Renovation vs. Remodel: What’s the Difference and When Do You Need a Permit? 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

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When talking about home improvement projects, most people use the terms “renovation” and “remodeling” interchangeably. However, these terms refer to two types of projects: Renovations refer to updating and refreshing a space, while remodeling requires significant structural, functional, or layout changes to your room or home.

While it may seem minor, using the correct term can mean a lot when hiring a contractor to help with your project.  

In this blog post, we break down the differences between renovation vs. remodeling with examples. We also explain when a permit may be required for each type of project and which type of project generally offers a better return on investment. 

What is a Renovation?

Renovation refers to updating or improving the look and function of a room or building without altering its original purpose — this can include adding a fresh coat of paint, putting in new flooring, or swapping out hardware like knobs and faucets. Despite these cosmetic changes, the room is functionally the same and will still be used for the same purpose. For example, if you renovate your kitchen by painting the cabinets, replacing the countertop, and putting in new tiles, it's still a kitchen and it’s still going to be used in the exact same way it was before. 

It's important to note that renovations can cover more than cosmetic changes. Renovations can also include repairing or rebuilding the structure of the room or the building you’re in, as long as the structure itself remains relatively the same. For example, if you discover issues with the wooden framing for your walls or subfloor, you can replace it with new lumber, and it still counts as a renovation. 

What is a Remodel?

Remodeling refers to altering the style, layout, and sometimes structure of a room to change how it looks and functions. This can include projects like removing walls between rooms to create an open floor plan, reconfiguring the layout of your kitchen, or converting your garage into a living space. Adding extensions to your home or adding an outdoor deck are also considered remodeling. 

Like renovating and cosmetic changes, remodeling doesn’t always have to involve a major structural change, either. If you convert a guest bedroom into a home office, this can also be considered a remodel since the purpose of the room has changed. 

Renovation vs. Remodeling: When Do You Need a Permit? 

When making big changes to your home, a building permit may be required. A permit is a document that ensures proper building codes are being followed and it’s usually required by local building authorities when a structure is being changed.  

In terms of renovating vs. remodeling, renovations typically don’t require permits, but almost all remodeling projects do. However, there are some instances where renovation requires a permit. For example, replacing a roof is considered a renovation because the design and function of your home isn’t being altered. Despite being a renovation, this project requires a permit because if your roof isn’t installed correctly, it can leak and damage the home’s structure. 

Some other examples of renovation and remodeling projects that require a permit include: 

  • Electrical or plumbing changes 
  • Installing new windows or doors 
  • Installing or changing a heating, ventilation, or air conditioning system 
  • Replacing a roof or adding a new one 
  • Adding or removing interior walls 
  • Building a new deck or patio 
  • Building a new garage or carport 

It's important to note that permit requirements vary by location, so it's always a good idea to check with your local building authority to determine if a permit is required for your specific project. 

Renovation vs. Remodeling: Which Has Better ROI?

When it comes to the return on investment or ROI of your project, you may think that making bigger changes to your space will reap a bigger reward. That’s not entirely true. 

Since remodeling often involves major changes to the physical structure of a room or home like tearing down walls, updating layouts, and occasionally changes to wiring and plumbing, they’re typically more expensive than renovation projects. Depending on your construction skill level, remodeling may also require professional help, which can drive up your project costs. 

Renovation projects, on the other hand, usually aren’t as complex and are often manageable for DIYers to take on. As a result, they’re more budget friendly. But do they offer a higher return on investment when it’s time to sell your home? They do! 

In our blog post titled “10 Tips on How to Increase the Value of Your Home,” we cover 10 home improvement projects you can tackle to increase your home’s value from minor landscaping to a complete kitchen remodel. Based on national data from the Remodeling 2023 Cost vs. Value Report that’s cited in the blog post, renovations like painting and replacing a garage door both have higher ROIs than a show-stopping remodeling project like a full kitchen redesign. 

Use Trusscore for Your Next Renovation or Remodel 

If you’re planning on renovating or remodeling your bathroom, basement, laundry room, or garage and are looking for an alternative to drywall for a room’s walls and ceilings, consider using PVC-based panels like Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard

Pre-finished Trusscore Wall&CeilingBoard panels are available in white and gray, are 100% waterproof, and are scratch, dent, and damage resistant. The panels are also made for DIYers — panels weigh 40% less than drywall and, thanks to their pre-punched screw flange and tongue and groove interlocking system, they install four times faster with only one person needed for installation.  

By combining superior performance and seamless installation, Trusscore offers better ROI over drywall by saving you both time and money on renovation or remodeling projects of any size. Plus, you’ll avoid costly repairs or replacements in the future. It’s a win-win situation. 

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