Home Remodel or Home Renovation, What is the Difference?

Aug 24 2021

Interior images of unfinished garage addition
The terms remodel and renovation are often used interchangeably. But the two terms actually have quite different definitions, depending on the scope of your project.

The terms remodel and renovation are often used interchangeably. But the two terms actually have quite different definitions, and as you begin to plan your own project, you may be curious to know which one applies to the work you are doing in your home.

Really the big difference between these two terms is the scope of your project. While a “renovation”  applies to a project scoped to involve restoration of your existing space, such as updating cabinetry, paint, or other repair work, a full “remodel” implies that you are making structural or layout changes to your space, moving plumbing or upgrading electrical features - in other words making more extensive upgrades to your home.

Consider whether your project involves cosmetic, layout, or structural work. That will tell you whether you are embarking on a renovation or remodel. Photo by KJ Styles / Unsplash

At Beam, we find the easiest way to think about this is in terms of whether your project involves cosmetic, layout, or structural work.

Cosmetic Renovation

Many homeowners are looking to make only cosmetic improvements to their space. The bones are solid, but the cabinets need a refresh, replace carpets with hardwood, tile a bathroom, or make other necessary repairs. This would be considered renovation work and is a smaller scale project (that still can have a huge impact!)

A cosmetic renovation can be the most affordable route to updating your home, though your budget depends largely on the level of finishes you choose to incorporate. If you’re working on a tight budget, a great interior design tip is to choose just one or two splurges for your space, that sink you can’t stop thinking about, or a custom tile you found on Instagram, and then choosing more reasonable materials that compliment your treasures to complete the space.

Layout Remodel

In some cases, a homeowner may want to make changes to the layout of their space. Moving plumbing fixtures in the bathroom to accommodate a new design, or adding additional outlets and recessed lighting to a dark room. In this case, we are talking about making layout changes to your home, which can require opening up drywall and more extensive updates than a fully cosmetic renovation.

At that point, the homeowner is starting to do work that is more in line with a full remodel of the space. While you will not necessarily need structural engineering or architectural drawings to execute a layout upgrade, you may want to consider involving a licensed professional with experience in considering the flow of a particular space, or considering efficient energy models.

Rendering image for a kitchen remodel in San Fransisco
Have you considered the kitchen triangle theory? 

For instance, if you are planning to move appliances in the kitchen, it would behoove you to consider the kitchen triangle theory, a commonly held design theory that originated in the early twentieth century and is still used today. According to this theory, the ideal flow of a kitchen involves the three main workspaces, your oven, sink, and refrigerator, forming a triangle of a particular distance.

Full-Scale Structural Remodel

But perhaps layout changes won’t suffice for your particular project. Perhaps you are dreaming of an open-concept living room, or adding an ensuite bathroom to your primary bedroom.

This type of project would be considered a full-scale remodel of your home, and involves structural changes such as moving walls, adding supports, and will require detailed structural engineering plans to execute. Working with a licensed architect or structural engineer to ensure that you are making sound structural changes to your space is essential. And may be necessary depending on the permit requirements for your particular home.

Permit requirements for your project can vary depending on several factors. For instance, if you are hoping to add an additional bedroom or bathroom to a home that is on septic, that will require permit application and approval from local authorities. If you live within an HOA that has specific requirements for home upgrades, you will need to document your planned upgrades and apply for approval before any work is to begin.

Understanding the intricacies of a home remodel or renovation can be challenging, and finding the right team to help you plan and execute is essential. Beam is helping homeowners navigate design, planning, and hiring, depending on the scope of your project.

Looking to remodel your space? Choose every fixture and finish, or let our pros guide you to success. Get in touch with Beam to start your remodel today.