Categories: Home Renovation

Remodel vs. Renovation: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to home improvement projects, the terms “remodel” and “renovate” are often used interchangeably. Most people mistakenly assume they mean the same thing and use them to refer to any kind of home construction project. When you’re talking remodel vs. renovation, however, you’re actually talking about two very different things. Let’s discuss the meaning of each and a few examples of each.


We’ll start with remodeling. When it comes to home improvement, a remodel vs. a renovation is basically a big project versus a cosmetic one. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “remodel” means “to alter the structure” of something. This happens when you tear out everything in a room and start from scratch, completely altering the way the space looks, flows, and is used.

A remodeling project features many more elements and layers than a renovation. It typically involves trades such as plumbing, electrical, and carpentry to remove and add back in the structure and functionality of an area. Extensive remodeling projects may require an engineer if, for example, a load-bearing wall or structure is being altered in some way. Because it’s so involved, remodeling takes more planning, time, and money than a simple renovation project.

What are some examples of remodeling projects? Gutting and reconstructing your kitchen is one common way people remodel their homes. If you expand the kitchen, knocking down the wall between it and your living room to create an open floor plan, add in an island, and move the footprint and plumbing around, the flow and appearance of it change completely.

Building a home addition is another kind of remodeling project. It changes the structure of the home itself. You might bump out a portion of the house in order to create a room for a home office, for example. You may also expand the house upwards, adding on a second-floor guest bedroom suite or second master bedroom. Any improvement that changes the actual structure of a room or your house itself is considered remodeling.


In the great “remodel vs. renovation” conversation, renovating is the least involved and less expensive of the two. Heading back to our friends Merriam-Webster again, “renovate” means “to restore to a former better state (as by cleaning, repairing, or rebuilding).”

With a renovation, the flow and actual use of the structure remains the same. The function may improve due to better fixtures (new appliances or sink faucets, for example), but the overall use of a specific area remains the same when you renovate it.

Compared to remodeling, renovating is less expensive and takes less time. With renovating, you’re essentially making cosmetic changes to a home — although changes like updating electrical wiring and replacing plumbing can run more than skin-deep.

What are some common examples of renovation projects? If you’ve purchased a 1930’s-era bungalow and aren’t knocking down walls, but are refinishing floors, repainting cabinets, and replacing lighting fixtures, you’re in the midst of a renovation project. Something as subtle as painting a room or as major as installing a kitchen full of new cabinetry are both considered renovation projects. Even though renovation isn’t as involved as remodeling, it can still have dramatic results and can greatly improve a home’s livability or resale value.

Remodel vs. Renovation: What’s the Right Choice for Me?

Now that you know the difference between the two terms, which is the right choice for the project you’re currently considering? By talking with an experienced contractor, you’ll be better able to get an idea of exactly what you can expect in terms of price, timeline, and expected outcome with either approach. No matter which route you choose, you’ll be amazed at how much a skilled contractor can transform your home from “meh” into “the house of my dreams!”

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