Remodel vs. Tear Down – Your Path to Home Transformation Decisions

Summary notes created by Deciphr AI
Summary Notes


Host Curtis Lawson welcomes guests Toner Kersting, Jeremy McFarlane, and Sandro Gonzalez to discuss the complexities of deciding whether to remodel, add on, or tear down an existing house. The conversation covers the importance of a collaborative team approach, considering architecture, engineering, and building performance. They emphasize the need for proper planning and execution, team assembly, and addressing structural integrity and building performance issues. The discussion also touches on the financial and practical implications of remodeling versus new construction, including tax benefits, permitting, and phasing the project. The podcast offers insights into making informed decisions about custom home projects, highlighting the value of expertise in achieving successful outcomes.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Podcast Episode

  • The podcast is aimed at professionals and homeowners interested in designing, planning, and building custom homes.
  • The host, Curtis Lawson, introduces the concept of a successful construction project as a house with four components: planning, team, communication, and execution.
  • The website for the podcast is provided for further information.

Guest Introduction

  • Toner Kersting, Jeremy McFarlane, and Sandro Gonzalez are introduced as guests.
  • Toner has recently undergone a business name change to Toner Home Performance.
  • Contact information for the guests will be provided at the end of the episode.

Key Discussion: Remodel, Add-on, or Tear Down

  • The hosts discuss the common dilemma homeowners face: whether to remodel, add on to, or tear down an old house.
  • The complexity of the decision warrants the expertise of architects, engineers, and performance specialists.
  • The conversation emphasizes the importance of a team approach to address architectural limitations, engineering possibilities, and performance upgrades.

"You got to approach it from the architecture and what are your limitations? Engineering, what can you accomplish? And then performance. How are you going to make an old house perform like a new house?"

  • This quote highlights the multi-faceted approach needed to decide on remodeling, adding on, or tearing down a house.

Architectural Considerations

  • The architect's perspective involves assessing the real estate investment potential, existing structure condition, and scope of work relative to the site.
  • Key considerations include deed restrictions, floodplain issues, and structural stability.
  • The architect's role is also to guide the homeowner in understanding the financial and practical implications of their decisions.

"First check is it's there in Houston, there's obviously floodplain deal we got to look at. Is it in the floodplain? Is it a compliance structure? Is it a non-compliant structure?"

  • This quote emphasizes the importance of considering local regulations and the condition of the existing structure when planning a remodel or new build.

Engineering Insights

  • The engineer's input is critical in assessing the structural integrity of the existing foundation and its suitability for additional construction.
  • Engineers are involved in the early stages to ensure that the structure will be stable and meet building codes.
  • The conversation also touches on the need for soil borings and other tests to accurately determine the engineering requirements.

"I think an architect engineer should be working hand in hand. Cause the architect's vision's gotta be realized with the bones underneath it."

  • This quote stresses the collaborative relationship between architects and engineers in construction projects.

Performance Considerations

  • The performance specialist's role involves advising on how to improve the energy efficiency and overall performance of an old house to meet new standards.
  • This includes considerations of insulation, waterproofing, and other factors that affect the home's livability and sustainability.

"I can just spend time going through their pictures on Zillow and tell them performance wise what they could probably expect, especially if they are coming from a bad experience already."

  • This quote illustrates the role of a performance specialist in setting realistic expectations for home performance improvements.

Real Estate Agent's Role

  • The hosts discuss the importance of choosing an experienced real estate agent who can refer homeowners to the appropriate professionals.
  • The conversation acknowledges that while real estate agents play a crucial role, they may not have the technical expertise to advise on construction details.

"The best thing they can do is refer you to a professional that can help you through this situation."

  • This quote suggests that real estate agents should focus on referrals rather than providing construction advice.

Decision-Making Process

  • The decision to remodel or build new is complex and involves a thorough analysis of costs, long-term goals, and the condition of the existing structure.
  • The hosts discuss the importance of early and accurate scoping to prevent unnecessary design changes and cost overruns.
  • The conversation includes practical tips, such as exposing the depth of grade beams, to help determine the feasibility of adding a second story.

"There's a fork in the road, and we need to establish quickly up front, which path are we going down here?"

  • This quote captures the need for decisive action early in the decision-making process to avoid costly mistakes later on.

Experience and Expertise

  • The hosts reflect on their years of experience and how it has shaped their ability to advise homeowners more confidently.
  • They share anecdotes of past projects where, in hindsight, starting from scratch would have been a better option than remodeling.
  • The importance of learning from past projects and applying that knowledge to current decisions is emphasized.

"We've been doing this for a while. We've been doing this for a while. I mean, I'm getting older, you're not. But, you know, ten years ago, we were working together, right?"

  • This quote conveys the value of experience in the construction industry and the long-term collaboration between professionals.

Budget Considerations

  • The discussion touches on the reality that homeowners often exceed their initial budgets during construction projects.
  • The importance of having a contingency budget and realistic financial planning is highlighted.
  • The guests discuss the challenges of estimating costs for remodels versus new construction and the need for homeowners to be prepared for potential cost overruns.

"I think they should be aware that you need to have a certain float and your budget."

  • This quote advises homeowners to plan for financial flexibility when undertaking construction projects.

Theme: Importance of Early Involvement of Engineers in Projects

  • Early involvement of engineers can prevent project complications.
  • Engineers often join projects too late, leading to unforeseen issues.
  • The complexity of projects can be underestimated by non-engineers.
  • Busy schedules of engineers can delay their involvement.
  • Early engineering input can help avoid problems, especially in tear-down or non-tear-down decisions.
  • Familiarity with local requirements (e.g., windstorm constraints) is crucial.

"I think in many cases, the engineer comes in too late to these projects. We believe that we know or not we. But other people believe they know what's going to happen. They believe they're going to open up this span, they're going to get this new beam in here, and it's not the case."

  • This quote emphasizes the common issue of engineers being involved too late in projects, leading to misconceptions about project feasibility and execution.

Theme: Site-Specific Requirements and Due Diligence

  • Every site has unique requirements that must be thoroughly investigated.
  • Due diligence is necessary before providing sound advice on real estate purchases.
  • Information such as surveys, deed restrictions, and permit authority is crucial.
  • Understanding the governing authority and HOA restrictions is essential.
  • The process of gathering information can be time-consuming but is necessary for informed decision-making.

"These things are very site specific. So we have to really look at where does this thing sit? What's the governing authority?"

  • This quote highlights the importance of understanding the specific requirements and restrictions of a site, which vary greatly and impact project decisions.

Theme: Challenges and Considerations in Remodeling and Additions

  • Remodeling and adding to existing structures present unique challenges.
  • Previous modifications by owners and the original performance of the structure must be considered.
  • Early investigation can reveal issues such as water damage and structural weaknesses.
  • Decisions on keeping or replacing components like HVAC systems can have significant implications.
  • Understanding the original and current state of a structure is critical for planning remodels or additions.

"We need to know what the existing structures original performance dynamic was, what it was as a 1970s mod. Right. Or a 1950s english tutor."

  • This quote underscores the importance of understanding the history and original performance of a structure before beginning a remodeling project.

Theme: Budget Considerations and Phasing in Remodeling

  • Budget constraints can dictate the extent and approach to remodeling projects.
  • Phasing allows for spreading out costs over time, which can be a major advantage.
  • Prioritizing certain aspects of a remodel can help manage costs while achieving desired outcomes.
  • Performance and comfort levels may vary based on the extent of the remodel and budget allowances.

"So both sisters, we did a second. A second floor edition in Briar Grove park. One of them, we kept an eight foot plate added on a second foot. A second floor, did a full remodel, except for the master bathroom, which we. Which we left as a cost savings measure."

  • This quote illustrates how budget considerations can lead to phasing in remodeling projects, allowing for certain parts of a project to be postponed to manage costs effectively.

Theme: Structural and Building Performance Issues

  • Remodels and additions can affect a building's structural integrity and performance.
  • Issues like thermal envelope, wet slabs, and HVAC load profiles need to be addressed.
  • Modifications can have unintended consequences on the building's performance.
  • Accurate knowledge of the current state of a building helps in planning for performance improvements.

"One of the first things, and we do this a lot on Jeremy's projects when we go out there really early, is especially on add ons, they're adding on a primary suite. Well, we're just going to use the AC system that we have."

  • This quote points out the importance of considering the impact of additions on existing systems, such as HVAC, to ensure they can handle the changes without compromising performance.

Theme: Coastal Building Challenges

  • Coastal building presents additional risks due to environmental factors.
  • Remodeling coastal homes requires careful consideration of structural support and load paths.
  • Regulations may only require updates to modified sections, but this can affect the whole structure.
  • Engineers must be clear about the scope of their responsibility in coastal remodels.

"So I'm like, I don't know how this would ever work in a real situation where something failed. How am I liable for. Where does my liability actually end on something like that?"

  • This quote reflects the concern over liability and the complexity of ensuring safety in coastal building, where modifications to one part of a structure can impact its overall integrity.

Foundation Repairs and Structural Integrity

  • Discusses the impact of foundation repairs on overall structural integrity, using the metaphor of a seesaw effect.
  • Emphasizes the need for thorough assessment and potential reinforcement of other structural elements during repairs.
  • Highlights the difficulty of such reinforcement tasks.

"You go fix the gray beam on the right side of the house, what happens two years later? You've cracking on the left side of the house."

  • This quote suggests that fixing one part of a structure can lead to issues in another part later on due to the interconnectedness of structural elements.

"So, because that does a seesaw effect, hopefully, that's not super prevalent, but I think we have to use our experience."

  • The speaker is acknowledging the potential for a seesaw effect when making repairs and the importance of experience in addressing it.

"Maybe we need to talk about beefing up some of those posts."

  • The speaker suggests reinforcing certain structural components as a preventative measure during repairs.

Structural Analysis and Budgeting

  • Discusses the importance of early team involvement for assessing structural impacts and budgeting for necessary changes.
  • Suggests that budgeting should account for additional structural work, even if initially only one area is targeted.

"So that when you're setting up the budget expectations for this project, hey, we need to address another wall, you know, in the XYZ plane."

  • The quote indicates the necessity of considering the entire structure, not just the immediate repair area, when budgeting for a project.

Strength of Old vs. New Lumber

  • Debates the relative strength of old lumber compared to new lumber.
  • Notes that old growth wood can be stronger, but the condition of the material, such as dryness and brittleness, varies.

"Some old lumber is actually quite strong. They're just being manufactured differently now."

  • This quote highlights the variability in lumber strength due to differences in manufacturing processes over time.

"The old two by fours are so dry, they're brittle, it's like you can just barely push on them and they crack."

  • The speaker points out that despite the potential strength of old lumber, some can be so deteriorated that they become brittle and easily damaged.

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) in Residential Construction

  • Discusses the concept of finite element analysis (FEA) and its application in industries like offshore construction.
  • Notes that FEA is not commonly used in residential construction due to the complexity and nuance of older materials.

"We don't do finite element analysis on residential."

  • The speaker indicates that FEA is not typically performed in the residential construction sector.

"It's analyzing every bit of that metal that's on there. And so it'll show you, and you'll see all these gradients of high stress areas."

  • The speaker describes how FEA works in other industries, analyzing stress across a structure to identify areas needing reinforcement.

Structural Challenges in Remodeling

  • Provides examples of structural issues encountered during remodeling, such as nail pops due to differing materials and methods used in new versus old construction.
  • Highlights the importance of experience and learning from structural engineers in understanding and addressing such issues.

"So as it expanded and contracted through their seasons, it actually pushed the nail heads out on the lateral side."

  • This quote explains how different materials and construction methods can lead to unexpected structural issues during remodeling.

"Now, I know that. Now, you guys all know that."

  • The speaker emphasizes the value of shared knowledge and experience in dealing with structural challenges in construction.

Structural Integrity and Remodeling Decisions

  • Discusses the decision-making process in remodeling, considering structural integrity, financial implications, and the potential for future issues.
  • Emphasizes the importance of proper structural support, such as trusses, over quick fixes.

"I think you need to have trusses. Ultimately, she went with the trusses because I'm like, it's a guaranteed load path that I know exactly where things are going."

  • The speaker advocates for using trusses to ensure a clear and guaranteed load path, emphasizing the importance of proper structural support.

"Why would you want to pass on something that's not structurally sound?"

  • This quote questions the logic of ignoring structural issues in remodeling or construction, highlighting the speaker's concern for long-term integrity.

Building Without Structural Engineers

  • Addresses the risks of constructing without a structural engineer, especially in areas without strict permit requirements.
  • Points out the liability and potential consequences builders assume when foregoing professional engineering input.

"Why would you want to do that? It."

  • The speaker is questioning the wisdom of building without a structural engineer's involvement.

"A lot of framers know how to build things. They've been building this forever."

  • This quote acknowledges the skill of experienced framers but also implies the added value of professional engineering oversight.

New Construction vs. Remodeling: Pros and Cons

  • Discusses the advantages of remodeling, such as potential tax benefits, easier financing, and faster project start times compared to new construction.
  • Highlights the possibility of phased remodeling and the speed of obtaining permits for remodels.

"There is a pool of builders that will just say no to your project if you plan on living in it while it's happening."

  • The speaker points out that living in a home during a remodel can limit the pool of builders willing to take on the project.

"But comps are easier on new build than they are on remodels, correct?"

  • This quote discusses the comparative ease of finding comparable sales for new construction versus remodels, which is an important consideration for financing and appraisals.

Project Management and Builder Selection

  • Discusses the complexity of selecting builders for a project.
  • Emphasizes the importance of a builder understanding the full scope and potential challenges of a project.
  • Highlights the need for proper planning and phasing in remodels.

"But it definitely narrows down who our builder options are."

  • This quote indicates that the nature of the project can limit the pool of suitable builders.

"Let's have a good master plan concepts. We tell all homeowners, even if you're going to phase this thing, you really need to back into, or start with a what do you hope it is? One day concept."

  • This quote emphasizes the importance of having a master plan for a remodel, even if it will be done in phases.

Project Phasing and Master Planning

  • Discusses the three-phase project in Wimberley and the importance of implementing a plan that encompasses all phases from the start.
  • Stresses the cost savings and efficiency of planning for all phases upfront.

"So. And I'm actually going to save you a lot of money by not having to redo this over and over and over again."

  • This quote highlights the financial benefits of comprehensive planning for multi-phase projects.

"But he's like, I don't really know what I want to do with all three. I'm like, we're going to have to kind of start to know."

  • This quote demonstrates the necessity of understanding the full scope of a project before beginning.

Challenges of Remodeling While Inhabiting

  • Describes the difficulties of adding a second floor to a house while the homeowners lived on the first floor.
  • Reflects on the complexity and complications of remodeling with residents in the house.

"Trying to shift them around, keep utilities on while we added a second floor. It was insane."

  • This quote describes the logistical challenges of significant remodeling while the house is occupied.

Pros and Cons of Remodeling

  • Discusses various aspects of remodeling, including structural challenges, material selection, and decision-making processes.
  • Highlights the importance of working with professionals experienced in remodels.

"Sometimes there's effects that an engineer just can't predict because of older structures."

  • This quote addresses the unpredictability of remodeling older structures.

"Sometimes it's easier for some personalities to start from scratch and to just be able to place them because, like Jeremy's team can say, blank slate, this is what you got."

  • This quote discusses the decision-making benefits for some homeowners in starting with a new construction rather than a remodel.

Importance of a Professional Team

  • Stresses the value of hiring a professional team to explore options and deliver better solutions.
  • Emphasizes that the cost of professional advice is minor compared to the overall construction costs.

"By hiring a professional team to investigate the options, you're going to end up with a better solution, probably aesthetically, architecturally, functionally, performance, everything."

  • This quote underlines the comprehensive benefits of engaging a professional team for a project.

Personal Experience with Remodeling

  • Shares personal experiences of remodeling and the value added by professional input.
  • Reflects on the importance of having a team, even for industry professionals.

"Even being in the industry and thinking we know what we know, we don't know what we don't know."

  • This quote acknowledges that even professionals can benefit from the expertise of others in their field.

Team Collaboration in New Construction

  • Discusses the collaborative effort and synergy in a new construction project.
  • Highlights the structural performance expectations and the evolving design process.

"It truly is this awesome collaborative effort where synergistic. Yes, there's synergy there."

  • This quote describes the dynamic and collaborative nature of a well-managed construction project.

Role of Architects and Early Team Involvement

  • Discusses the role of architects as the initial point of contact for project evaluation.
  • Emphasizes the importance of involving all team members early in the process.

"Bringing in those other team teammates early on is how that's going to happen."

  • This quote suggests the need for early involvement of all team members for successful project planning.

Design Process and Client Engagement

  • Discusses the design process and the importance of understanding homeowner visions.
  • Highlights the iterative nature of a good design process.

"A good design process is more like a figure eight here at the table."

  • This quote compares the design process to an iterative figure-eight pattern, rather than a linear path.

Contact Information and Final Thoughts

  • Provides contact information for the team members and their companies.
  • Encourages listeners to reach out for project assistance and emphasizes the value of a strong team.

"You get what you pay for and pay for. And, you know, ultimately, the soft costs that are associated at this table are minor in comparison to the construction costs of what the homeowners are actually about to spend."

  • This quote reiterates the point that investing in a professional team is worth the cost compared to the overall expenses of a construction project.

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