Restoring an OLD farmhouse VS building new?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Quiver0f10, Nov 30, 2003.

  1. Quiver0f10

    Quiver0f10 Well-Known Member

    Jun 17, 2003
    We really like where we are but we are just not sure it would be a worthy investment to restore this place. It is 100 years old and needs everything but a new well. Wiring, plumbing, a bathroom, septic, roof, foundation, a lot of the floors sag, walls cracked and the windows are awful. It needs a new oil heater and possible a new wood stove. Basically we would "gut" the place and start over.

    The price of the house is pretty good but land is this area is also pretty good. So we are tossing around the idea of building a new house instead. Good thing about restoring the farm we could a lot of the work ourselves, and live here as we worked. With building, we'd probably have to get a GC and rent a place till the house is finished. I just am not sure if we will wind up putting more $ into this house then if we built new. Anyone ever do this? Adive or opinions?

  2. Ann-NWIowa

    Ann-NWIowa Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 28, 2002
    If you want to avoid a mortgage and if you can do the work yourselves and if you don't mind living in a mess indefinitely I'd certainly consider redoing the old house. However, I'd have a professional house inspector/engineer go through it carefully to detemine if it is structurally sound and make sure you know exactly what all needs to be done. For a large family like yours building new is going to be VERY expensive to get the same amount of space. Personally I'd consider hiring the plumbing, electrical, furnace, foundation work done asap then work as time and money allows on the rest.

  3. Alice In TX/MO

    Alice In TX/MO More dharma, less drama. Supporter

    May 10, 2002
    Texas Coastal Bend/S. Missouri
    Yes, I have done this. We remodeled / renovated my husband's parents' house. It is an early 1900's two story frame house, five bedroom. We did as much as we could ourselves, got family to do some. New wiring, roof, leveling, plumbing, windows, paint inside and out, insulation, etc etc etc....


    Personally, if the house is as bad is it sounds like, you might want to just build.
  4. bulldinkie

    bulldinkie Well-Known Member

    Nov 12, 2003
    We did and you wouldnt get me out of for anything.I had new. My husband is a contractor with equip.and all.we saved big time.Otherwise we probably wouldnt have done it. Are you just fixing it up or actually restoring.?That can get pretty pricey.we restoredours its a 1700 precivil war.brick.We had it chemical wash instead of sandblasting,saves brick biodegradable.Put all new windows from a guy who restores cost a fortune. But new everybody has the same thing,plastic shutters I wanted the old It will stand another 200 years.
  5. harmony

    harmony Well-Known Member

    Aug 27, 2002
    I agree with Rose. If I had it to do over, I would build new. And just may do it this next time.
  6. Janon

    Janon 993cc Geo Metro

    Aug 25, 2002
    Southern Ontario CANADA
    With a new house (or anything which does not need repair), you pay all upfront. Restoring an existing house means you can somewhat "pay as you go". From what you describe, it probably will cost more than building new. Restoring also takes a great deal of time, effort and patience. Restoring anything (car, house, whatever) takes far longer and costs much more than you ever expect. I know many folks that have the knowledge and equipment to do various home repair/restore tasks themselves... they just don't have the time.

  7. Polly in NNY

    Polly in NNY Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    Check with your local code enforcement officer. Some states and counties have adopted International Code, which is a bear to meet. I'd restore if that were the case.
  8. stickinthemud

    stickinthemud Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 10, 2003
    SW PA
    After six years of indecision we just signed a contract to have our dream/nightmare old house torn down. Whatever you do, look at your options realistically, decide, and DO whatever you decide to do.
    DH says look into build new small and plan it to add more doing as much as you can yourself.
  9. Mike in Ohio

    Mike in Ohio Well-Known Member

    Oct 29, 2002
    If you are having to go to the extent of redoing foundations, etc I would be hesitant. We have an old farmhouse which was in pretty good shape. Bit by bit we are upgrading what needs done (plumbing, electric, etc). We like our house.

    At our farm, there is no house so we must build new. We thought about moving a house from somewhere else but to get something back to where we want to place the house wouldn't be feasible.

    A lot depends on you. From your description though it sounds like a major long term project that will cost quite a bit of money (and/or labor)

  10. Oxankle

    Oxankle Well-Known Member

    Jun 20, 2003
    What do you have now and what will you have when you finish? If you can rebuild your old house for less than a new one of that size, and if you will have a GOOD house when you finish that will be the best way. Remember that if you build new you will have to do the work and choose the materiels yourself or see contractors using the cheapest, shoddiest material they can get by with.

    Are the foundations sound? Is the floor plan good, or can you change it to suit you in the rebuild?

    Can you put in modern heat/AC, modern plumbing and modern electricity in the rebuild without demolishing the whole house? Is the basic structure, the sills, the joists, the rafters and flooring sound enough that you can use some or all of them?

    When you get done, will you be satisfied with the results?

    If you can do the remodel you will have a remodeled home, even it looks and behaves just like a new one in a new subdivision. This means that on the tax rolls it stays pretty much like it is now. A new house is going to be a tax appraisers picnic. I have a friend who bought a two room shack on the land he wanted, then began his remodeling. When done he had a new home built around the original shack. If you looked hard when he was about half done you could find the shack as his kitchen and part of the garage. A remodel job on the tax rolls here in Ok.
  11. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    May 11, 2002
    Keep in mind if you decide to replace with new many places will allow you to live in a mobile home using the same utilities as the house until it is finished. Used mobile homes can be picked up very cheap. That way you are there to oversee what the contractors does.

    If you do rehab you can string out the cost by doing it as money permits. New you do pay up front, buy the mortgage strings out the cost also.

    If you love the look and feel of what you have now, replicating it might be a possibility. You may even be able to salvage woodwork to reuse.

    Ken S. in WC TN
  12. wr

    wr Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    Aug 10, 2003
    Alberta, Canada
    New or a complet renovation will probably cost the same so you need to ask yourself what you want when you're finished. Do you want a new house or do you prefer the idea of a lovely quaint old house. I'm partial to quaint old houses but I do know that there is just as much expense associated with returning them to their original glory as building new but I find that a new house lacks soul and history. Good luck with the choice you make.
  13. owhn

    owhn Well-Known Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    I would suggest considering a middle ground.

    This would involve building a small new addition to the house. This allows you to develop the skills, equipment etc. and assess your level of gumption, as well as pay for it as you go. Plus you can rebuild the most critical portions first, if you plan carefully.

    Over time you can expand the addition and/or incoporate all or part of the old house into the new house.

    If you do the latter, you may be able to save either elements of the old house that you value entirely (say, an old living room) OR salvage construction materials that add to the value of the new arrangement either architectutally or just as raw materials.

    Just my thoughts.


  14. Don Armstrong

    Don Armstrong In Remembrance

    May 8, 2002
    central New South Wales, Australia
    I was about to ask whether you could consider doing what Owhn suggested. Build on a new wing, compatible in external appearance to the old building, but containing all the services - kitchen with family room, bathroom, laundry, toilets, maybe even a basement and furnace if you go that way. Then you could continue using the old building for non-critical stuff, refurbishing as you go.

    Not recommending it - you would have to decide. Just saying it's a possible approach. Personally, I'd approach anything which needs foundations renewing with extreme caution. Unless, that is, you could get beams under the building, jack it up, build completely new foundations from scratch, then lower the house again onto the new foundations.
  15. mysticokra

    mysticokra Well-Known Member

    Feb 5, 2003
    Estillfork, Alabama
    We had a similar 90 year old house on the farm we bought last year. I purchased the property based on the land alone and originally expected to tear down the the house. However, I hired an inspector to give me an opinion and was glad I did. His detailed report suggested that the fundamental structure was quite sound. This gives us the flexibility to gut the place and re-work for half of what it would cost to build a new one.

    The limitation is the existing structure. I am determined to move the stairs, but that requires a little engineering. We figured out that we could tear out the middle section, put in a second story vaulted ceiling, move the stairs and have a kick-butt house. Try not to see it as it is, but as you want it to be.
  16. Sharon in NY

    Sharon in NY Well-Known Member

    May 11, 2002
    Another compromise position might be looking for an old house in better shape - around here, old houses in reasonable condition are considerably cheaper than newer houses in the same situation. If you get an old house with mostly cosmetic needs, you can take your time about fixing it up.

    We're insane, so we're doing both - we're building a new wing on to the old house, while simultaneously renovating (husband's grandparents are moving in with us), and everything is costly - both ways. The difference is that with the old house, you can do it over a long period of time, with the new one, everything gets done (and paid for) at once.

    I don't know where you are, but here in upstate NY, you definitely would get more for your dollar with an old house, if bought carefully. We could afford a small new house or a large old one, and a really solid old house like ours will probably last longer than a lot of cheaper new construction. There's something to be said for 2 1/2 foot stone foundations :) . We looked carefully at both options, and could afford more land and more interior space if by not building new. That may not be the case for you, but with 9 kids, I'd assume that *big* is a priority - it was for us based on planned family expansion, and I'm grateful that we did what we did.

    We found a lot of old farmhouses on land that had either been turned into two families or which had a fairly large number of bedrooms (usually not too many baths, though ;) ) that were hard to sell precisely because they were big, unweildy and more than most people wanted to deal with.

  17. Tracy

    Tracy Well-Known Member

    May 2, 2002
    Nobody has mentioned property taxes!!! We just bought a 62 acre farm and the taxes are $900 a year. Our other house we rented with option to buy [same township] is close to $2000.00 a year. Why, our old farm house is old the rented house is only 20 years old and on only 4 acres. As soon as you put up new buidings your taxes will sky rocket. Something to consider.
  18. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2003
    Restoring is quite expensive and something one does for the love of doing it. Remodeling, or updating is a different.

    When I lived in CA. the whole area was new. An old house was one that was 20 years old. It was quite a shock to move to the midwest. I thought for sure that a leaning house would surely fall over (in the next earthquake, no doubt), or that old pipes surely wouldn't work, and old wiring would surely result in my firey death.

    I was wrong. Leaning, sagging houses have leaned and sagged for a long time. They don't just fall over one day. Old pipes might be cranky, but they work for the most part. Old wiring can be safe enough, if one understands it's limitations.

    My house is 133 years old. The windows are all original, but the wind blows straight through them. A lot of caulk and an investment in storm windows ended that.

    One corner leans pretty good. The porch is sagging. I'll fix that someday.

    The pipes freeze in the winter if we forget to leave a tap on, the sinks clog up sometimes, the basement floods on occassion. No big deal, we live with it.

    The last owner wallpapered everything. Probably to cover cracks. I'm not peeling it off to find out! I can learn to live with it. What I absolutely couldn't stand, I painted over (something I thought I'd never, ever do).

    If you are not used to living in an old house, you might find that it's not as bad as it first appears. Things that used to leave me in shock, don't anymore. It's just different.

  19. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2002
    South West MI
    If you want new try to sell the house your in to be moved. Take the money and get a temporary permit for a trailer and build your new home or convert part of a old barn or new one to living areas.

  20. texican

    texican Well-Known Member

    Oct 3, 2003
    Carthage, Texas
    As a contractor who works on old houses, I can tell you that remodeling costs more than building new.

    The key is ...can you do this work for yourself, or will you have to hire someone like me to do the work for you. If you can't do it yourself, it's going to cost you whether you remodel or build new. If you have to redo your plumbing, electrical, and upgrade other stuff, you're looking at a whole lot of work. Doing it yourself, you could do it in stages. And you can learn as you go. Mistakes aren't a problem, just redo them. Learn from your mistakes, learn to repair them, and your skill level rises quicker.

    For example, your kitchen floor and ceiling are sagging, you need new plumbing and the wiring is bad/old/dangerous. I could build you a brand new kitchen on a slab for what it'll cost me to replace your floor, ceiling, and modernize your utilities. Plus, you have something new, with a warranty. If I remodel, I only guarantee what I do, not somebody else's work. So if I fix your ceiling, I'll guarantee that, but if your pipes keep leaking, or the roof springs a leak, I can't cover that.

    My personal kitchen is too small, and the cabinets aren't the best. Unfortunately I know how much it'll cost to redo the kitchen, and find it'll be cheaper just to build another house on top of the hill.