Property & Finance

Should You Renovate or Rebuild?

6 questions from industry experts that you need to ask before deciding how to upgrade a cabin that has major issues
By Mark R. Johnson
Published: May 14, 2014
old cabin renovate or rebuild
LOTS TO THINK ABOUT – Structural integrity, local zoning requirements, finances and sentiment are all key issues to consider when you’re deciding what to do about your aging cabin.
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Alicia has a dilemma. She reported in the Cabin Life online forums that she and her husband, James, bought out his siblings so that they are now the sole owners of his family’s 75-year-old camp on a small lake in New York’s popular Lake George vacation area.

The dilemma: “After putting on a new roof last year, we are starting to look past the love and memories and [toward] my husband’s fantasy of fixing up the place to look like a mountain lodge,” Alicia says. But, as the 50-something couple ponders their dream, their aging camp is giving them reasons to question whether it’s a fixer-upper or a demo/rebuild project.

Alicia lists her other concerns: The cabin is set upon crumbling pilings that need repair (they have quotes from $3,000 to $10,000); two rooms need ceilings; the patched-in bathroom is falling apart and attracting carpenter ants; the kitchen is okay, but worn; and the ancient linoleum is curling up.

Like Alicia and James, many families are wondering whether it’s best to renovate or rebuild their cabin. So, we called in a couple of experts to help us answer that question. Architect Nathan Good, of Portland, Ore., has been honored as one of the top 50 architects in the Northwest. Cabin builder/remodeler Greg Amundson, of Scandia, Minn., has 25 years of experience and has designed and built well over 50 custom homes.

When staring down the renovate-versus-rebuild dilemma, Amundson and Good recommend you start the decision-making process by asking these six questions.
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