Remodel Vs. Renovation: What Is The Difference?

Apr 20, 2020 | General Contracting, Remodeling

Home Renovation

It is common to hear renovation and remodeling used interchangeably in conversation about home improvement, but they are actually two different types of construction jobs. In the contracting world, renovation involves adding upgrades and updates to structures without changing their purpose. Remodeling, like its name suggests, involves changing the structure itself, much like you can change the shape of modeling clay.

Renovation vs. Remodeling

Both renovation and remodeling are an important part of the home improvement industry, and it is essential to have a comprehensive understanding of the strengths and limitations of each prior to ever making a phone call to a contractor. This will ensure that you’re able to articulate exactly what your vision for your space is without being overwhelmed by unexpected choices or surprised by soaring costs.

Renovation involves making changes to the existing space. Re-tiling a kitchen, changing the carpet in a room, and hanging new drywall could all be considered renovation projects. Rather than changing the underlying structure of a space, it changes the contents of the space. Renovated spaces have been freshened. No walls, doors, appliances, or fixtures will be relocated. Instead, the lighting fixture might be changed, cabinet handles updated, or bathroom mirrors swapped. Hanging new doors is one of the easiest ways to renovate a space and increase energy efficiency at the same time. The changes will be cosmetic, rather than structural, but they can still be significant.

Remodeling, on the other hand, involves changing the structure of a room. Bathrooms and kitchens are two of the most common home remodels, and they frequently involve changing the overall structure of the space. For instance, tearing out cabinets to make room for new appliances and changing the location of the bathtub would both be considered remodels. The only thing generally off-limits in a remodel are load-bearing walls and other structures that cannot be moved. The before-and-after photos of the space will generally be dramatically different.

Renovation and remodeling encompass many types of construction projects. A detailed understanding of each, along with some examples of projects that fall under each heading, will provide you with the tools you need to start your home improvement project off right.

Renovation Fundamentals

Renovation projects can be simple or complicated, depending on the scope your project encompasses. Something as basic as changing the hardware on cabinets and updating the light fixture over the kitchen table is technically a renovation, though most homeowners think larger in scope when envisioning these changes. New paint on walls and cabinets, new tile or carpet, and new fixtures in the kitchen or bathroom will all add value to your home by updating it, and they are relatively simple to do.

It is important to consider your abilities when deciding which renovation projects you want to take on, though many renovation projects are reasonable for the average do-it-yourselfer to do. For instance, carpeting and tiling often require specialized equipment, and it can be best to let a professional install them. The same can be said for bathroom fixtures like faucets and toilets. If you’re comfortable working with specialized equipment and feel like renting a carpet stretcher or learning how to properly create a watertight seal is something that you would enjoy, doing it yourself may be the way to go. But don’t hesitate to reach out to a contractor or licensed handyman for even simple jobs. Botched work can affect the home’s overall value and diminish the quality of life in space.

Examples of renovation projects include:

  • New Flooring
  • New Roofs
  • New Lighting Fixtures
  • Painting Interior or Exterior Walls
  • New Bathroom Fixtures

The main attraction of renovation projects is that they offer cosmetic changes that will instantly update your home and improve the living space, often without a massive investment. This can translate to a positive return on investment should you want to sell your home.

For 2020, the best returns on investment for home improvement projects according to Remodeling Magazine, the industry leader for remodeling and renovation project information, comes from renovation projects. Replacing parts of a home’s siding with manufactured stone veneer has a 95.6% return on what it costs to complete when looking at resale home values. Next is replacing the garage door, at 94.5% return. This is followed by a minor kitchen renovation, including updating cabinet faces and fixtures, at a 77.6% return.

While these projects are often left to professionals to complete, they’re all relatively quick ways to add value to a property without spending a lot or committing to an extensive timeline. However, it is important to remember that no project will see a 100% return on investment. Rather, any home improvements you undertake are designed to enhance the overall comfort and aesthetic appeal of the space.

Remodeling Essentials

Remodeling projects generally take longer, cost more, and require a permit to complete. As previously mentioned, they involve changes to a building’s structure, a room’s purpose, or to complex mechanical, plumbing or electrical systems. You will almost always want to hire either a general contractor or a contractor who specializes in the specific project type to handle these projects. Permits are frequently required, and as electrical and plumbing are involved, many counties require a licensed contractor complete the work.

Examples of Remodeling Projects Include:

  • Changing the layout of a bathroom
  • Upgrading all of the appliances and cabinetry in a kitchen
  • Finishing a basement
  • Converting a garage into a room

According to Remodeling Magazine, for 2020 the remodeling option that scores highest for return on investment is a wood deck addition, which has a 72.1% return and comes in 7th on the list. The next highest, a composite deck addition, has a 66.8% return and comes in 10th place. In 12th and 13th are midrange and universal bath remodels, with a 64% and 62% return respectively. In a distant 15th is a major kitchen remodel, with a 58.6% return on investment.

Remodeling projects cost more, and their value to future owners is generally more subjective. Therefore, major projects should be undertaken with an eye to enhancing the overall quality of life. Rather than looking to simply improve a property’s value, remodeling projects should improve how you live in the home. Whether the home remodel is a single room or the entire property, it is meant as a long-term investment in your comfort and enjoyment. It addresses issues such as poor home design, lack of space, and interiors that are dated according to modern design sensibilities. Most importantly, a home remodel will add quality to your life in the home.

How can I find out if I need a permit?

A licensed contractor will know if permits are required for a project, but for individuals looking to do their own projects, permits are generally required for major structural, electrical, plumbing, or projects that will change the use of space. It is best to check with your county government to see if permits are required and apply for one if necessary.

Is it important that I distinguish between remodeling and renovation when talking with a contractor?

Often, contractors will use the words “renovate” and “remodel” interchangeably when speaking with a potential customer. However, spelling out to the contractor in clear terms what you want to be done will go a long way to ensuring that your project turns out how you envision at the price point you envision. When you make the initial call, you should be clear on your expectations and specify if you want any structural changes made. Try to use the correct term when speaking with the contractor to help ensure that confusion is avoided as you gather quotes and begin the project.

Will renovation or remodeling add more value to my home?

In both renovation and remodeling, the value added to a home will be based primarily on what changes are most valued within your market. In a prime example, a pool is seen as something that detracts market value in many parts of the country, but in warm climates, it can add value to homes. Painting kitchen cabinets and updating lighting fixtures will typically have a positive return on investment, but installing marble countertops can actually negatively impact buyer interest and lead to a net loss on the project. The short answer is that a renovated home will have the cosmetic changes needed to attract a buyer with a usually lower price tag than the heftier projects of a remodeled home.

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