The Difference Between Renovating and Remodeling

The Difference Between Renovating and Remodeling

Whenever there’s talk of home improvement projects, the terms “renovation” and “remodeling” tend to be used interchangeably. That can get confusing quickly, though, as they have two separate meanings. Here’s the difference between renovating and remodeling, and why it matters.

The difference between renovating and remodeling

Discussions about renovating and remodeling often happen in the context of real estate—like whether they increase or decrease the value of your home. There are also people who purchase fixer-uppers so they can make decisions about upgrades and make the home their own. In other cases, people who aren’t sellers or new homebuyers simply want to give their home an upgrade (or several).

Regardless of the reason for the project(s), renovating and remodeling are two separate categories. The short version is that remodeling tends to be more complicated and work-intensive than renovations. Here are some additional details about what’s involved with each:


  • Working within the home’s current layout; no structural changes
  • Updating or repairing current structural components
  • Repairing or replacing cabinetry, light fixtures, hardware, or appliances
  • Cosmetic changes like repainting, putting up or taking down wallpaper, and installing or replacing tile or a backsplash
  • May not need permits


  • Structural changes to the home and/or altered floor plans are involved
  • Projects tend to be more disruptive and take longer
  • Adding rooms, entrances, or exits
  • Taking down walls
  • Changing the layout of the kitchen or bathroom
  • Finishing an attic or basement (especially to make it livable)
  • Will likely need permits

The cost of renovating vs. remodeling

Because renovations aren’t as involved as complicated, they tend to be less expensive than remodeling. That said, a lot will depend on the materials used, and whether you’re doing some (or all) of the work yourself, or hiring a professional. You can use this calculator to help estimate the cost of the project.

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