What is the difference between a restoration and renovation?

16 December, 2020 | Mikala Chapman

What is the difference between a restoration and renovation?

You want to call a builder to get some work done on your terrace home, but you’re not sure of the right words to use. Is it a renovation or restoration you want done? Is there a difference? What can affect the choice of whether it is a renovation or restoration? Well, let us explore these questions and find out the difference between renovation and restoration.

The two words are often interrelated in the building and construction trade; however, it basically comes done to renewing or restoring.


Say you were to replace the old wooden window frames with new aluminium ones, or you update the copper pipes throughout your home with PVC ones, or you replace the 70s kitchen with a sleek new modern one; this is a renovation. It is the act of changing your home from its original state rather than returning it to its former glory.


On the other hand, a restoration would be to remove the aluminium window frames and replace them with the original style of wooden ones, to replace old copper pipes with new copper pipes, or to bring your 70s kitchen back to its original beauty.

Usually, the choice as to whether you renovate or restore is up to the owner, but there are circumstances where the choice is in the hands of the government. Such is the case for a heritage listed building.

Heritage homes

A building can be added to the Australian heritage list, not just because of its age, but for its significance in Australia’s cultural or natural history. When it is on the list though it comes with some regulations and restrictions. These may differ between councils, so be sure to check the regulations in your area before commencing any work. 

Often, restrictions apply to:

  • Street frontages – this sometimes has the strictest regulations. Keeping the original façade, style, materials, and feel is very important to the street appeal. If it can be seen from the street and its nothing like the original, then it is usually not allowed.
  • Materials – although it isn’t always possible, but whenever it is, as much of the original products and materials must be used. When they aren’t available new products that maintain the style and look of the originals should be used.
  • Additions and renovations – these are sometimes allowed on heritage listed houses if the original style is maintained, and it does not distract from the authenticity of the building.

So, if your terrace home is heritage listed don’t despair, because getting a great builder to do your Sydney renovation will take the stress out of knowing the rules and regulations of your local council.

To sum it up, there is a difference between renovation and restoration. Although they are closely related, when you do a renovation you upgrade, add to, or restyle and when you do a restoration you bring it back to, or maintain, its original look and style. When your terrace house is on the Australian Heritage list you are more likely to be doing restorations rather than renovations.

Whilst knowing the correct building/construction terms can raise your confidence when discussing your plans with your builder, a great construction team will talk you through the processes and terms that are relevant to you and your build. 

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