional structure that is being added.  This is a key item with second storey and third storey additions.

Extent of Renovation

The amount of work being done to the home frequently determines whether adding on or rebuilding is the better option.  In the case of a second floor addition and main floor renovation, with no work being done in the basement – an addition is a sensible option.  When combined with significant basement and foundation work – such as underpinning, waterproofing, and major structural modifications – tearing down and rebuilding may be the more viable alternative.

Zoning & Building Code

Zoning regulations are often considered when deciding on a new build vs. a house addition.  For example, the zoning by-law may not permit the house to be built as close to the property line as it currently is.  By keeping the existing exterior wall in place, the homeowner can avoid having to move the wall to comply with current zoning regulations.

The building code has also changed since many of the homes were built.  For example, a window is no longer permitted within 1.3 metres (4 feet) of a property line, unless it is fire-rated.   By keeping existing side walls in place on your narrow Toronto lot, the window can remain, whereas with a newly built home, windows would not be permitted.

Case Study #1

The owners of a small Toronto bungalow are looking to add a second storey addition.  The second floor will have three bedroom and a bathroom, and the main floor will be renovated into an open concept living room, dining room and kitchen.  The basement is fully finished, and will remain as is.

The basement can support the new structure, and adding a second storey is a straight-forward project.  The cost of tearing down and rebuilding would be at least 50% more expensive than adding the second storey addition and renovating the main floor.

Case Study #2

The owner of an older Etobicoke bungalow wants to add a rear addition, and completely change the layout of the existing space.  The existing basement is unfinished, and the basement ceiling is low.  The plan is to underpin the back wall, so the new foundation will be deeper  with a higher basement ceiling.  While the work is being done, existing basement walls will be waterproofed.  New exterior wall finishes are being installed over the existing brick.

Underpinning and waterproofing are expensive items, and it costs more to demolish the roof and remove the interior finishes using manual labour than it does to tear down the entire house using machinery.  In this case, tearing down and building a new custom home would be less costly than building an addition, with the added benefit of a full height basement throughout.

Your Turn

Do you have a major house addition project in mind, and you need to determine if it makes sense, or whether building a new house would be a better option.  Contact us, we’ll be happy to discuss your project and you options.