You finally bought your dream fixer-upper, a beautiful mid to turn of the century home. Now you’re ready to start renovating or is it restoring? Is there a difference? You bet there is. These are very distinctly different approaches to home improvement. Before you start developing big plans and large dreams, it’s important to understand the differences, advantages and liabilities between renovation and restoration.

Do It Yourself Or Hire A Contractor?

The decision to take on a renovation or restoration is a big commitment. Even if you have all the construction skills to do the job, there are many rules, regulations, and risks associated with doing it yourself. Many expert recommend seeking some kind of consolation at the very lest. Find a good contractor who you can work with and know how to best work with a contractor before you start any  restoration or renovation project.

When restoring an old home, the owners can do a lot of the work like sanding and stripping. But when your house has historical significance you need to be sure your restorations are done correctly the first time. Restoration mistakes can cause damages beyond repair and replacement can be very difficult. When Renovating owners need to make sure the new appliance or changes will fit the existing infrastructures. When it comes to electric and pluming concern it is always best to have an expert’s knowledge.

Target Insurance Services warns homeowners to be sure to choose a contractor who has been properly certified and insured. Most contractors are required to carry some type of general liability insurance, but those coverages might not be enough if your homes value is high or the job is very large. If you are doing a big remodel, renovation, or restoration you should always inquire about the contractors insurance coverage in case of major damage.


Renovation is the process of making something look and feel like new. Renovation is not concerned with originality. When a home owner chooses to renovate they are free to bring in any modern design elements, materials, fixtures, or appliances. The point of renovation is to take a room or entire house and fix it up, adding new elements as you wish.

Renovation is not considered remodeling. Remodeling typically entails changing the structure of the house or room itself. So if you want to tear down walls, expand rooms, or add additions, this would fall under remodeling.

Renovation might be the cheapest option. That of course depends on the state of your home before renovation and what types of materials and changes you choose to make. If you wanted to renovate your house in exotic wood the price could be much higher than a fresh coat of paint. The advantage of renovation over restoration is most renovations are surface changes and the home owner is free to choose cheaper or more cost effective materials.

Many homeowners are not interested in keeping that old porcelain sink or classic claw foot bath tub. Many would much prefer contemporary amenities, and appliances. When renovating you are free to make what ever decision best fit your tastes and desires.

Renovation has become popular with home owners who want to turn a classic or old home into an hip updated house. As people are moving back to the city centers, old town-homes and brownstones are being renovated, and updated to give the homes a more modern feel.


Restoration is the process of returning a home to its original condition. Homeowners interested in restoring an old home take painstaking care to keep as many of the original materials and design elements genuine. Restoring an old home can be a difficult and costly task, but for many there is nothing better then return a home to its natural glory.

Restoration can get expensive if your are trying to restore a large or intricate home. Many old house were built with expensive materials and hard to find antique hardware and appliances. If you are lucky and the home has most of these materials and appliances still in tact you may be able to restore much of the home with some hard cleaning and perseverance.

The problems and cost start to arise when when pieces are missing or damaged. Restoring parts of the home which have become damaged or missing can be expensive and tough. Some of these homes can be over a hundred years old which means it can be challenging or expensive to finding original replacements parts.

If you’re interest in restoring an old home be prepared to do a lot of hunting in antique shops, and specialty period restoration shops. You must also be prepared to do a lot of hard work yourself. Paying a specialist to restore your home can be very costly. So many homeowners interested in restoration do most of the hard-work themselves. This could mean months of stripping paint and sanding wood. If you want to restore be ready to get dirty.

If you home has historical significance restoration might be your only option. Many cities have special rules and requirements for historically significant homes. If your home has been deemed historically significant, be sure you check with your local historical society or city planning commission before you begin your home improvements. For many the reward of seeing a house over a hundred years old returned to its original splendor is well worth the time, money, and pain.