Your building could use a tune-up, but you’re not sure what route to take. Should you restore, remodel, or renovate?

If you don’t know the difference between these words, don’t feel bad. Many first time building owners have this problem.

But, you need to know the difference before you start your project. That way, it’ll be easier to plan your project and know exactly what needs to be done to complete it.

In this article, we’ll go over the differences between building restoration, renovation, and remodeling. And, we’ll help you decide which one is right for your project.


Restoration is the process in which you return the building to its original condition.

Historic buildings are common sites for restoration projects, but modern buildings also undergo restoration as well. Restoration projects typically involve:

  • Repairing holes in walls
  • Fixing old fixtures
  • Replacing old fixtures with replicas of the original
  • Removing old carpet
  • Refinishing wood floors

From an environmental standpoint, restoration uses fewer resources and less energy. It can also be the most cost-effective as long as the house has a strong foundation and requires only minimal repairs.

If your goal is to make your building look like the original structure, then restoring is definitely right for you. However, be prepared to still do some renovations and remodels, as some parts may not be able to be fully restored.


Renovation is the process of renewing a building or structure by fixing what’s already present and in some cases adding new components.

Renovation tends to be cheaper than remodeling. Depending on the project, it can also be more cost-effective than restoration.

Typically, renovations are done in conjunction with restorations. For example, someone may decide they want to restore their bathrooms. But to make it a bit more modern, they add a shower component to the tub, which would make it a renovation project as well.


Remodeling involves changing an entire room or building.

Remodeling tends to be a much more involved process than restoring or renovating, as it involves making changes to a building’s structure. Examples or remodeling include:

  • Expanding the square footage of a building
  • Gutting, removing, or adding walls
  • Raising ceilings
  • Adding plumbing
  • Adding heating/cooling ducts

Remodels have the highest cost of all the three options and they require the most materials and time to complete.

Remodeling a building is a lot of work. You’ll only want to remodel if your building is missing major components it needs to function properly. Before choosing to remodel, you’ll definitely want a cost-estimate to make sure you have enough in your budget for the project.

Remodel vs. Renovation

A renovation is fixing up a room without changing its use, while remodeling is transforming the entire purpose of the space. But why do these differences matter to you — the home or business owner? While subtle, the distinctions between the two can make a difference in how worthwhile an investment your project will be to you.

When choosing between a renovation vs. a remodel, here are some of the factors you’ll especially want to consider:

Price: No matter what you decide to do with your space, a remodel will always cost more than a renovation since it often requires complex construction, electrical and plumbing work. You might also need to obtain permits for a complete remodeling project, which could add hundreds of dollars to your bill.
Time: While you can perform minor cosmetic touch-ups quickly, any remodeling will require a significantly longer timeline. Expect the planning and construction of your remodel to take several months. Living rooms and bathrooms are typically finished around three months after you start planning, while kitchens can take up to five months.
Project Scope: Renovation projects mainly focus on the appearance of your home or commercial building, while remodels alter its entire functionality. With a renovation, you can install new appliances and fixtures and upgrade your building’s technology. On the other hand, a remodel allows you to completely transform your space when cosmetic changes aren’t enough to fix the issue.
Customization Options: Renovations can give your building a more modern appearance and add many functional elements to your building, but they can’t change the structure altogether. If you want to open up the room by tearing down a wall or completely transform the space to make it your own, you’ll need to do a complete remodel.

How to Choose Which Type of Project Is Best for You

Maybe you have a room in your home or commercial building you’d like to change, but you’re not sure exactly what you’d like to do. Perhaps you’d like to touch it up with a new fixture, or maybe you’d like to completely start over and treat it like a new part of the building. If you’re not sure whether a restoration, renovation or remodeling project is best for you, here are three critical questions to ask yourself:

What’s My Budget? A full remodel will typically cost between 7 percent and 10 percent of the value of your building. If you’re remodeling a room in a $500,000 commercial building, for example, expect to pay between $35,000 and $50,000. If you can’t afford to put that much money aside, a renovation or simple restoration is the best way to go.
How Much Do I Want to Change? Do you want to make some repairs to your current building? A restoration offers the chance to make some simple fixes that will enhance your room’s appearance and functionality. Are you merely hoping to make your building look more modern or update some elements to be more practical? Then a renovation project will likely offer what you need. Or, do you want to come back to a room you don’t even recognize once the construction is finished? In this case, you’ll need to do a complete remodel.
Do I Like the Current Room Design? Renovations and restorations can both transform the look and feel of any area. However, if you don’t like the room’s entire layout and want to tear down a wall, add an extension or move the sink to the other end of the room, you’ll need to spend the extra money for a remodel.

Building Restoration: Wrap Up

Now that you understand the difference between these terms and have an idea of which route is right for you, it’s time to start making plans for your building.

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