When you’re looking to hire a contractor to help you with a home improvement project, you may hear the following terms used in conversation: renovation, restoration, remodeling, or refurbishment. But what does each of these words mean? There are many terms that contractors use when discussing home improvement. Renovation vs restoration vs remodeling vs refurbishment: what’s the difference?

Each project has different goals, requirements, and processes. Understand what each term really helps tremendousely so you can choose the best project for your commercial or residential space. Communicating your goals upfront can help you get off to the right start with your contractor. Clear communication during a project is crucial. Here are a few tips to help navigate these waters.

1. Renovation

A renovation is a project designed to restore a space to a more functional state through a combination of upgrading or repairing the various systems in the building, including the plumbing, electrical and more. Usually, renovation projects are done to increase the value of buildings on sale and are often shorter with a lower budget compared to other projects. A renovation does not effect the layout and structure of the building.

Renovations restore a building to an improved condition. This includes replacing and upgrading present components to meet the required standards without altering the original design. The options are endless… changing out cabinets, adding tile and upgrading to technology.  Replacing old windows with new ones. Painting walls and upgrading lighting fixtures.

Renovation often focuses more on appearances. This means fixing what is already there or adding new elements without changing the structure or layout of your home. A Renovation is typically much more cost effective than a remodeling project.

2. Restoration

Restoration involves returning a building to its former state. It’s usually done to historical buildings to maintain their rich heritage and culture. The features of the building are recreated to match its appearance and function. The goal of restoration is to achieve the highest level of authenticity and replication. If you do need to, as is often the case, to install new systems utilities such as ACs, furnaces, and fire alarms, they will need to be done in a concealed manner so that they don’t disrupt the building’s original appearance.

We commonly see Restoration projects in historic buildings and neighborhoods.  Often times, older homes have been in the hands of many owners over the years with changes that don’t reflect the home’s original style.  One example is carpeting installed on top of the original hardwood floors. So a simple start to a Renovation project would be removing the carpeting to reveal, repair and refinish the hardwood floors to their original beauty.

Restoration typically uses fewer resources, which may be cost effective. But a larger budget may be necessary if you are wanting to find exact replicas of fixtures and finishes or if any necessary repairs are required.

3. Remodeling

To remodel is to create something new out of an existing space. It’s all about change. When a remodel is finished, the space will look and function differently. In remodeling, the function and the design of a building changes. For instance, it may involve removing a wall separating two rooms to create one large room, adding a new bathroom, raising the ceiling, and changing the layout of a room.

Remodeling can completely transform the layout and structure of a building – often, involving the change of the usage of space. Remodeling is usually costlier than renovations and often involves the services of professionals like architects, plumbers, and electricians.

Remodeling a home is much more involved than a restoration or a renovation because it transforms the entire space, or possibly the entire building, and may even change the original structure and functionality of the space.  Remodeling will typically be the more costly option of all.

Renovation vs Restoration vs Remodeling vs Refurbishment

4. Refurbishment

Refurbish means to make look like new, to freshen up or brighten up. This term is often used to discuss old structures that have been rejuvenated and restored. Refurbishment involves improving the décor, cleaning, re-equipping, and retrofitting of the building. The purpose is to improve the building’s sustainability and energy efficiency.

Refurbishment is closely related to renovation and restoration as they all aim at restoring the building to its former state. Before the process, an expert should properly assess its structure and typology to determine a suitable refurbishment approach.

A building’s refurbishment could be either a conversion, repair work, create alterations, or simply be a cosmetic refurbishment. Budgets for a refurbishment varys greatly depending on the extent of the work being proposed.

The choice between a renovation, restoration, remodeling, or a refurbishment comes down to cost, need, want, and return. You’ll have to compare each factor to what you want to do and the condition your building is in. Each of these construction projects will require proper planning and the right team of experts. Before you decide on which is right for you, be sure you know the ultimate goal for your project and what you’ll get back from it in value, function, or both.