Resource Articles

Should We Renovate Our Church or Build New?

This may be one of the most significant and important financial questions your church may ever ask.  Since we do both, we are unbiased.
A. If you need more seating capacity these thoughts may help:
Your sanctuary is the most expensive portion of your church to build new per square foot.  The ceilings are high, the trim may be ornate, the furnishings are expensive, the roof is in place, the foundation is poured, the walls are up, the electricity is ran, and the parking lot is paved. In a renovation, you will forgo large portions of all those items and more.  You can add more seating capacity by doing one of the two:
1. Change your seating type and layout.
One easy way to bulk up seating is to add chairs.  People will spread out on pews but are confined to a limited space with chairs. Also, sometimes we find that the pews or chairs are leaving gigantic aisles and wasting space unnecessarily.  A 6 foot aisle for your center aisle(s) and 3 foot aisles for your side aisles and back egress are recommended.  If your aisles are say 6 foot more than total, you are giving up 3 people per row of pews.  If you have 20 rows, that’s 60 people you could add just by filling in the aisles to the recommended size.
2. Make Structural Changes
Expanding your sanctuary or adding a balcony are the two main ways, other than chairs and adding additional services, to increase your physical seating capacity.
A balcony may be the cheapest as it does not need site work done, a brand new foundation poured (even though it may require footings), or new roofing.  Also, the only wall you are usually adding is the half wall to see over.
A sanctuary expansion or addition is necessary for those who cannot add a balcony due to height restrictions or may already have a balcony.  This is the more expensive of the two options usually as some small site work may need to be done, new foundation be poured, new exterior walls will be built, and a roof will have to be added as well of course.  The upside is that adding a 2,000 square foot addition to a 6,000 square foot building is 75% cheaper than building an 8,000 square foot sanctuary.
And remember, if you have not gone to two services yet, your building fund will not have as many members to contribute to it and your church may not be able to afford the facility they really need yet.
B. If you don’t like the way your sanctuary looks.
We can change that very easily.
C. If you need more educational or office space and are landlocked.
The most important thing to remember is that if you decide to buy a new parcel of land way across town, you will have to rebuild every building you currently have plus the new one you need. You will have to build a new sanctuary, new fellowship hall, new classrooms, new offices, new everything.  It may make more sense to make one of your buildings, such as the fellowship hall, multipurpose for classroom space.  If you already have done that, you might want to consider building up if you can’t build out.  It rarely makes sense to do a 10 million dollar project because you needed 8 classrooms.
So when does it make sense to build new?
1. When you have filled two services and there is no feasible and attractive way to add on to your existing sanctuary or other facilities.
2. Your church burned or was struck by some other natural disaster.
3. Your current facility doesn’t meet your needs and cannot be renovated or added on to do so. 

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All projects shown were partially or fully managed, desinged, and/or performed by members of the Southeast Church Interiors team and/ or crews as a prime contractor or as a subcontractor under a third party prime contractor.