Refurbish Vs. Renovate Home Projects: What Are The Major Differences?

Jennifer Eggerton
by Jennifer Eggerton

The more you get into DIY projects around your home, the more you come across an intriguing array of words. Refurbish and renovate are two words that are often confused. So, what exactly is the difference between a refurbishment and a renovation?

Refurbish refers to projects that are intended to improve a space or home to make it last longer. These types of projects may also involve making the home more energy-efficient. A renovation aims to increase the value of a home by making it look better. Refurbishment and renovation do not change the original layout or design of the space or home.

The differences between refurbish and renovate are subtle, so let’s take a look at some popular projects that fall under each category.

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Definition of Refurbish vs. Renovate

The definition of “refurbish” is to freshen up and make more sustainable. Sustainability can mean making something last longer or, from an environmental, making it more energy-efficient.

“Renovate” is defined as restoring something to better state while maintaining the overall design and layout. The intent of a renovation is to make something look better so as to increase the value. Unlike a refurbishment, a renovation does not necessarily improve sustainability.

Popular Refurbishment DIY Projects

Furniture, kitchen cabinets, and houses are three excellent examples of refurbishment projects.

How to Refurbish Furniture

When you refurbish furniture, the goal is to make changes that will make it last longer. For wood furniture, you sand the entire piece first. Then you fill in cracks and other flaws with wood putty. If the furniture is falling apart, you replace screws, nails, and fittings. In the final steps, you apply a fresh coat of paint or stain.

How to Refurbish Kitchen Cabinets

Refurbishing kitchen cabinets helps the pieces last longer. These types of projects are common in homes with older kitchen cabinets that the owners do not want to update. To refurbish kitchen cabinets, you remove the doors to have access to the frames.

You then look for damage to the frame, and make sure that the frames are securely attached to the walls. Replace damaged hardware. Sand the entire cabinet, and apply a fresh coat of paint or stain to protect the wood.

How to Refurbish a House

When you refurbish a house, you make repairs to help the structure last longer. You may also install energy-efficient appliances and windows, as well as replace the HVAC system. Refurbishing a home may also involve replacing the insulation, repairing the roof, updating the plumbing and electrical systems, painting, and refinishing wood trim and doors.

Popular Renovation DIY Projects

Renovations are more extensive than projects that refurbish objects or spaces. With a renovation, the original design and layout is maintained, but the space is made to look better. In most cases, renovations are done to improve the aesthetics, and, therefore, the value of a home. Let’s look at houses, kitchen, basements, and lawns as examples of renovations.

How to Renovate a House

A home renovation may involve changes to the exterior and interior of the house with the goal being to improve the aesthetics and value. For the exterior, a renovation may involve painting, installing new trim and shutters, planting flowers and shrubs, and updating the walkways. Lighting may be added to enhance the look of the property at night.

An interior home renovation involves installing new flooring, cabinetry, fixtures, appliances, and finishes. Home renovations do not involve changes to the design, layout, electrical, or plumbing. Walls are not removed or added.

When an entire home is renovated, the project is evaluated based on cost versus return on investment. The goal is to invest only enough to increase the property value and make a higher profit. The owner recoups the cost of the renovation when the property sells for more than its value before the renovation.

How to Renovate a Kitchen

Kitchen renovations are smaller versions of home renovations, but the investment greatly appreciates the value of a home. You don’t have to spend a fortune to see a good return. A mid-range kitchen renovation increases a home’s value by 5% to 10%. The key is to not overspend based on your home’s current value. Otherwise, you won’t recoup the money for the renovation.

A kitchen renovation involves replacing the countertops, cabinets, appliances, flooring, fixtures, and lighting. The project does not involve changing the layout, adding space, or moving plumbing and electrical.

How to Renovate a Basement

Renovating a basement is not the same as finishing a basement. When you finish a basement, you take a large, open space, build walls, and make it useful for every day. When you renovate a basement, you may replace carpeting, install ceramic tile, paint, and update bathrooms.

How to Renovate a Lawn

Renovating a lawn is an interesting concept. Homeowners renovate their lawns more often than they realize. The design of the landscape is not changed. Instead, a lawn renovation involves reseeding the grass, putting in new plants, and repairing walkways and concrete slabs. Good lawn renovations increase property values by 15% or more. Homeowners often see a return of double their investment.

When You Should Refurbish vs. Renovate

Refurbishing is the best option for older homes, especially those that are in designated historical districts. You want the property to last as long as possible while maintaining the original aesthetic.

When You Should Renovate vs. Refurbish

Refurbishing a property is not intended to improve the aesthetics of a home, nor its market value. If you plan on selling your home, a renovation is the best way to go. Remember to only invest enough to see a good return once you sell the home.

How Much Should You Spend on a Home Renovation?

Here’s a way to get a good idea for your renovation budget. Determine the square footage of each room that you want to renovate. Next, calculate the percent of total square footage for the room. If you want to renovate a 200 square foot kitchen of a 2,000 square foot home, that’s 10% of the total square footage.

Next, multiple the percent of square footage by your home’s total value to get the budget for the kitchen renovation. For a $350,000 home, this is a $35,000 budget for the kitchen renovation.

How to Renovate a House on a Budget

What if you don’t have large amount of money set aside for a renovation? Can you still increase the value of your property on a budget? Yes. DIY projects reduce the largest expense for renovations – labor costs. Do as much of the work yourself as possible.

Also, spend a few months looking for materials and appliances on sale or liquidation. Instead of replacing kitchen and bathroom cabinets, reface them with veneers or paint them. Look into ways to refinish your countertops. A fresh coat of paint is another easy and affordable way to renovate a home on a budget.

Where Do Remodeling and Restoration Fit In?

Now that we’ve sorted through refurbishing and renovating, there are two other words that are common in the world of home improvement and DIY projects – remodeling and restoration. Remodeling is when you change the layout of a home or room. Walls, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and just about everything else gets rearranged.

Restoration is similar to refurbishment. The difference is that, with a restoration, the building is not made more energy-efficient. The goal is to keep the property as authentic as possible.


Related Questions

How do you refinish kitchen cabinets?

Use sandpaper to remove the old finish. Fill in flaws with wood putty, Apply a fresh coat of stain or paint.


Does a garage increase property value?

Yes. On average, homeowners see an 80% return on their investment for an enclosed, detached garage.

Do You Need an Addition or Remodel Contractor?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

What Did We Learn?

Refurbish and renovate are two words that are often used to mean the same thing, but there are subtle differences. The layout and design of a home is room is not changed during a refurbishment or renovation. The goal of a refurbishing project is to make repairs and upgrades so a house is more sustainable. This means that the property will last longer and be more energy-efficient.

With a renovation, the goal is to improve the aesthetics of the house to increase the value. The most common renovations are kitchens, basements, entire homes, and lawns. The budget for a renovation should not exceed what you can reasonably expect to get when you sell the home. In other words, don’t upgrade beyond your neighborhood.

When you are deciding on a budget for your renovation, calculate the percent of total square footage that each room represents. Multiply that percentage by the current value of your home. The result is how much you should spend to renovate that room.

You can renovate your home on a budget. Prioritize the rooms according to which ones hold the most promise. Updated kitchens and bathrooms rank high with sellers. Take your time sourcing materials for the project. Watch for sales, discounts, liquidations, and specials. Do as much of the work yourself as possible without diminishing quality. Rely on professionals for more advanced work, such as updating plumbing and electrical.

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Jennifer Eggerton
Jennifer Eggerton

Jennifer L. Eggerton loves being hands-on, whether it's with a home DIY project, making repairs, re-decorating a room, or keeping life organized. She enjoys helping people by sharing her knowledge, insights, and experiences, as well as her lessons learned. In addition to her work as a writer, Jennifer is a JeepĀ® overlander, self-published author, and nature photographer who loves being outdoors.

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