Renovating an Old House: It's Better to Do it in Stages than All at Once

October 1, 2020
  1. First minor renovations after 10 years
  2. Renovating an old house is complex
  3. Plan the house renovation at an early stage
  4. Wish list: What do you want to renovate?
  5. Building analysis: This is what you should renovate
  6. Renovation concept: Renovate in steps
  7. Step 1: Renovate windows, sun protection and façade
  8. Step 2: Renovate roof, screed floor and basement ceiling
  9. Step 3: Renovate the heating system
  10. Step 4: Renovate kitchen, bathroom and pipes
  11. Rely on the right partners

First minor renovations after 10 years

Houses also get older and show signs of age. After 10 to 15 years, the first minor renovation measures become due. For example, painting walls or replacing carpeting. The shell of a house lasts the longest. After 40 to 60 years, it is usually time for a comprehensive house renovation. Based on the life expectancy table (see «Lifespan: How long do components, devices and installations last?»), you can estimate what should last how long and when you need to renovate or refurbish what.

Renovate old house: Painting work
Painting work is due after 10 to 15 years.

Renovating an old house is complex

Renovation measures cannot be considered in isolation. If you replace the heating system, for example, it makes sense under an energetic perspective to renovate and insulate the building envelope. And while you're at it, you could convert the attic and gain living space or rethink the room concept, tear out walls and thus create larger rooms. All that's missing now is a new kitchen and a new bathroom ... Very few people can afford everything at once. That's why they have to choose between more living quality and more energy efficiency when renovating their house. Often, however, the condition of the building components determines the order of the renovation measures.

Houzy Advice

Good to know

The examination of building applications can take months for larger renovations. Therefore, submit your building application as early as possible.

Plan the house renovation at an early stage

House renovation costs a lot of money. That's why you should plan it before the measures are necessary and put money aside for it. How much depends on the building fabric and the standard. Triple-insulated windows with aluminium or wood-metal frames, for example, cost plus/minus twice as much as the same windows with plastic frames.

With our smart Renovation Calculator, you can analyse your individual renovation needs with just a few clicks, plan the renovation dates, estimate the costs and make sufficient provisions at an early stage. In addition, our renovation planner lists which components you should replace or overhaul at the same time in order to renovate as cost-effectively as possible. With the right strategy, you can spread the renovation costs over years or decades, optimise your expenses and maintain or increase the value of your residential property in the long term.

Houzy Hint


If you own a condominium, our online renovation calculator also calculates your share of the costs of the condominium owners' association and analyses the renewal fund.

Wish list: What do you want to renovate?

There are three reasons for a house renovation: you want to increase the living quality, you want to improve the energy efficiency of the house - or a component is broken. If you have to replace something in an emergency, you have to act immediately. But if you want more living quality or energy efficiency, you should plan the renovations step by step. Start with a wish list and write down what you want. Without questioning whether it is technically or financially feasible. Think about the future and don't let your current housing situation limit or influence you. It can change quickly, for example when your children move out.

Building analysis: This is what you should renovate

Once you have compiled your wish list, it is time for a detailed building analysis. An expert clarifies what is necessary in terms of building technology and what makes sense in terms of energy. On this basis, you can balance your wishes, any necessary or sensible measures and your financial possibilities. If, for example, you want to renovate your bathroom, enlarge it and add a sauna for two, it may be worthwhile to install a new heating system and thermal insulation in order to optimise renovation and maintenance costs. Bathroom and sauna increase your living quality, heating is necessary, insulation makes sense. The better you plan, prioritise and divide renovation measures, the more you can afford.

Houzy Hint


It makes sense to set aside 1 to 1.5 percent of the building's new value each year for home renovation, right from day one.

Renovation concept: Renovate in steps

When you renovate an old house, a complete renovation costs less than a renovation in stages, because certain work only has to be done once, for example putting up the scaffolding. In addition, the renovation measures are completed more quickly and place less of a burden on you, your family and your neighbours. Nevertheless, most homeowners prefer to renovate in stages. On the one hand, because they can split the costs. On the other hand, because they can deduct their value-preserving investments from their income in several tax periods and thus optimise their tax burden. Craftsmen recommend this sequence to avoid building defects such as damp, mould or thermal bridges:

  • Step 1: Replace windows, replace sun protection, insulate the façade.
  • Step 2: Insulate the roof, if necessary also the screed floor and the cellar ceiling.
  • Step 3: Replace the heating system, preferably in an energy-efficient and resource-saving way.
  • Step 4: Renovate the kitchen, renovate the bathroom, replace the pipes.

Window replacement and façade insulation (step 1) and roof insulation (step 2) minimise energy losses and reduce energy consumption. The new heating system (step 3) can be optimised for lower energy requirements. The kitchen renovation and bathroom renovation maintain or increase your living quality, the new pipes maintain the value sustainably (step 4).

Houzy Advice

Good to know

The Houzy Renovation Calculator not only analyses the condition of the building components, but also proposes the renovation stages that make sense from a structural point of view, together with a rough cost estimate.

Houzy Renovation Calculator - Plan Renovations

Calculate renovations simply online

With the Houzy renovation calculator, you can find out in two minutes the renovation costs and dates for your own home.
Calculate Renovations For Free

Step 1: Renovate windows, sun protection and façade

  • New windows significantly reduce heating energy consumption, improve sound insulation and better protect your home against break-ins. In addition, most windows today have a larger window area because their frames are narrower than in the past, which is why more light enters the living spaces.
  • New sun blinds or awnings are lightfast, more tear-resistant and more durable. They can be opened and closed with a crank or motor. You can operate motorised blinds remotely and integrate them into a Smart Home system and control them with a wind or sun sensor.
  • Insulating the façade makes sense when you replace the windows, because the craftsmen can also insulate all the cornices and reveals at the same time. A compact façade costs 200 to 300 francs per square metre for materials and labour, a ventilated curtain façade a quarter more.

Houzy Hint


Order the windows at least three months before the work begins, so you avoid unnecessary construction delays.

Renovate old house: Windows
New windows significantly reduce heating energy consumption.

Step 2: Renovate roof, screed floor and basement ceiling

  • Insulating the roof reduces heating costs and ensures even temperatures. Prices range from a few thousand francs for a simple flat roof to several tens of thousands of francs for a complete roof renovation. If you renovate the roof, you should think about a thermal solar system or photovoltaic modules (from 10,000 or 20,000 francs respectively). Especially if you want to replace the old heating system in step 3.
  • Insulating the basement ceiling or the screed floor costs less than insulating the façade or the roof because the material has to withstand less. Unless you want to live in the attic. Then you have to reckon with 150 to 200 francs (insulated from the inside) or up to 300 francs (insulated from the outside, including roof renovation) per square metre.

Step 3: Renovate the heating system

You should only renovate the heating system after the windows and the façade. If you replace it beforehand, it will be too large after the energy renovation measures, will not work at the best possible efficiency and will wear out sooner because it is oversized and you switch it on and off more often than necessary. In the short term, the cheapest option is to replace the old heating system 1:1 with a new oil heating system. In the medium and long term, however, other heating systems are cheaper. The investment costs for a heat pump, for example, are higher, but they pay for themselves quickly thanks to the lower energy costs. Especially if you supplement the heat pump with solar collectors on the house roof.

Houzy Advice

Good to know

Cantons, cities, municipalities and regional energy suppliers promote energy renovations such as insulation, solar systems or new heating systems if you renovate an old house. On you will find an overview of all funding programmes in Switzerland and can apply for funding contributions online.

Heat Pump

Is a heat pump worthwhile?

With the Houzy heating calculator you can calculate the costs and CO2 emissions of your heating system with just a few details and compare them with other heating systems.
Compare For Free Now

Step 4: Renovate kitchen, bathroom and pipes

  • In the kitchen and bathroom, it is difficult to estimate costs. Too much depends on individual wishes and demands. A simple kitchen (including kitchen appliances) or a simple bathroom (including tiles) is available from 15,000 to 18,000 Swiss francs - or for several times that amount, depending on the standard.
  • Regardless of whether you opt for standard or luxury in the kitchen and bathroom, you should check the electricity and water pipes in an old house and renovate them if necessary. Sewage pipes, for example, last 40 to 60 years and should be serviced every five years.

Renovate old house: Kitchen
How much the new kitchen costs depends above all on your wishes and requirements.

Rely on the right partners

In our partner network you can find the right craftsmen if you want to renovate an old house. In your Houzy overview, click on "Renovation" under "Lifetime" and then on the component you want to renovate in the graphic. On the detail page, you will see an estimate of the renovation costs, the renovation date and up to three craftsmen from your region that we recommend. By clicking on "non-binding offers", you can write a message to one, two or three craftsmen and, for example, request quotations that you can compare with the others.

Good work is worth something. Therefore, do not save on the craftsman and not on the material. Quality pays off in the long run, because it takes longer until the next renovation.

Plan renovations now

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