Sellers and buyers often grow confused about what it means to remodel versus renovate their home and living space. Unfortunately, these two terms are not interchangeable.
Patrick Bieleny is a respected real estate investor and entrepreneur in Calgary, Alberta, with a specialty for flipping houses. Mr. Bieleny immigrated to Canada from Eastern Europe to attend college and after graduating from the University of Toronto’s business management program, he founded PB & Co, a real estate investment company. Patrick has since flipped hundreds of properties, with houses being his primary property type. He breaks down the five major differences between renovations and remodels.
A renovation is often included in a remodel, but renovations never include a remodel.
If you are interested in renovating a room or two in your home, you may be able to do a lot of the tasks yourself, says Patrick Bieleny. However, remodels are never DIY projects.
In a remodel, you are making significant structural changes to your home. It’s common to make a few renovations in the process, but renovations alone don’t merit major structural changes.
You need permits to remodel, but you probably won’t need them for a renovation.
If you tell a contractor that you want to remodel parts of your home, their mind will immediately think about required licenses, permits, and inspections. Remodels often require running plumbing or electrical to new areas, adding rooms, combining rooms, and more.
But if all you want to do is update cabinets, repaint, or replace flooring, permits are not necessary. It may even be possible to replace certain light fixtures without a licensed electrician. That said, notes Patrick Bieleny, you should always consult a professional before launching a renovation project.
Outdated, non-historic homes often need a full remodel.
Home remodels often occur with homes that are old enough to be poorly constructed (by modern construction standards) but are new enough to not be registered as a historic home or building. In fact, if you own a registered historic home, you may not be allowed to remodel.
However, houses built in the last 30–75 years often lack the proper infrastructure to accommodate average heights, construction compliance, and modern amenities. Additionally, says Patrick Bieleny, the building may have aged and require safety upgrades. These homes usually need major overhauls before they are comfortable or can sell at a premium price.
Renovations don’t switch rooms or create new square footage. Remodels do.
As mentioned previously, you’re unlikely to be taking out walls to redoing plumbing/electrical in a renovation. Even major renovations don’t involve adding square footage, rooms, etc.
Renovations nearly always refer to interior changes that retain the structural integrity of the house or building. Furthermore, renovations usually are more affordable than remodels.
Remodels are required when you need to add rooms such bedrooms, bathrooms, home offices, or closets. After a natural disaster, like a wildfire or hurricane, keeping the home often means launching a major remodeling project with the help of your insurance company and qualified contractors.
Renovations merely update. Remodels are major flipping projects.
If you’re unhappy with the outdated style of your home, you’re most likely going to make cosmetic changes. Cosmetic changes amount to a renovation. Many home investors talk about flipping a home even though they are merely updating the interior look and design to include replacing countertops, appliances, and flooring, says Patrick Bieleny.
But true “flipping” projects are actually remodels. Professional flippers are often qualified contractors (or partner with contractors) to gut entire rooms, move walls, add square footage, and more. Due to the more extreme nature of these remodeling projects, remodels are more rare than home renovations.