Is a Large-Scale Renovation / Addition Right for You?

The Lemieux/Wolfe home – before.
The Lemieux/Wolfe home – after.
The Lemieux/Wolfe home – after.

You like your neighbors. You like the community, including the schools. It’s a good commute to work. But while you’re attached to your home in many ways, it needs major work. What do you do — move or stay where you are? And if you stay where you are, do you tear down the house and build a new one from scratch, or renovate what you’ve already got?

Many homeowners come to the point where they’re facing that last issue: the choice between a tear-down and a large-scale renovation / addition. Often times, it’s not any easy decision to make. At Custom Contracting, we’ve worked with several homeowners who concluded that a large-scale renovation / addition made sense. Here’s some perspective behind their thinking.

Weighing the Costs

As you can imagine, making major renovations generally costs a lot less than tearing down an existing structure and rebuilding.

And with that investment, you can make significant enhancements. For example:

  • Taking down walls and opening up spaces
  • Adding new living space
  • Reconfiguring the layout
  • Upgrading the electricity,plumbing, HVAC, etc.
  • Improving the energy efficiency

(It’s also worth noting that renovations are usually more eco-friendly because they  don’t require as much lumber and other materials.)

After running the numbers, Arlington’s Mark Druy and Johanna Rothman (featured in our  Client Spotlight) found a large-scale renovation was clearly the way to go.

“The house we bought [which Custom subsequently renovated] had enough for us to work with,” says Mark. “This was a more logical path for us than tearing down what was a perfectly good structure and then paying for demolition, removal and new construction. Why not take something with good potential and make it work for you and what you need?”

Custom clients Carrie Lemieux and Richard Wolfe considered buying another home be-cause they needed more space for their growing family. They wanted to stay in their neighborhood, but few homes were on the market. And those homes that were available, they felt, were either too big or overpriced because of the extensive renovations needed.

“This led us to explore the option of a major renovation to our existing home,” says Carrie. “Increasing the value of our home, not going through the home buying/selling process and being able to custom design something that fit our needs became the most attractive option.

“We spoke to three contractors and ultimately chose Custom be-cause they spent time in the proposal phase to paint a vision for what we could accomplish, which created a level of comfort to give us the confidence to jump into a major renovation.”

Deciding on a Plan

What will your large-scale renovation / addition look like? Based on our experience, common scenarios include:

    • Sticking with the current footprint or making a major addition     that adds living space
    • Converting a Cape to a colonial with a full walk-up attic
    • Finishing the basement and updating the bedrooms

Adding a new family room with a master suite above it

As you work through the various options, Custom can provide valuable assistance in terms of estimating budget, evaluating alternative solutions and much more.

Understanding Possible Roadblocks

Depending on the community in which you live, external factors may eliminate a tear-down from consideration. For instance, if you live in an official designated historic home or historic district, you may be prohibited from tearing down the structure. And if you don’t live in a historic home, zoning issues, building codes and conservation issues may present the same limitation.

Of course, some of these factors may impact a large-scale renovation / addition, too. For example, the following clause applies to Arlington homes designated as historical: “If you are proposing exterior changes to your house that affect more than 25 percent of a front or side elevation, then the town by-law requires that the Historical Com-mission review your plans in a public hearing.”

Again, Custom is here to help you navigate possible roadblocks like these. In addition, we have the project management experience that’s essential in successfully completing a large-scale renovation / addition (this Management Memo has more thoughts on that topic).

No matter what size remodeling project that’s on your mind, though, we’d be happy to discuss it. Give us a call at 781-648-2835 to get started.



Custom Contracting, Inc. 1267A Massachusetts Ave. Arlington, MA 02476 Phone: 781-648-2835 Fax: 781-648-0907 Email:

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