Home improvement projects are complicated enough without having to worry about your terminology. And yet, laymen and contractors alike constantly interchange terms like “renovation,” “remodel,” and “restoration” as they discuss various projects around the home.
If you’ve ever felt confused by the interchangeable nature of these construction terms, you’re not alone. Nevertheless, each word does have its own meaning, distinct and separate from the others:
- To remodel a home means you wish to make structural changes and additions to the house itself.
- To renovate a home implies that you like the shape and layout of the building, but you want to update and improve its appearance.
- To restore a home requires putting in the work to make a house look like it did at a specific point in the past.
Each of these three terms requires a variety of different activities and is broken down in further detail below.
Home Remodel Projects
As already touched on above, remodeling a home typically involves making fairly substantial structural changes. Taking out a wall, splitting up a space, or adding on another room entirely all are considered remodeling projects.
Typically remodeling a home consists of work that isn’t necessary. Instead, it focuses on projects that:
- Improve the layout of the home by helping with traffic flow or increasing visibility.
- Add to the cosmetic appeal of the home, such as creating more open spaces.
- Increase the amount of available usable space, as is the case with an entirely new structure like an addition or a porch.
In many cases, remodeling projects require the help of a licensed construction contractor to ensure that the structural integrity of the home is preserved and local building codes are followed. Unless you’re doing a complete home remodel, which impacts every area of the home, most remodels fall into one of two categories:
Interior remodels are, unsurprisingly, focused on the inside of a home. They can consist of something as drastic as entirely altering the structure of a room and can be as minimal as adding or removing a feature such as a beam, a wall, or a hearth.
Depending on the scope of the project (as well as your local building codes), it may require a permit to engage in certain interior remodeling projects.
Of course, the natural alternative category to an interior remodel is an exterior one. Exterior remodeling projects can include smaller yet transformative activities like switching to a metal roof or swapping out wooden for vinyl siding. They can also be more robust in nature, such as adding a sunroof, a patio, a porch, or a balcony to an existing structure.
Once again, more ambitious projects, especially those that require demolition or breaking ground, will likely require a permit in many regions.
Home Renovation Projects
Home renovation projects don’t aim to alter as much as upgrade the existing structure. The goal here is to both fix anything that is run down or dilapidated as well as provide cosmetic upgrades for areas of the home that are “behind the times.”
There are typically two ways that you can renovate a home. A whole-home renovation takes place when a homeowner is ready to fully upgrade an existing home that is cosmetically dated throughout. This can involve literally everything about the house with the exception of its basic layout and structure. The alternative option is a partial renovation in which only one portion of the home is upgraded at a time.
In either case, renovation projects can vary dramatically in size and scope and can include candidates such as:
- Replacing plaster and lath with drywall.
- Running new electric and plumbing.
- Providing energy-efficient lighting, heating, and cooling.
- Upgrading major appliances with trendy, efficient newer models.
Due to the “improvement” nature of these activities, many home renovation projects tend to revolve around heavily used areas of the house, such as the kitchen and the bathroom.
Home Restoration Projects
The concept of a home restoration finds its root right in the name itself, as it aims to restore a home to the way it once was in the past. There are two different kinds of home restorations:
The first reason to restore a home is if it’s been through a disaster. This could be man-made, such as an electrical fire, or natural, such as a flood, tornado, or hurricane.
In either case, disaster restorations are usually focused on bringing back the basic functionality of the home. This is partly because insurance companies are often involved in restorations of this nature and are primarily interested in bringing the home back to a state of usability at a minimal cost. They are understandably not invested in fun or decorative goals, but rather serviceability and practicality.
This money-saving approach can involve hiring mediocre contractors and avoiding extra, cosmetically-focused building costs. The focus on form over function may mean the individual owner has to invest some of their own money in order to hire a licensed contractor that can provide the level of quality that they desire.
While disaster restorations are required due to a catastrophe, historic restorations are of a very different kind. If you live in an aged home, it may be considered a historical landmark. In order to be thus labeled, it must meet age and integrity requirements, with the structure being at least 50 years old and still looking similar to its original build. In addition, it must have a certain sense of significance attached to it, through architecture, location, use, or some other important factor.
If you live in a historical landmark, it may require restoration. This process involves updating the current condition of the home in order to make it look like it did in the past. This tends to prioritize the parts of the home that are exterior and primarily seen by others.
Regardless of the particular areas of the home that are affected, the goal of a historic restoration isn’t to keep up with modern trends or fix a structure after a catastrophe. Instead, it attempts to rewind the clock and restore a sense of historicity to the appearance of the home itself.