From knockdown to knockout — starting from scratch could be the best thing you ever did
Many savvy homeowners or cashed-up investors are rethinking renovations in favour of starting with a clean slate – knocking down an existing dwelling and rebuilding a new one. Changing family needs over time can mean the cosy two-bedroom cottage you fell in love with is bursting at the seams when kids have come along. Or perhaps an older family member has moved in and another bathroom needs to be added, or the kids have flown the nest and your family home is too big for just a couple.
When a home no long suits the needs of the homeowners, generally one of two things happens: the homeowners renovate or relocate.
Both of these options can present challenges, says Phillipa Harrison from Rawson Homes. “Research shows that moving house is one of life’s most stressful experiences. Second to that — besides being audited — is probably renovating a house,” she says.
Moving away and saying goodbye to familiar places and faces you love isn’t easy, particularly if you are in a neighbourhood you love and the kids are settled in school. So for smaller projects like revamping a bathroom or sprucing up a tired kitchen with new cabinetry, staying put makes good sense. However, if you’re planning a major renovation there is a third option — demolishing the existing home and building a new one in its place.
Deciding to knockdown and rebuild is a choice that’s gaining popularity according to Geordan Murray, an Economist at HIA. “Typically between 15 per cent and 30 per cent of new homes built are the result of knockdown rebuilds in the detached home market,” he says.
Renovate or detonate?
There are many good reasons to choose knockdown rebuild over a renovation. Renovations can be notorious for taking longer than anticipated, and they can put a bigger dent in the hip pocket. Brett Ward from Brett Ward Homes says knockdown and rebuilds can also cost less than major renovations. “Some older homes no longer comply with the BCA, therefore, with renovations, it becomes very costly to bring the existing dwelling up to code,” he says.
But that’s not all. Phillipa explains that there can be also be hidden elements in renovations that aren’t always obvious. “This can include hidden asbestos that is often sheeted or clad over, foundations that are subsiding or not adequate to take the extension, or termites may have caused extensive damage to the structure of your house,” she says. With a knockdown and rebuild, there are no nasty surprises to escalate costs — once you have agreed on a price from your building contractor.
More good reasons to knockdown and rebuild
With modern technology, the structural integrity of the new build will be stronger than the old one, due to advancements in building practices and product development.
Geordan says if you start again from the ground up, you can also build a cleaner, greener home. “Environmentally friendly innovations have come a long way over the last decade,” he says. “There are improvements in passive solar; with insulation and double-glazed windows, for example, and we now know more about energy efficiency. Homes are also being built that are better orientated to the block,” he says.A knockdown rebuild can also allow you to value add on a larger block by building duplexes if your home is becoming too old to repair and you don’t need as much room; you could live in one and rent out the other.
So what is a knockdown and rebuild?
For the uninitiated, Kevin Hincksman from Garth Chapman Homes says, “Put simply, it is the full removal of the existing home from that site to have a complete new canvas to work with; a new home is built on the same site.”
How does the process work?
There’s more to it than swinging around a wrecking ball and bulldozer to raze the home and then bringing in building crews to build a fresh new one. Demolishing a home and building a new one takes time, energy, patience and a raft of paperwork. You need to tackle issues of applying for necessary permits to demolish, and source somewhere else to live for the duration of the process (which can be anywhere from 12–18 months depending on the complexity of the project).
Before you start, review your title documents and consult with council to ensure you are legally able to knockdown and rebuild. In some areas there can be heritage issues that may be prohibitive, for example a heritage overlay that identifies sites that have either local or state heritage values. Once you know you can go ahead with the project, source a quality, professional builder with knockdown rebuild experience to guide you through the process.
Steve Hadfield from Fowler Homes suggests finding a builder to tackle the project from start to finish. “Go with a builder to take you from the start of the process right through to fruition and you’ll be relieved of any stress, the builder can work with council and other authorities to ensure compliance and help make the journey as smooth as possible,” he says.
Once you’ve engaged your builder the fun begins! You can build your dream home with all of the modern inclusions, fittings and fixtures you’d like, without being limited to the footprint of the original home. Imagine the possibilities!
Written by Carrol Baker
Originally in BuildHome Volume 23 Issue 2