To Renovate or Restore? That is the Question!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015Scott Windell

Are you about to renovate your bathroom? Are you thinking about restoring it instead? What's the difference?

A restoration project is when you return a property back to its original condition, accurately portraying the historic context and integrity. Restorations are common to do in historic buildings, but they can also be applied in any major improvement project. Repairing holes in the walls, fixing and replacing old fixtures with replicas of the originals, and removing old carpet to expose the original wood floors are all examples of what constitutes a restoration project. This process can also entail code compliance improvements. A great restoration project is one that goes unnoticed - all new additions and design elements should fit in seamlessly with the existing context.

Notice the difference between the terms renovation and restoration. If you restore a 1950s house, you use those period materials and effects. Restoration refers to “putting back original elements.” Most contractors use these terms interchangeably, but there's a big difference between them. There's also a big difference in the cost, added home value, and impact on the environment.

Renovation, however, is "the act of renewing." In simple terms, it's making a room or entire building look better by fixing what's already there. The condition of the property along with other factors will determine whether renovation is more or less costly than restoration.

From an environmental and life-cycle perspective, restoration generally uses fewer new resources and may require less energy to complete. Depending on the condition of the property, restoration is typically more cost effective than renovation. Success you’re your clients is rooted in understanding their budget, vision, and expectations. Some want to a pristine, new home with an open floor plan, energy efficient windows, and the latest appliances. Others find charm in the creaking floorboards and weathered shingles of older homes, and are okay with forgoing some of the features you only see in newer homes.

However, many clients fall somewhere in between; they want a home with a great style and location, but plan to make changes — sometimes major ones — so the property will better fit their functional and aesthetic preferences.

To understand the client’s needs we have to rely on four key factors. The condition of the property, the location (if located in a historic district, certain changes can't be made), budget, and time frame (it takes a longer time to locate authentic materials and products). Again, a successful project is a result of truly understanding the client’s goals.


About the Author

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Scott Windell
Senior Project Manager/Building Consultant

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