Renovation vs. Remodel: Which Is More Expensive?

Ian Mutuli
Updated on

For many new homeowners, buying a new house requires changing or upgrading some elements to make it more personal. You might realize there is a need to either renovate or remodel depending on the state of your home. Understanding renovation vs. remodeling will help you determine what best suits your current need and goal.

Nonetheless, being more informed about what each entails is always of great value. For example, understanding each term’s meaning will help you when you talk to a professional about upgrading your home. Additionally, understanding what you need and the cost of home renovation vs. remodeling will ensure you have a solid plan for your goal.

Remodel vs. Renovation: The Key Difference

Home's Structure

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Renovation and remodeling are different in meaning. And while it might not matter how interchangeably you use the two words when talking to friends and family, it will be important to be specific when dealing with a contractor. Therefore, let us break down renovation vs. remodeling so you can determine which of the two best suits your needs.

Renovation Explained: 

Renovation involves repairs and updates to essential elements in the room without completely changing the structure. It changes the space’s appearance without changing the room’s initial purpose. Changing the look of your walls can be considered renovation; all you have to do is look up some bedroom accent wall ideas.

Home Renovation

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A renovation means you don’t tear down and rebuild the room; instead, you update elements without interfering with the existing structure. For example, a bedroom remains a bedroom, and the kitchen is the same; you don’t change the position of where any room is and move it elsewhere. Renovation changes the home’s basic features without changing the different rooms’ layouts or designs.

Furthermore, renovation includes installing new flooring and new cabinets, painting afresh, and switching elements like doors, faucets, knobs, and new light fixtures. You can also modernize your kitchen by doing things like installing new countertops or even building an island if you don’t have one.

Remodeling Explained:

Remodel means you are deciding to tear down the walls and change the design and structure of a space. Altering the structure of a particular room means changing not only the design but also the functionality. Therefore, remodeling entails more work than renovation.

Home Remodeling

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Remodeling involves changing the framework of your home and replacing it with a new one. For example, you might need to tear down a wall to achieve an open floor plan without a wall separating the kitchen from the living room. Or you could expand your bathroom or even add an extra room. Essentially, remodeling defines the construction of a completely new structure.

Factors to Consider in Remodel vs. Renovation

Deciding between a renovation or a remodel can prove to be an overwhelming task. Depending on what you want, an in-depth remodel may seem necessary, but a professional may recommend a simple renovation. Consulting a home-building professional can help shed light on what would be more suitable for your needs. Plus, take time to research and gather as much information as possible so that your decisions will be based on knowledge.

Therefore, we have sampled a few guidelines to help you understand what to consider before making that crucial decision.

Home Remodeling vs Renovation

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a) Budget

Before going crazy on any renovation vs. remodel, it is always advisable to consider how much you are ready to part with. Your budget may be your biggest guide to deciding just how minor or extensive your upgrade can be. If you have just bought the home you need to upgrade, consider how much more you have and are willing to use.

Whether it’s a home you’ve had for a while or one you’ve just bought, it’s important to consider how much you are willing to part with to achieve what you want. Then, after deciding your budget, ensure you stick to it throughout your renovation vs. remodeling project.

b) Current Features

The first factor to consider before a remodel vs. a renovation is your current layout and home features. What do you want to change, and what are you happy with? Then look at the elements you love but prefer to have a look a little modern.

Kitchen Layout

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Next, taking an inventory will help you understand how extensive your update needs to be or how minor it should be. Finally, make notes as you wander your space; these notes will be beneficial when consulting a professional.

c) Potential New Features

After taking time to be realistic with yourself by noting what you have, what’s good, and what you’d like changed, allow yourself to imagine what you’d like. Revisit all your notes to help you see what you felt needed an upgrade. Is it more lighting you need? Or do you want a modern feel to your space? What you imagine your homes should look like will help you better understand potential features and how extensive the renovation vs. remodel may need to be to achieve it.

What Is the Cost of Renovation vs. Remodeling?

Fresh Look

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The renovation vs. remodel cost can vary depending on the project’s extent. Nonetheless, this is how the two differ in cost:

1. Cost of Renovation

Renovations tend to be cheaper than remodeling, but the extent of the renovation project will determine the overall cost. In addition, the materials you use will also play a role in the final cost; depending on how much they cost, you might find yourself using more money in your renovation than someone else. Therefore, while renovation projects are generally cheaper than remodeling, the price of the materials used can increase costs.

For example, installing new faucets or refacing cabinets will cost less than changing a guest bedroom into a home office—the details and requirements of turning the function of one room cause the price to go higher. Flooring is one of the renovation projects that could cost higher if you don’t first understand the flooring remodel tips, ideas, & makeover cost.

DIY Friendly Bathroom

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 Things to Know About Renovating:

  • Because you are not interfering with the structure or framework of a room, renovation is generally cheaper.
  • Depending on the extent of the project, a permit may or may not be required.
  • Renovation doesn’t add to your home.
  • It doesn’t take much time to renovate a home.
  • Renovating offers DIY-friendly options because it only involves cosmetic changes.

2. Cost of Remodeling

Remodels are more in-depth constructions than renovations. Often with remodeling projects, you may require the help of a home-building professional. The professionals can include electricians, architects, plumbers, or even interior designers.

You are more likely to need these professionals because remodels often include wiring, reconfiguring plumbing, and ductwork, building a kitchen island, and more. Nonetheless, the total cost of remodeling will also vary depending on the extent of the project. And because they are more involved, they tend to cost more.

Home Construction

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Things to Know About Remodeling:

  • Remodeling is more expensive and extensive.
  • Remodeling must involve changing your layout to give you extra rooms.
  • Though considered expensive, it is cheaper than buying a new home.
  • More often than not, many remodeling projects require a permit to proceed.
  • It is advisable to have an expert contractor when remodeling.

What About Return on Investment (ROI)? Renovating vs. Remodeling:

Major Changes

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Considering the financial angle is always of great priority when making significant changes to your home. Smart financial decisions are wise if you don’t mind how much you spend as long as you get what you desire. Whatever the case, there’s no harm in learning how to remodel a home and the steps involved to plan and save money.

Homeowners will often see a better ROI on renovation projects than they would after remodeling. Renovation is a better solution when considering ROI because it costs less and involves minor updates compared to remodeling.

However, it is not to say that remodeling isn’t a smart choice in every situation. We all have personal and very unique situations that can lead us to prefer one thing to another. For example, if you choose between buying a house and remodeling, you’ll realize that a remodeling project will guarantee a better ROI than buying a completely new house.

New Doors

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According to Remodeling magazine, a simple upgrade such as changing the garage doors or modernizing the entryway will net the owner about 98% and 75% ROI, respectively. On the other hand, a complete overhaul of the kitchen will only net approximately 50% ROI.

Bottom Line

Whether renovating or remodeling, it all boils down to cost, return, need, and want. These factors will help you determine which direction to take, keeping in mind the condition of your home. The timing might not seem a priority, but it makes a significant difference. You don’t want to renovate or remodel just weeks before you sell your home.

What your ultimate goal for the renovation vs. remodels will play another significant role in determining what you get back from it in terms of value, function, or both. The bottom line is your desire will determine whether you opt for a renovation or a remodel, so make it personal and plan wisely!

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Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.