Renovating and Remodeling: What’s the Difference?

Renovating and Remodeling

When it comes to home improvement, undertaking a full-scale remodel has never been more popular. As land transfer taxes (LTT) make it incredibly expensive to move in Canada, many homeowners are instead choosing to convert their current property into their dream home. While it used to be more common to do some smaller-scale renovations — the kitchen, the bathroom, maybe some flooring — it’s now typical to gut a place to the studs and builds it back up from scratch to get exactly the kind of fixtures, flooring, and layout that you want.

This is an especially emerging trend in the Ontario housing market and surrounding Greater Toronto area. Consider that the average land transfer tax on houses for sale in Mississauga, for example, is 1.5% of the purchase price. That means LTT will cost about $18,500 for the average priced detached house and $7,800 for average Mississauga condos, according to the last available MLS data. In Toronto, LTT is also charged municipally, so it runs about 3.2% of the purchase price. By staying put homeowners can instead redirect their funds to upgrading their existing abode.

But how much time, energy and money do you want to spend upgrading? Can you get away with a renovation, or do you have to go for a full remodel? We’re going to discuss the pros and cons of each to help you make the best decision.

Pros of a Remodel

The biggest pro of a remodel is that you can change the structure entirely to suit your needs. This is best when your house is dilapidated or poorly maintained and a few upgrades here or there simply won’t cut it. Not only that. If it’s an older house, remodeling can help you to discover deeper structural issues caused by air or water leaks, mold, condensation or ice formations. If you hate the layout of your main floor because you can’t see your kids from your kitchen, or feel your mornings would be immeasurably better if you got rid of your walk-in bedroom closet to install a master bath, then a remodel can fix those issues.

Cons of a Remodel

A remodel takes more time and money than a renovation — you’ll have to design it from scratch, perhaps with the help of an architect and engineer, and potentially add systems, such as electricity and plumbing. Because the scope of the project extends to the home’s structure, it can be more common to run into costly issues, such as learning a column is load-bearing, or that the foundation needs excessive repairs – all of which can drain badly-needed home improvement funds. For this reason, it’s important to work with trusted contractors and structural professionals when planning out your project.

Pros of a Renovation

A renovation is when you work within the existing structure to update your home. These projects, while not always small in scale, tend to focus on specific areas. For example, changing out your kitchen countertops, swapping out flooring, or installing a new shower can all be considered examples of a renovation.

Renovations tend to be less expensive than a full remodel, and less time-consuming. However, depending on what the project is, it’s still crucial to use the expertise of qualified contractors, especially if the changes involve the plumbing or electric systems.

Cons of a Renovation

The biggest con of a renovation is that it may not be extensive enough and in a few years, you may have wished you simply remodeled and got exactly what you wanted. It may turn out that you actually do wish you added an extension and just gutted the kitchen when you had all those contractors on site.

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong decision when it comes to renovation versus remodeling. It comes down to your budget and your space, and how much you want to spend and how much you need to change. For newer builds, it’s likely a renovation will be sufficient to address whatever you’d like to change. However, older houses, especially those that haven’t been updated for some time, often require more in-depth remodeling, particularly if its systems and structure are outdated.