Repair or Tear Down? Rebuild Here or Somewhere Else?

Baker Fred "Gene"  |  1/19/2007 2:17:59 AM

When you've been displaced by storm damage, you may ask, “Should I repair, or should I tear down?” “Should I rebuild here, or should I rebuild somewhere else?”

Many factors play a part in answering these questions; deciding what to do can be overwhelming. When things seem overwhelming, it's a good idea to attack the problem in small “bites.” Real questions such as “Is my neighborhood going to be the same?” “Will I have a good job?” “Will there be a need for my business?” must be addressed and may be very hard to answer at this time. The “bites” that we will tackle here deal with the structure, the lot itself and a few other things you may want to consider.

Before you try to decide whether to repair, rebuild or relocate, one of your first steps should be to get informed as to local, state and federal regulations and requirements. The storms brought changes in regulations and requirements. Your local building officials' office is a good place to start. Tell them where your property is located, and get specific information about your home or business. They will give you information that should reflect the requirements of all levels of government. You also should ask about programs that may help you financially if you decide to do certain things (such as take steps to reduce future damage or increase the energy efficiency of your home). The changes in requirements will affect your cost, and you need a basic knowledge of your options so you can make wise decisions.

One question you need to ask is “How bad is the damage to my home?” Is it mostly cosmetic, or is it structural? For the most part, you will have to get professional help to give you answers, but here are a few things that you can do yourself to start.

  • Look at the walls. Are they vertical? Do you see bulges?
  • Look at the ridge of the roof. Is it straight or do you see a sag?
  • If your home is brick veneer, check around windows, doors and at corners. Do you see settling or large cracks?
  • If your house is on piers, look at them. Are they in place and not leaning?

All of these things can be looked at by a non-professional and together can offer clues as to the structural condition of the building. If you see problems, it is probably necessary to get the help of a professional engineer, architect or certified builder. It is always important to know the cost of correcting problems before you move forward to address other decisions related to rebuilding.

The cost of correcting structural problems is a factor in determining what regulations must be followed. If the cost of repair is more than 50%, then you must comply with flood damage prevention regulations that are now included in the residential building codes. The new codes also include additional wind-resistance features in high-wind zones. These code requirements are for your protection in the future and are recommended even if the damage is less than 50%. The future savings in insurance costs may offset the upfront cost of complying. If you comply with the new standards, there is also the feeling of more safety and security. You cannot put a dollar value to these, but they have value in the quality of life.

A new structure may also be a new beginning. The home or structure you were in may not meet your current needs. Here is a chance to correct the situation. Family and business needs change over time. If you are young and planning a family, you may anticipate needing more bedrooms or a game area. At other times in life, you can downsize and be better off. Other advantages to a new structure might include: building a more energy-efficient house, installing heating and cooling equipment that keeps you more comfortable and costs less to operate, building a stronger structure, building a style of structure that you like better or building one that has a modern kitchen or modern bathrooms that are designed better and have new plumbing and electrical systems. Opting for a new home may help you overcome bad memories of the storms. 

Cost is a huge factor. You need know how much it will cost to repair the building to a condition you can except, and you will want to know the cost of rebuilding your desired structure at your present location or at another location -- nearby or far away. Take the time to think through all your options and get as much for your money as you can. This will require work. Building professionals will be in demand, but don’t settle for just anyone. Know their history and the quality of work they provide. Talk to others they are doing work for. Look at their work. Know how timely and dependable they are.

If the lot where your structure is located is not where you want to be in the future, moving during recovery may provide a good opportunity. This will have an effect on whether you repair or rebuild at your present location or relocate. In the case of a business, there may be a better business location. In the case of a home, you may want to be closer to family or schools or churches or work, or you may want to be right where you are. Take time to look at these kinds of questions.

There will be many other questions that will need to be addressed as you decide your future direction. It is a chance for a new beginning, and new beginnings take thought and knowledge. Get the facts and weigh the options before you spend money.

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