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There are fixer-uppers, and then there are fixer-uppers. While most people imagine themselves applying some paint and maybe removing some carpet, only the bravest home buyers invest in a house that is going to need structural work. This is a much more complicated and expensive undertaking than your average light renovation, so it requires a lot more thought and consideration.
Want or Need?
There’s a difference between a house that needs structural work and one where you would simply like it. A house which requires structural work to move into is usually one that is unsafe (or virtually uninhabitable) without it. Buying a home like this without considering the implications is one of the biggest fixer-upper mistakes out there.
What most people mean when they say a house needs work is that there are structural changes they would like to make to make the house fit their ideal. It’s more than a lick of paint and new fixtures, but your life isn’t in danger if you don’t make all the changes right away.
Common Types of Structural Work
There are various ways you can modify a home’s structure. Some of the most popular changes include:
- Tearing Down Walls – Open-plan concepts are all the rage these days, which has led many homeowners to tear down walls to create one large, airy living space. Before you go with the trend, consider the pros and cons.
- Extensions – If there is enough land, a relatively small extension can make a huge difference in the overall feeling of a house. However, these are large, expensive projects, so make sure you know what you’re getting into.
- Garages and External Structures – External structures are ideal if the home needs extra storage space. This keeps clutter to a minimum in the main house and offers protection to items that shouldn’t be left outside (like a car or gardening tools). Steel is a particularly hardy and lasting material to build these structures with.
Making an Offer
The basic calculationfor pricing a fixer-upper is to estimate the value of the house if it didn’t need any work, and subtract the value of the work. Since structural changes are likely to be the most expensive work you do, start with that.
First, hire a home inspector to evaluate any work the house needs (as this article by Forbes explains), not one that also does repairs. Then, go over your wants. When pricing the cost of your structural changes, make sure you consider all potential costs, such as a hiring a structural engineer and rewiring. Use these costs to guide your offer, but don’t forget to also include any non-structural work you want to do, such as painting and adding flooring or fixtures.
Will I Need a Permit?
For most structural changes, the answer is yes. Anything that changes the house’s footprint or that involves plumbing or electrical changes will require a building permit. Do bear in mind that the permit fees will be based on the project’s value, so an accurate estimate is needed.
Hiring a Contractor
Once you have bought the house, it’s time to hire a contractor for your structural work. Rely on personal recommendations and online reviews for your choice. This article by US News has some great additional tips on finding a reliable contractor.
Unless you are an expert yourself, don’t try to DIY structural work. Not only is it not safe, but it can also lead to huge expenses down the line. You can, however, remove non-load-bearing walls relatively easily.
Making structural changes to a house can be a great way to get the home of your dreams. However, for your renovation to succeed, you will have to do your research, tick all the boxes, and not skimp out on any of the costs. Structural work is a big deal, and it should always be treated as such if you want the results to last.
Written by Ray Flynn of DiyGuys.net