Can I rebuild on my existing foundation, or would it be better to build a new custom home from scratch? If you lost your home to the Waldo Canyon Fire, this is probably a question you’re asking yourself right now. We’d like to help you through the thought process to determine what the best decision is for you and your family. First ask yourself
Do I want to rebuild? Even if rebuilding is a possibility, do you want to? There are a few things to consider before spending very much time or energy pursuing that course of action.
- Drawbacks to rebuilding: The beauty that first inspired you to move to the neighborhood has been permanently altered. Even with the promise of new growth, the landscape will never be what it once was. There’s also the concern about flash floods. The fire not only destroyed the trees that helped prevent erosion, but it also turned bits of sand in the dirt into glass, preventing water absorption into the ground. This means that even if you successfully rebuild, your home could be at risk of flooding until the landscape has a chance to recover somewhat.
- Positives to rebuilding: While the landscape will never be the same, “different” doesn’t necessarily equal “ugly.” Fire, while devastating, is a naturally occurring phenomena. Some plant species actually require fire for regeneration, and others (like Aspen) are fairly quick to recover, using existing root systems that are deep enough in the ground as to not have been affected by the fire. All that to say, while it may take a while, regrowth will happen, and will bring with it its own variety of beauty. Another reason to consider rebuilding is that you already own your lot and, depending on your specific situation, your foundation. You’ve also already paid for utility tap fees, and those will not need to be repaid if you choose to rebuild. Finally, you should consider the intangible aspect of the community you share with your neighbors. Tragedy brings people together like nothing else, and the residents of those neighborhoods affected by the fire have been through something together with which few others can identify. Unlike an individual house fire, in which neighbors may gawk or offer sympathy, the Waldo Canyon Fire was a major life event that you all share and understand in a way the rest of us Colorado Springsians can’t.
How can I start the rebuilding process?
- Foundation – first, find out if your foundation is salvageable. It will need to be inspected by a qualified professional engineer and signed off; the RBD (Regional Building Department) will require this before issuing any permits for rebuilding. Visit the Colorado Springs Home Builders Association website for a list of qualified professionals.
- Original Floor Plan – if you are able and choose to rebuild on your existing foundation, or your foundation has been destroyed but you still want to rebuild your previous home, you will need to obtain your original floor plan. The benefit to doing this is that you already own those plans for that lot. If you were to rebuild the same house on another lot you may face copyright issues, but if you rebuild the same house on the same lot, you can save the expense of having plans drawn up. The easiest way to get your house plans is to contact the original builder or architect. If you can’t get in contact with them, your next step is to contact the RBD. Most plans are available online for a fee, or in person with the RBD. However, keep in mind that the microfiche used may have been new technology when your house was built, so the quality may be questionable.
- New Floor Plan – if you seize this opportunity to build into your home everything your previous home lacked, you will essentially be building a brand new custom home from scratch. Everything will have to be cleared from your existing lot, and new plans will have to be approved according to new codes and zoning restrictions. Again, you already own the lot, so a small part of the work has already been done.
What if I don’t want to rebuild?
- Clean up your existing lot. Unfortunately, once you decide not to rebuild on your existing lot, there’s still some work to be done. Colorado Springs won’t let property owners leave a safety hazard, so you are still responsible or cleaning up debris from your lot. Click here for some tips from the El Paso County Public Health Department on how to safely clean up your lot. You can have your foundation inspected and signed off if acceptable, but whether it’s acceptable or not, your foundation will need to be fenced, covered, or removed to safeguard against fall-ins.
- Sell your lot. Once your lot has been cleaned up, you have a few options on selling. You can sell to a new owner who can then rebuild or build new on the lot, or you can try selling to your neighbors to increase the size of their lots. Some neighborhoods are looking into rezoning for the purpose of improving lot density, so it’s possible you could sell your lot that way.
- Find a new home. The options are many for those who choose to move on to an entirely new location – you can look for an existing home, or take this opportunity to build your dream home on a new lot.
Whichever option you choose, we would be honored to be part of the process. In some cases, such as rebuilding or building from scratch, we can lend our expertise directly to the situation. If you’re in the preliminary stages of clearing your lot, need to have your foundation inspected, or want to begin the process of looking at existing homes, we would be more than happy to refer you to a trusted professional. Whether construction-related or not, we want to do all we can to help you get back on your feet.