“Remodel” and “renovation” are often used interchangeably. While the terms are similar in meaning, they aren’t exactly synonyms. What’s the difference?
The short answer is that renovations generally consist of cosmetic changes, whereas remodels are structural changes. A full-home remodel consists of completely changing up the structure and layout of your entire home. On the other hand, a partial renovation is simply sprucing up the appearance of portions of the house.
Now, things get confusing when you compare a full-home remodel to a partial remodel. In both cases, structural changes occur, it’s merely the amount of the home being remodeled that’s affected. It’s the same with full-home renovations and partial renovations.
Are you still confused? Keep reading. Let’s break down the differences in definition, cost, contractors, and more.
Restoration Versus Creation
Another way to think about these two terms is to think of them as restoration and creation. In renovations, you’re simply restoring portions of the home. In remodels, you’re creating something new entirely.
Let’s look at a kitchen renovation versus a kitchen remodel.
- In a kitchen renovation, you might repaint the walls, change the quartz counter colors, pull up and replace the floor, and add in new cabinets.
- In a kitchen remodel, you might knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room to add more space. You might change up the layout to move the cabinets onto a different wall and change where the refrigerator goes.
Things can get a little dicey because the line between creating something new and giving something a facelift can be quite thin. For instance, changing your home office into a guest bedroom would be a remodel. While many of the changes are cosmetic, you’re still creating an entirely new space.
Sometimes the most straightforward way to compare the two is with the cost.
Cost Analysis: Which is Cheaper?
Generally speaking, renovations are much cheaper. This is particularly true if you compare a partial renovation to a full-house remodel. Remodels change the structure of the house, so there can be electrical rewiring, ductwork, and plumbing involved. All those additional expenses can add up quickly.
In terms of ROI, renovations tend to win out. Because renovations are cheaper, the return is usually better. For instance, if you replace your garage door, you can expect to recoup 97.5% of your investment, adding roughly $3,520 to the resale value of your home.
However, dollar-per-dollar remodels increase value by much more. For instance, a full kitchen remodel provides an average ROI of 62.1% and adds around $41,133 to the resale value of your home.
When it comes to weighing ROI versus resale value, you’ll recoup more of your investment in renovations. However, you’ll add more value to the ticket price with remodels.
Another cost to consider is the contractors. Many renovations are DIY-friendly, and if they aren’t, you can usually hire a home repair expert or handyman. However, with remodels, you’ll need to hire experts. Remodel jobs are generally more complex, so they require a certain level of expertise.
Think about roofing, for example. If you wanted to renovate your roof and you simply wanted to replace the old asphalt shingles with new synthetic shingles, that would be a renovation. You aren’t changing anything structurally, and you could likely hire any number of skilled contractors to do the job.
Alternatively, if you chose to have solar panels added to your roof and your roof faced north instead of south, you’d likely need a remodel. Solar panels are heavy, and often homeowners need their roof reinforced before getting them attached, so there are structural changes that have to happen, and specialized experts are required.
There are a few other distinctions between the two terms and practices:
- Remodeling almost always requires a permit.
- Some historic homes only allow renovations.
- Remodels are the best solutions to a poor home layout.
- Renovations can be DIY-friendly.
It’s easy to see how the two terms can be confused. They’re incredibly similar until you dig a little deeper. A renovation would be adding a home handrail to your walls. A remodel would be adding the handrails, a ramp, and widening the door frames to accommodate a wheelchair.
Determining which is right for you often comes down to budget and goals. Decide what changes you want, and then see whether a full-home remodel or a partial renovation is the route for you. Below you’ll see an excerpt from our Info Brochure, showing the various levels of pricing when it comes to renovation vs remodeling your kitchen.
Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.