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(Photo of restoration in Appomattox, VA, courtesy Richard Taylor)

Clear communication between owner, contractor, and architect is critical to a successful home design project. Agreement on some simple definitions is a good place to start.

“Remodeling” is often broadly used to describe any kind of change to an existing house. Technically, it’s more accurate to say that remodel means to change the character of a house or a portion of a house. So when you convert a den into a master bedroom you’re remodeling the den. When you combine a kitchen and dining room into one large eat-in kitchen you’re remodeling the kitchen and dining room (this is an extremely popular type of project in our office right now.)

“Renovating” is a much more specific term. It means, quite literally, to make new again. An out-of-date kitchen, updated with new finishes and fixtures, has been renovated. Replacing old windows with new ones is a renovation project.

“Restoring” a house is sort of the opposite of renovation. Instead of updating, you’re making the house like it was before (i.e., you can do a historic restoration but not a historic renovation.)

Even if you convert existing spaces back to their original use, you’re still restoring the original rooms.
Removing vinyl siding and fixing up the original wood siding and trim is a restoration project.

Confused? Let’s review. Three similar terms, three different meanings. I remember them this way:

  • Remodel: Changing the use of a space or spaces.
  • Renovate: Make a space new without changing its use.
  • Restore: Return a space to its original use, and/or return a space to its original character.

Richard Taylor is a residential architect based in Dublin, Ohio and is a contributor to Zillow Blog. Connect with him at http://www.rtastudio.com/index.htm.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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