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What’s The Difference Between Renovation And Remodeling?

by Adam on November 1, 2022

When looking into home remodeling, it’s not uncommon to see the words “renovation” and “remodel” used interchangeably. You might even hear words like restoration, rehabilitation, and alteration thrown into the mix. 

The truth is, these words all refer to different things with some degree of overlap. So what’s the difference? In simple terms, a renovation is a superficial change, while a remodel is a structural change.

They’re difficult to distinguish in some instances and aren’t legal terms with strict definitions. That said, there exist legal guidelines related to types of construction that are worth going over as well.

Overall, the difference is subtle, but there is a stated difference between renovation and remodeling that isn’t too hard to understand.

Here’s an overview of the difference between renovation and remodeling:

  1. Renovation
  2. Remodeling
  3. Other Terms
  4. Legal Considerations


Renovations are essentially a way to upgrade or repair parts of your home. Unlike remodeling, renovations lend themselves to DIY better. Depending on their complexity, they can sometimes get done by a crafty homeowner. They also tend to take less time.

Renovations can potentially generate good ROI and up home value, although remodeling is more common for those goals. There’s not always a strong difference between renovation and remodeling here.

Renovations vary significantly in complexity, but generally, they’re anything that changes the interior or exterior of a home without involving structural changes.

Renovations can be as simple as a new wallpaper or as complex as replacing toilets and showers. The crucial part here is that, in these replacements, no structural changes occur. Replacing a sink with a new one is a renovation, but if you change the plumbing, you’re looking at a remodel.


Remodeling, unlike renovation, is essentially any structural change. To remodel is to remake a home. They tend to take more time and be more expensive than renovations, although they’re cheaper than buying a new home.

Remodeling almost always requires a special permit and can’t be DIYed. It also often can’t be done on historic homes due to regulations.

Many projects that have a high return on investment are remodeling. Garage door replacement and minor kitchen remodels are some of the highest ROI projects you can undertake.

The purpose of remodeling is to fix flawed fundamental designs. Remodeling often involves reconfiguring wiring and plumbing. When it comes to the difference between renovation and remodeling, remember that rewiring and replumbing always means remodeling.

Remodeling may be considered “new construction” and have accessibility requirements, meaning it tends to have legal ramifications that you should consider.

Other Terms

Even if you understand the difference between renovation and remodeling, a few other phrases are used interchangeably with them but are technically different.

Restoration usually refers to historical buildings but can be done in modern homes. It involves returning things to a former state rather than improving or upgrading.

Rehabilitation is a bit of a middle ground between restoration and remodeling, as it preserves historically significant aspects of a building while still making it compatible with modern functions.

Conservation is a process done to aspects of a historically significant building that will likely fall apart to ensure it lasts longer. It involves no change, instead being a method used to prevent the need for restoration.

Refurbishing improves decor, cleaning, energy efficiency, and other changes. It can include repair and some degree of cosmetic alterations.

There are legal aspects to consider when you get work done on your home. That’s why it can sometimes be crucial to know the difference between renovation and remodeling.

This article covers a broad overview of legal considerations but is not a replacement for legal advice and is simply a short overview of terminology. Discuss these topics with insurance and legal experts.

Anything considered “new construction,” which some remodeling is, increases the property’s taxable value, meaning you need a property tax assessment after undergoing it. It also gets covered by builders’ risk insurance.

In property tax law, “new construction” includes substantial land additions and alterations to a “like-new” condition. It also covers changes to how land gets used and remodeling that converts a fixture to a new one. New additions, such as adding floors, garages, elevators, accessory dwellings, and brand new bathrooms, are also considered “new construction.”

Repairs are not new construction.

You can find more information on the California State Board of Equalization website and your local county assessor’s website.


What’s the difference between restoration vs. renovation?

Restoration and renovation’s differences are more distinct than the difference between renovation and remodeling. Restoration returns things to their original state, while renovation improves things.

How do I choose between renovation vs. restoration?

Restoration is usually reserved for historical buildings, while renovations get used on more modern constructions. Consider if you want aspects of your home to feel new or returned to how they were before.

When is a remodel considered new construction?

There are complex requirements that vary from county to county. Look into your county assessor’s website. There should be a real estate section outlining the specifics of the legal terminology.

How do you choose between home renovations and remodeling?

There’s not much difference between renovation and remodeling, but there are some broad differences. Renovations are cheaper and faster, but they don’t always increase ROI. Remodeling is pricier and has more legal requirements, but it’s fantastic for raising home value and fixing any flawed design.


Remodeling and renovation are often used interchangeably. But if you want to distinguish between the two, there is a difference between renovation and remodeling. In essence, remodeling is structural changes, while renovation is not.

These aren’t the most descriptive definitions. Plenty of renovations can be difficult and pricey, and plenty of remodels can be simple and relatively easy. As a whole, though, remodeling is more complicated than renovation.

Other home services often get thrown into the mix. This includes refurbishment, restoration, rehabilitation, and conservation. And all of these terms have some degree of contrast and overlap with each other.

Overall, there is a difference between renovation and remodeling. But the strict line between the two doesn’t matter too much. Whatever you need for your home, do the proper home remodeling research and understand the costs and consequences.

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Call us: (408) 343-8386