MU Extension MU Extension       University of Missouri    ●    Columbia    ●    Kansas City       Rolla     ●    St. Louis -Housing


Quick Answers...



What's the difference between the terms, renovation, remodeling, rehabilitation and restoration?

You have a good question, but you may be surprised by the answer. In modern times, these words are frequently used interchangeably and one is meant to be equal to the others. However, traditionally, the terms meant:


  • Rehabilitation: Also sometimes referred to as reuse. Keeping the building the same but changing its use: using an old church for a school, for example.
    • Sometimes it meant keeping its use but changing the specific type, i.e. changing a McDonalds to a Taco Bell.
    • Currently, it is used interchangeably with restore.


Traditionally, remodel and renovate meant the same thing. However, you will find some older references where:

  • Remodel means a change in structure or volume (raising the roof, removing load bearing walls), and where renovate is referring to new finishes and colors.
  • Restore means to bring the structure into a particular era of history, preferably authentically.
  • Rebuild, a term not on your list, refers to a new structure built on a site where an existing building has been demolished, but I’ve heard it in reference to a large remodel/renovation of a damaged structure, such as the type currently found in New Orleans.



Michael Goldschmidt, AIA, Resident Instruction Assistant Professor, Housing and Environmental Design Specialist, Department of Architectural Studies, University of Missouri Extension









Can't Find Your Question Here? Try Searching Our Quick Answer Knowledge Base

Last update: Monday, May 18, 2009



University of Missouri logo links to

Site Administrator: 
Copyright  ADA  Equal Opportunity

MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences,
Extension Division, University of Missouri-Columbia