The Difference Between Renovation and Remodel

They both involve changing your home, but there are differences, too

Family using hammer on walls of house being renovated

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The terms renovating and remodeling are often used interchangeably. But to housing professionals, they have different definitions. Both involve physical changes to a property, but they vary in cost and types of construction involved. 

If you’re considering revamping your home, purchasing a fixer-upper, or flipping a property, it can be helpful to know which category your project will fall into, so you can accurately estimate the scope and cost.

Renovation vs. Remodel: The Real Difference

In general, renovations typically involve some sort of restoration work—repainting walls or cabinets, replacing fixtures or hardware, or updating old or outdated features. Renovations are intended to revive a room or property, not entirely replace it or change it. They also may be used to add value to a home before listing it for sale. Because of this, renovations are often smaller-scale projects.

Remodels, on the other hand, are generally include changes to a home’s structure or layout, and they function more like a transformation of the property, rather than just an update to one or two rooms. They often involve changing the use of space (or several spaces at once). 

Examples of common renovations:

  • Repainting
  • Refacing cabinets
  • Installing new light fixtures
  • Replacing windows
  • Updating appliances
  • Adding new hardware
  • Replacing tiles or flooring
  • Replacing outdated systems

Examples of common remodeling projects:

  • Combining two rooms into one
  • Installing a kitchen island
  • Removing walls
  • Raising ceilings
  • Changing the layout of a room

Remodel vs. Renovation: Which Costs More?

Because remodels are more involved than renovations, they typically cost more. They also tend to require more professional assistance than renovations, from experts such as architects, electricians, plumbers, and more. On top of this, many remodel require permits, which can add yet another cost to the project. 

Here are the major factors you’ll need to take into account when gauging the costs of a remodel or renovation:

  • Materials (wood, flooring, paint, etc.)
  • Labor, contractor and consulting fees
  • Permits (if required)
  • Appliances, fixtures, cabinets, and hardware
  • Size of the space being renovated or remodeled
  • The age and condition of the home

According to the home improvement network Home Advisor, it costs anywhere from $18,451 to $74,954 to remodel multiple rooms. Home improvement company Thumbtack found that kitchen remodel alone averages around $25,000, while a bathroom remodel is more affordable, at around $6,000 for a 50-square-foot space.

Choosing the Best Route

Deciding whether to renovate or remodel your property can be a big decision. You’ll want to take into account your budget (what can you afford and how will you cover the costs?), time (how available are you and when do you want the project completed?) and your final goals for the property. 

If you’re looking to update a few aesthetic areas or increase the value of your home in time for a sale, a quick renovation may be your best bet. If you’re settling into the property for the long haul and you aren’t happy with the look and/or functionality, a full remodel may be in order.

A remodel may also mean less in upkeep and maintenance down the line, since you’ll be adding new fixtures and hardware that are current with modern building codes and standards.

Picking the Right Projects

Regardless of whether you opt to renovate your home or remodel it, it’s important to consider the potential return on investment—especially if you’re looking to increase the property’s value or resale potential.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, the highest-ROI home projects include:

  • Garage door replacement (97.5% of your costs recouped)
  • Stone veneer siding addition (95.9% recouped)
  • Minor kitchen remodel (80.5% recouped)
  • Wood deck addition (75.6% recouped)
  • Siding replacement (75.6% recouped)
  • Steel entry door replacement (74.9% recouped)
  • Vinyl window replacement (73.4% recouped)
  • Fiberglass grande entrance (71.9% recouped)
  • Wood window replacement (70.8% recouped)
  • Composite deck addition (69.1% recouped)
  • Asphalt shingle roof replacement (68.2% recouped)
  • A mid-range bathroom remodel (67.2% recouped)

The projects that add the most resale value (in dollar value) are a master suite addition, which adds more than $136,000 to your home’s value, and a major kitchen remodels, which adds $78,524. Bathroom additions and remodels can also add a significant amount of value to your property.