FAQ: Do I renovate or rebuild?

Journal – 26 April 2021
By Anna Dutton Lourie

This week I chatted to some lovely potential clients who had a mid-century house and they were struggling with whether they should renovate it or create a new home.

It’s a question we get so often that I thought it might be worthwhile to share our thoughts with anyone else who is facing the same challenge.

Firstly, a renovation to the right building can be a great result from a design, sustainability and cost perspective but only if it passes this test!

New Modern, Caulfield South. Mid-Century home before renovation.
New Modern, Caulfield South. Mid-Century home after renovation.

We have a simple three question review to help our clients make this decision:


1. Is the house or building in good condition?

Answer with a YES if it feels solidly built and there are no large cracks appearing, no springy squeaky floors, no damp on the walls (or on your nose!) and if the walls and floors are straight or level.

2. Are the majority of the rooms a good size to be re-used?

Answer YES to this one if you could imagine re-purposing most of the spaces with a continued or new use. For example in an existing house, are the bedrooms a size that you are happy with keeping? Are bathroom spaces large enough to be re-used?

3. Does the house or building have some architectural character and do you actually like it?

It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece but if it has something interesting to you and some charm answer YES to this question.


For the house or building to be an ideal candidate for a renovation, you need to have answered YES to all three of these questions. If you have answered yes to only two you could have a renovator on your hands but it may be similar in cost to a rebuild. If it is a NO to all, a new project will probably be your best option financially.

Brighton White House.

There are two final questions that may completely trump all of those above.


1. Are you emotionally attached to the existing house or building?

Perhaps it has been in your family for years or it may be the place of many wonderful memories.

2. Is the building actually an outstanding piece of architecture by a renowned architect?

In these cases a renovation is the only way forward even if you have answered NO to all of the questions above.


So there you go, a simple test for working out whether you should renovate or build.

Photography by Shannon McGrath.