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Make a Home from a Converted Church

How to Renovate a Church Into a Home. – That small, country church has all the charm and beauty to make it look like the perfect place to live. Can it be done? Is it possible? And most of all, are you ready, willing and able to take on an extensive renovation project? This Church to Home Conversion project is fun, exciting and more than a little work.

How to Renovate a Church Into a Home

Pic of How to Renovate a Church Into a Home (Church to Home Conversion)
Church to Home Conversion (How to Renovate a Church Into a Home)

Church to Home Conversion: Due Diligence

How to Renovate a Church Into a Home? – Just like any other building, a church can be converted for another use such as a home. The actual Church to Home Conversion process will depend on your expectations, needs and how you want to use the finished space. To renovate a church into a home is a major renovation project that will take time, a lot of energy and even more patience. And before you can buy the property, you’ll do a fair amount of footwork just to determine if the project is even doable.

Check with the local building department about zoning laws before you even sign a contract to buy the building and property. It may not be a problem, but don’t overlook this step. Changing the zoning on a property may take time and zoning boards often resist change. The process usually requires public notices, hearings and applications.

Pic of Small White Church - Church to Home Conversion
Small White Church (Church to Home Conversion)

Have the building inspected before making your offer by an independent building inspector that you hire. Avoid using an inspector recommended by a real estate agent since they have a financial interest in the transaction. It might cost a bit more, but the extra hundred or so dollars is worth it.

An appraisal of the property is also a good idea and you’ll want to have one done separately from one that a bank might require. The worth of the property will change once the Church to Home Conversion is done, so talk to the appraiser and ask for an appraisal of not only what the property is worth at the onset, but also what it will be worth after you purchase it as a home, and after turning it into a home.

Appraisers often don’t like to speculate, but an off-the-record assessment of the property value is still useful. Just don’t expect them to stand by it. Use it as another factor in determining if the Church to Home Conversion project is the one you want to take on.

Make a Plan

Unless you plan major structural changes, you don’t necessarily need an architect. Most conversions will probably end up as nearly complete gut jobs, but make note of the features you want to keep. Churches often have beautiful ceilings, spaces and woodwork. Decide what to keep and what to change. Measure the space and transfer it to graph paper for a rough idea of what you have to work with.

Pic of Small Church - How to Renovate a Church Into a Home
Small Church (How to Renovate a Church Into a Home)

Above all, remember why you selected a church to convert into a home. Keep the charm, the structure and the all the things that made you want to make it into a home.

Layout the plan and do it the way you want to do it. Open space is a good thing, and churches have plenty of it. Some things like church pews, stained glass and hanging light fixtures may bring a fair price, so consider selling what you don’t need.

Note the location of the utilities including gas, water, electricity, heating and air conditioning. It’s a good bet nothing will be in the right place, and you’ll have to redo most, if not all it. You won’t want to sacrifice features you want to keep just for the sake of a water pipe or heating duct.

Locate the rooms on your plan and you’re nearly done. Identify the kitchen, living room, bathrooms and bedrooms. Be sure to include closets in the bedrooms. Layout the room sizes and be accurate. Make sure the plan fits the space. Remember to include closets for kitchens, entry ways, laundry rooms, linen closets and pantries. Major features such as fireplaces and large appliances are also important to have on the plan.

Building Permits

Pic of Building Permits - Church to Home Conversion
Building Permits (Church to Home Conversion)

Take the plan down to the local building department and discuss the plan with a building inspector. Chances are, he will suggest or require changes. Establishing a good rapport and relationship now will save you plenty of headache later.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the building department on something you really want. If you point out you want to do something and they balk at it, find out why they are hesitant or against it and see if there is a way to work around it. In the end though, if they say no, you will have no choice but to accept it. Once you’ve worked out the details with the building department, obtain your permits and you are ready to start remodeling.

Getting Started: Church to Home Conversion

You’re ready to get your church to home conversion project started. Call an electrician and have him install temporary lighting and temporary outlets. Have him disable or disconnect the rest of the electrical circuits unless you’re able to keep the wiring. Have a plumber take a look and see if you can keep one bathroom operating while the rest of the plumbing is taken out. Remember that old pipes and wiring have value as scrap.

Remove the items you plan to keep and put them in storage. Sell other items you can’t keep. Have a large dumpster delivered and load it with everything else. Use care during demolition –don’t accidentally remove a weight bearing wall and have a balcony come crashing down or some other important structure. Cover and protect things that were not removed that you want to save. Do all the demolition at once, to get it out of the way.

Clear the space of demolition debris when it’s done. Sweep and clean and make the space workable. You might need an inspection after demolition and you want it to go well, but don’t try to hide things. Remember, the inspector is there to ensure your safety, and the safety of others that come after you.

Must Read:

Image of Construction - How to Renovate a Church Into a Home
Construction (How to Renovate a Church Into a Home)

Layout walls on the floor using chalk lines and fix them in place permanently with cheap hairspray. Consult with your electrician, plumber and heating contractor to find out when they need to work. They might do some work right after demolition, return and do other work during construction, then finish up as construction comes to a close and there is only finishing left.

The convenience of having a working bathroom is worth the effort to frame and partially enclose that space first. Only enclose one side of a wall, not both. Have your plumber come in, hook up a toilet and sink so you don’t have to bring in a portable bathroom or run down to the gas station every few hours. Your contractors will be more productive and everyone is able to keep working.

Build the walls and have the rough plumbing, electrical and heating installed in them. Inspections for structural framing, rough electrical, rough plumbing and rough heating and cooling are required. Don’t go further until you pass the inspections.

Pic of Stone Church - Church to Home Conversion
Stone Church (Church to Home Conversion)

Put up your drywall or other wall sheathing and finish it. At this point, you’ve come a long way and are ready to finish, but don’t slow down yet. This is the stage that DIYers often lose the excitement that propelled them to start a major renovation in the first place.

If you need a boost, have a professional finish the drywall. It goes fast and saves a lot of work, and the outcome is worth the extra money. Paint the walls and ceilings. Without doors, floors, cabinets or trim-work, the space still looks unfinished, but it is starting to look like you first imagined it.

With the wall and ceiling painting done, install the floors, then your cabinetry in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Add doors and moldings. Bring back any items you wanted to keep and install those. Finish the electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling.

You’ll find a hundred little details to finish up, but the space is now livable. Call for inspections and get those passed. Since you were just inspected and passed, that won’t be a problem, but it will give you a great feeling of accomplishment now that you’ve finished Church to Home Conversion.

Must Read:


  • Photo of Small White Church by Robert V. at https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajohndoeproject/421567067
  • Photo of Small Church by Liz West at https://www.flickr.com/photos/calliope/2955647342/
  • Photo of Building Permits Sign by Teo Filo at https://www.flickr.com/photos/teofilo/3296712680/
  • Photo of Demolition by Cheryl Marland at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lavenderstreak/3467876613/
  • Photo of Wall Construction by Debs at https://www.flickr.com/photos/littledebbie11/2998342956
  • Photo of Stone Church by Jim Kelly at https://www.flickr.com/photos/pthread/3287079562

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