Old Church Converted into Residence?

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project240

Member
Nov 30, 2010
150
Alberta
What do you guys think? We've (family of 4) been looking for a little while at houses and being a carpenter, I like finding something needing some updating, etc so I can build some equity.

Anyways, during my searching I came across an old church for sale. It's already zoned for residential and the price is pretty good. Obviously it would be a huge project to get it to a point where it would be considered a home, but it could become an extremely unique space.

I have no problem replacing flooring, painting, putting up new walls, tiles, etc, however, my concern is that there may be a lot more work involved that I am not considering. The kitchen is set up in a more commercial style, which would require some attention. One other concern is the bathrooms, which would require a lot of work as well as putting in at least one completely new bathroom, which I'm unsure of the cost.

Here are a couple of pictures...

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Am I crazy for even thinking about it? What do you guys think?
 

Jags

Moderate Moderator
Staff member
Aug 2, 2006
18,039
Northern IL
Interesting. When was the building built? I would be concerned with insulation/heating requirements. What kind of sqft are you looking at?
 

project240

Member
Nov 30, 2010
150
Alberta
Built in 1980, just under 2500sqft on each level. HVAC was a concern of mine as well... I'd like to see some previous bills to see actual costs.
 

bluedogz

Minister of Fire
Oct 9, 2011
1,245
NE Maryland
Since it wasn't built as a residence, is the plumbing up to snuff to turn it into one? I mean, water supply and sewage/drainage, etc.?
 

jimbom

Combustion Analyzer
Dec 19, 2010
1,021
Missouri Ozarks
What is the all in cost per square foot? In the current market, you can afford to be frugal. Will a bank loan on this?

Utility bills won't be very helpful. Your family will want it heated 720 hours per month. Church buildings are seldom warm in the sanctuary more than Sunday and Wednesday evening. Say eight hours on Sunday and four hours on Wednesday ~ 48 hours per month. Then the office if open Tue - Fri business hours could be heated 128 hours/month with small space heaters.

That building looks like it was constructed by a contractor. If so, there should be a set of plans and specs from an architect. Ask the congregation for those to find out the level of insulation. If it was professionally designed, the HVAC equipment might be over sized for quick heat/cooling and to handle latent heat from a large number of people. Not the best for around the clock, as it will short cycle much of the year.

At the new building, the church volunteers that took care of the old building will likely be taking care of the new building. A great source for information.

On the plus side, the parking lot will be a great wood processing and storage area.
 

Lumber-Jack

Minister of Fire
Dec 29, 2008
2,007
Beautiful British Columbia
project240 said:
Built in 1980, just under 2500sqft on each level. HVAC was a concern of mine as well... I'd like to see some previous bills to see actual costs.
That's a lot of area to heat, I'd definitely be looking at some of the previous heating bills. If those costs are reasonable, and you can get the place cheap enough and still have enough money left over for renos, the wide open spaces would make for an interesting and relatively easy conversion. Because the of the way the roof is built (no attic) there is likely little or possibly no insulation up there, so I would suspect the heating/cooling bills might be quite high.
Are there any building envelope issues you know about? (eg. old or leaky roof, mold, or moldy smell in basement, etc...)
Your not crazy, but be sure what you might be getting into.
 

Lumber-Jack

Minister of Fire
Dec 29, 2008
2,007
Beautiful British Columbia
Jimbom has some great suggestion, but I disagree that the previous heating bill wouldn't be useful. Using the type of information Jim talked about getting, and finding out what the minimum heating cost were, and using a little math, you could make a pretty good estimate at what it would cost to heat full time.
 

project240

Member
Nov 30, 2010
150
Alberta
bluedogz said:
Since it wasn't built as a residence, is the plumbing up to snuff to turn it into one? I mean, water supply and sewage/drainage, etc.?
Municipal water and sewage.
 

project240

Member
Nov 30, 2010
150
Alberta
Carbon_Liberator said:
project240 said:
Built in 1980, just under 2500sqft on each level. HVAC was a concern of mine as well... I'd like to see some previous bills to see actual costs.
Are there any building envelope issues you know about? (eg. old or leaky roof, mold, or moldy smell in basement, etc...)
Your not crazy, but be sure what you might be getting into.
I haven't actually looked at the place in person yet. I ran across it when searching for homes in the area and am now trying to determine possibilities/options/costs before going to look and even considering it. As far as price per sq ft goes, it is significantly less than homes in the area (less than half) I guess for obvious reasons.
 

fredarm

Minister of Fire
Aug 28, 2008
585
Eastern Mass
I could see a great big stove up on the former altar platform. The Church of Wood Heat! :lol:
 

heat seeker

Minister of Fire
Feb 25, 2011
3,094
Northern CT
If the price is right, you can't go wrong, IMO. Such a project has been a dream of mine for years and years.
Also important: what is the neighborhood like? If it's inner-city type, its value may decrease over the years.
Traffic and noise are factors,too.
 

raygard

Member
Nov 5, 2011
88
Columbia, MD
Friend of my FIL owns a stone church here in Maryland. Since the day he brought it, it has been an albatross, the up keep is hugh and it's now falling into disrepair. It's not so much if you can buy it now as could you sell it later on.
 

eclecticcottage

Minister of Fire
Dec 7, 2011
1,803
WNY
Consider resale value. A smaller percentage of buyers will want to consider an old church than, say, a a trilevel or ranch.
 

ROBERT F

Minister of Fire
Sep 2, 2009
546
CENTRAL COLORADO
Build a house inside the church, envelope style. Great access to plumbing and wiring!
 

rkshed

Feeling the Heat
Jan 15, 2012
269
NH
I would also suggest that the exterior is not very interesting. In my area, the historic churches are snapped up for conversion due to the exterior appeal.
Not being critical, just thinking resale...
 

eclecticcottage

Minister of Fire
Dec 7, 2011
1,803
WNY
rkshed said:
I would also suggest that the exterior is not very interesting. In my area, the historic churches are snapped up for conversion due to the exterior appeal.
Not being critical, just thinking resale...
Yeah, something from the 1800's or with really great architectural details, it would probably have a higher resale potential.
 
N

nate379

Guest
If It was me I would use the upstairs 2500ish feet as a house and then the rest as a nice workshop/garage.

It would be a tough sell for a "standard" family, but it would be a car guys wet dream come true.
 

project240

Member
Nov 30, 2010
150
Alberta
NATE379 said:
If It was me I would use the upstairs 2500ish feet as a house and then the rest as a nice workshop/garage.

It would be a tough sell for a "standard" family, but it would be a car guys wet dream come true.
Surprisingly, there is actually another garage/workshop on the property that looks to be approx 24x40' plus another portable building around 800sqft.

One other thing we have been thinking about a little bit is the fact that it is on 2.2 acres within town. Standard lots in the area look to sell for around 60-90K. We were thinking we could potentially "keep" 1+acre and subdivide the other half into 2 lots. Money from sale of these lots could finance all the renos...

A lot for us to think about and consider.
 

fossil

Accidental Moderator
Sep 30, 2007
10,568
Bend, OR
project240 said:
...We were thinking we could potentially "keep" 1+acre and subdivide the other half into 2 lots...
Possibly, and it might turn out to be a boon if you could swing it...but you really need to be careful with zoning...I know you said it's zoned residential, but in some jurisdictions, a property zoned R-1 (residential, single family) can't be subdivided. My property is 2.5 acres, zoned R-1, and I cannot subdivide and sell off any part of it...can't even put a "rentable" apartment on the property...only one permanently occupy-able home per lot. Period. Check it out...your location might be potentially subdivided, but if it's something you're counting on to make the thing work for you, by all means verify that during your decision-making process. Quite an interesting prospect with gobs of potential...would be a ton of work to make it into a house. Rick
 

project240

Member
Nov 30, 2010
150
Alberta
fossil said:
project240 said:
...We were thinking we could potentially "keep" 1+acre and subdivide the other half into 2 lots...
Possibly, and it might turn out to be a boon if you could swing it...but you really need to be careful with zoning...I know you said it's zoned residential, but in some jurisdictions, a property zoned R-1 (residential, single family) can't be subdivided. My property is 2.5 acres, zoned R-1, and I cannot subdivide and sell off any part of it...can't even put a "rentable" apartment on the property...only one permanently occupy-able home per lot. Period. Check it out...your location might be potentially subdivided, but if it's something you're counting on to make the thing work for you, by all means verify that during your decision-making process. Quite an interesting prospect with gobs of potential...would be a ton of work to make it into a house. Rick
Definitely. The property is zoned R-2 and the listing mentions legal to build up to 13 unit duplex/complex. I assume this means I would have no problems subdividing, but we're having our realtor look into that now for us.
 

sebring

Member
Oct 3, 2011
148
PA
Sooooooooo..... What wood stove you gonna put in this place???????????
 

project240

Member
Nov 30, 2010
150
Alberta
sebring said:
Sooooooooo..... What wood stove you gonna put in this place???????????
Something BIG! lol. I could see a couple of BKK possibly doing the trick.
 

jebatty

Minister of Fire
Jan 1, 2008
5,705
Northern MN
Holy bejesus! Buy it. Not too many people can claim that they live in the House of God.
 

Ehouse

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2011
906
Upstate NY
Lots of older churches in my area are being converted and heating is a major headache. It looks like you may have some advantages though with more modern construction. It looks like you have a hydronic baseboard set up and therefore a boiler with an indirect HWH. Check the plumbing to see if it is zoned, and figure on doing so or modifying it. I would separately insulate and zone each living space or at least separate the main room from the rest. It looks like there may be a slab under the putting green, and if so, you could pour a gypcrete radiant floor. If not, think about ceiling or wall radiant. The baseboard is mostly convective, So the warm air will rise.

Ehouse
 

Uncle

Member
Aug 8, 2011
66
Jersey Shore
As someone who has been thru three major renovation in the last 10 years I would advise you to make sure you have the money and time to get it to where you want it to be. I'm in the middle of renovation a 202 year old house right now and I can you that projects snowball....three grand here, two grand there. I just started a thread about attic insulation that I had no intenions of doing when I started my reno.

Cool place, I could picture Ozzy Osburn (pun intended) living there. Sleep upstairs, jam out downstairs. Good luck!!
 
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