We are planning on demolishing a 3 bed bungalow and building a new bungalow over 2 floors.

I’m pretty sure we are going for the new build option as there’s not much to keep other than part of a side external wall, i am sure this will mean following all the build regs, even on parking and full doc m

If I can keep, say 1 wall what is the advantage of calling the project a renovation ?

I assume this will involve less building regs but won’t gain the saving on vat

I haven’t seen this discussed on here and imagine it’s quite a common question.


  • Martin Angove

    It’s exactly the question we are asking ourselves at the moment. Our project is similar but not identical to yours. We have a 1960s 3-bed bungalow on a large plot and need at least 5 bedrooms. Renovation / extension seems to offer so few advantages over knockdown and build that I am stumped why the professionals we have spoken to so far are adamant that new build isn’t the way to go.

    Whichever one of their extension options we take will involve knocking down all the internal walls of the existing house, reconfiguring the drainage and punching large holes in at least two of the four walls. The house needs re-plumbing, re-wiring and probably new windows.

    On top of that (ha!) there’s little opportunity for a second (half – due to height restrictions) storey with an extension, and because of a drain (which could be moved if we were to demolish) the places where you can put the extension parts are limited which could lead to an awkwardly-shaped house.

    And then we’d be left with a house where the back half is built to modern regs and has had proper oversight, while the front half is still a 1960s bungalow with all the compromises of typical 1960s build practices.

    In all, I don’t think there’s much in it in cost, particularly after the VAT refund…

    The main issue is the planning department who are reluctant to look at us going up, but I think with a little lateral thinking we could come to a suitable arrangement.

    Any ideas from someone who has already been through this would be welcomed.



  • Roy Dance

    I have been through this recently and after spending a lot of money and two years of our time planning a renovation I called a halt and scrapped the whole project. We were new to projects as large as this and so I took on an "expert" – a qualified civil engineer who had long experience in planning and supervising individual residential builds and large scale renovations. He seemed to have a sound track record and is also a very nice guy. He presented us with a very plausible looking RIBA fee scale which was expensive – but hey ho real experts don’t come cheap. So having paid him a total of about £21k – and paid various 3rd party consultants as well we were poorer by near to £30k – but had a design and planning consent for a monumental renovation of a 150 sq m 1950s detached soon to become a 300 sq m New England style weather-boarded house. We had been feeling for some time that we were being driven down a road which was largely of our "experts" choosing. We were accepting of his advice, he had some firm views, – and despite my constant questioning on cost he was resolute that it was still cheaper to renovate than build new. He offered to do a highly detailed costing for us – fully supported by quotations -for an extra fee of £1,200. We went along with that but what it proved to us – despite his protestations – was that he couldn’t build the house he was proposing to the standard we’d agreed for the budget we gave him – and that building new – without his services – was going to be a much cheaper and better option. Another year on we are now just about to demolish the old house in preparation for building with a Timber Frame package provider with groundworks and finishing by a local contractor. Although our initial error was time consuming and expensive we are now much happier with the way things are proceeding, I’m glad we stopped the renovation idea and admitted our errors. If you are only going to retain a small amount of the structure of the existing house then it’s always going to be cheaper and easier to build new. Renovations can be very fiddly and unexpected problems are likely to occur which will inevitably have an impact on your budget. A big consideration for us was that design was always going to be constrained by the layout of the existing house. If you’re building new you have no such constraints save for those imposed by the Planners. I’d say that if it’s even occurred to you in a fleeting moment that you may be better going with a newbuild then your gut feeling is almost certainly correct.

  • Rachel Haynes


    Generally it will come down to budget. If you have a plot with an existing property then you first need to see what your budget will let you do. A small budget may not allow you afford demolition AND new build and therefore you will only be able to consider the renovation option. The problem with renovation is that there is only scope for VAT reductions if the property has stood empty for 2 years (VAT at 5%) or 10 years+ (VAT at 0%).

    A large budget will give you scope to consider all options but with the added incentive that a complete new build can allow you to either recoup or not pay VAT on building materials.

    For all the budgets in-between it comes down to what is most cost effective (!). If the existing property is already big enough or within a reasonable extension of being big enough and is in good condition then it may be best to refurbishment and spend more money on extra insulation and higher specification finishes for example rather than new foundations. roofs and walls.

    If however you find that you need to demolish large areas of the property due to its poor condition or needing to create better spaces then it probably means a new build would be the better option. So if you are demolishing everything except one wall then it may be best to knock that wall down too and get the VAT back on a new build.

    I’m sorry that Roy and Martin have had bad experiences with professionals. For those with a small or really large budget it is generally easier to advise on the best way forward – refurbishment or new build. However, we would always involve a Quantity Surveyor very early on who would advise on the best option to ensure that the Client gets the best scheme they can afford. Don’t ever feel forced into make decisions you are not happy with.

    Always consider the risk involved. Assuming good design, the risk with a new build is in the ground – you can never be sure what nasties you may dig up when laying foundations. But as a new build continues the risk of extra costs should drop quickly. With a refurbishment there is more risk as the unknowns are potentially everywhere in the existing building fabric and the extra cost risk stays higher for longer (watch any episode of Grand Designs involving a refurbishment if you want proof). That’s why architect’s fees are higher for refurbishments than new builds – there is always more work involved.

    Lastly, regarding building regulations, refurbishment regulations are less onerous numerically (level of thermal insulation required not as high for example), BUT achieving the less onerous regulations in a refurbishment can be harder than achieving more onerous regulations in a new build. Plus, why would you want you refurbished house to not perform as well and be more expensive to run that a new house?

    Apologies for the essay. Hope this is of use and good luck with the project!

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