Why Old House Remodels Cost More

By Tom Sweeney - August 7, 2020 -

Remodeling costs more than new construction per square foot. And it usually is more expensive to remodel an older urban house than a newer suburban one with comparable features and materials.

If you own a classic 1920s era home in St. Paul, expect to spend a bit more to remodel the kitchen or bath or finish the basement than friends might pay to update their 1990s home in Woodbury. Either that or you will need to temper your taste in fixtures, surfaces, and finishes.

“Much of the work that goes into remodeling older homes doesn’t show in the finished product,” explained Refined Homes’ Ian Wiitanen.  He cited lead, asbestos and radon mitigation, basement waterproofing, code updates, structural repairs and accounting for past remuddlings.

“If you splurge on a premium slab of quartz for your counters, you can see and appreciate the investment. But if we have to replace an old cast iron waste line in the walls, level a badly sagging floor, or eliminate a health hazard, you won’t enjoy the same visual payback even if it is more important than what shows,” he explained.

New construction is easier

Building a home is inherently easier and more efficient than remodeling one. You start with a blank canvas and literally paint, or rather build by numbers.  Simply translate lines, numbers and specifications from the building plans into three-dimensional building products. There’s no need to work around obstacles and residents, mate new with old, or overcome flawed DIY projects.

Refined Homes manages both new construction and remodels, so it knows the differences firsthand. “We actually enjoy the challenges associated with remodeling older homes,”  Ian said. “Preserving an old home’s architectural character adds a fun dimension to these projects that goes beyond making the space attractive and functional.”

Hidden costs in old house remodels

Here are some things that add cost to older, urban house remodels:

  • Fitting cabinets to walls, floors and ceilings that are not plumb, level or square
  • Mitigation for lead, asbestos or radon
  • Bringing electrical up to code
  • Bringing plumbing up to code
  • Replicating/matching existing millwork
  • Replacing energy-wasting windows and doors
  • Optimizing smaller spaces
  • Limited access for material handling, dumpsters and parking

If you are considering a remodel at your older home, contact Refined Homes for a free virtual consult. Talk isn’t cheap. Actually, it’s free.