Home Renovations vs. Remodels: What’s the Difference?

To the average person, the terms “home renovation” and “home remodel” are synonymous with one another. But among those of us in the industry, they mean distinctly different things. How do we distinguish renovations vs. remodels? In the simplest sense, a renovation is a refresh whereas remodeling implies reinvention.

If you’re considering a home improvement project in the near future, read ahead to learn more in-depth about what each of these categories might entail. 

What does a home renovation entail?

When contractors discuss home renovations, we are usually discussing the kinds of tasks that we can knock out fairly quickly and easily. That’s because renovations are just updates or repairs to what already exists — we are not reinventing or reconfiguring a space, just making it look and feel better to be in. As such, the bones (walls, ceilings, etc.) and guts (wiring, plumbing, ductwork) of the house can stay just where they are. This keeps the labor and material costs of most renovation projects comparatively lower vs. remodeling projects. In fact, if you are handy, many common home renovation projects can be tackled alone or with a few pairs of helping hands. 

Because home renovation does not involve wholesale structural or layout changes, you usually do not have to secure building permits prior to beginning work. Notable exceptions to this include roof replacement/repair (as damaged or improperly installed roofs can be highly detrimental to the entire home’s structure) and historical renovations (as jurisdictions may have very specific requirements as to how and what kind of updates can be made, particularly if a home is on the National Register of Historic Places) .

Home renovation examples

  • Painting, wallpaper, interior moulding or trim
  • Refacing cabinets or replacing cabinet hardware/door pulls
  • Swapping out light fixtures
  • Window or door replacement
  • New roof or siding 
  • Replacing or resurfacing floors
  • Updating appliances 

finish carpentry interior molding

What does home remodeling entail?

Home remodeling involves sweeping changes to a space beyond aesthetic updates — it is a reimagining of how that space is configured, structured, or functions. It is not necessarily a total repurposing — for example, a kitchen can remain a kitchen, but a remodeled kitchen will have a reconfigured layout (for example, suppose it’s opened up and connected with an adjoining dining room) whereas a renovated kitchen could be nothing more than a new countertop or backsplash

Because home remodeling often entails significantly modifying a structure (especially in the case of home additions), it’s often required by law to obtain permits and the more complicated work will necessitate more experienced laborers and craftspeople to complete. It’s a good idea to do your research beforehand and choose a reputable home remodeling contractor before investing in a project, as there is often considerably more expense compared to a renovation depending on the project size and scope. 

Home remodeling examples

  • Combining or splitting rooms
  • Removing walls
  • Raising ceilings
  • Installing a kitchen island or altering a kitchen layout
  • Adding an addition
  • Finishing a basement

When to opt for renovation vs. remodeling

There are a few major questions to answer when considering when to opt for renovation vs. when to opt for remodeling:

  1. What is your budget?
  2. How long do you intend to stay in the house?
  3. Is the room or space in question not serving its intended function adequately or adding to your stress, or are you just bored with it?

As a general rule, if you know for sure you are moving at some point in the near future, smaller-scale renovations and updates generally have a higher short-term return on investment and will add to your home’s resale value. Even if you aren’t planning a move any time soon, a quick refresh can leave you feeling better about what you have.

If you do plan on sticking around a while, or a certain aspect of your home is making day-to-day existence more challenging to the point of frustration, then you might consider pivoting to a remodeling mentality — even more so if you have the budget for it. 

Home remodeling experts at Ayars

If you find yourself in the latter category, the home remodeling experts at Ayars possess the craftsmanship and know-how to realize your ideas from concept to execution. Get in touch with us to see if we are a good fit