To renovate or not to renovate?

That is, indeed, the Shakespearean question many of us ask ourselves when we contemplate the leaking roofs, creaking floors, and sticking doors in our old houses.

Sometimes, according to Evan Fujimoto of Graham Builders, the answer is obvious.

“If the only thing holding your house together is ‘termites holding hands,’ as the old saying goes, then it’s probably time to rebuild,” says Fujimoto, president of the Honolulu design/build firm.

But a house that’s in decent shape structurally can be considered for renovation or remodeling. Both are generally less expensive than rebuilding, Fujimoto adds.

Below, Fujimoto offers tips on how to evaluate your home so that you can make an informed choice between these options.

When is renovation the best strategy?

Homes with “good bones” in decent structural condition, with minimal termite damage, are generally excellent candidates for renovation or remodeling.

“If the floors are level and there’s no major cracking in slabs, and if the doors and windows, walls and roof are solid, renovation is usually an option,” Fujimoto says.

The property should have decent drainage, with landscaping that isn’t causing issues with the home’s foundation, and no major erosion problems.

“The home’s electrical and plumbing systems should be up-to-date, with no knob-and-tube wiring, which can be a fire hazard, or galvanized piping, which can contaminate drinking water,” adds Fujimoto.

If accessibility is a consideration, the home’s condition and layout should allow your builder to modify the layout and incorporate universal design features, and to enlarge kitchens and bathrooms so they’re adequately sized.

“And the house shouldn’t have too many level changes, which can be a problem when you’re renovating for accessibility,” Fujimoto advises.

When is it best to rebuild?

When a house has major structural defects like uneven floors, sagging roofs, cracked foundations, extensive termite damage, and retaining walls that are leaning, it’s smart to seriously consider tearing down and rebuilding.

“Old electrical and plumbing systems are also a factor,” Fujimoto says. “Re-wiring and installing new interior piping and exterior drain lines is costly.”

Houses with careless floorplans, inadequate dimensions, poor accessibility, and too many levels are good candidates for rebuilding, as are homes built with single wall construction, which is structurally unsound. “Unfortunately, that includes many of Hawaii’s older homes,” observes Fujimoto.

Sometimes a house isn’t ideally situated on a lot. “That prevents maximized use of the entire property, often shortchanging the parking area or leaving the driveway too short or steep. And if the structure encroaches into setbacks, or if it doesn’t conform to Honolulu’s zoning requirements with regard to heights, usage, fire codes, etc., you will likely want to think about rebuilding,” Fujimoto concludes.