What is home renovation

Refurbishment, renovation, modernization: what's the difference?

Painting walls is one of the renovation work. Photo: Pixabay

Sanremo is an Italian spa town. As an abbreviation, the word has also become common in the construction industry, representing refurbishment - renovation - modernization. So, in a nutshell, one speaks of the SanReMo market. This is practical, but the condensed made-up word also hides the differences. Because refurbishment, renovation and modernization are not the same thing.

The term SanReMo-Markt was omnipresent in the building materials industry in the noughties, today you don't hear it that often anymore. Instead, people mostly talk about the modernization market - as a contrast to the new construction market. That makes things even more confusing, because when you talk about the modernization market, it usually means all construction activities in the building stock: refurbishing, renovating and modernizing. And as I said: These activities are just not the same - at least not in theory.

Refurbishing means repairing damage

Refurbishment is called for when damage to the building needs to be repaired. If, for example, mold needs to be removed indoors, it is called mold remediation. Damage caused by moisture, cracks in the external plaster, holes in the roof cladding or efflorescence on components are also typical renovation cases. The aim of a pure renovation is to restore the original state of the building - just as it was before the damage occurred. A defect is eliminated by repairs. The renovated components are then back to their original quality.

Renovation as a refresher

Even with renovations, an original condition is restored to a certain extent. However, it is not about construction defects that must inevitably be eliminated in order to avert further damage, but rather about visual embellishments. Old components that have superficially worn out over the years will be "refreshed" by the renovation. One also speaks of cosmetic repairs.

The classic among renovations is wallpapering or painting the interior walls of the apartment. Of course, the old state does not have to be restored, you can also choose a different look and different colors. It is only important that the walls look freshly painted or newly wallpapered afterwards. As before. The laying of new floor coverings - for example carpet or laminate - is one of the renovations.

To modernize means to improve

This building urgently needs to be refurbished, which would then certainly also entail modernization. Photo: Pixabay

And what does modernization mean? It's about more than just visual embellishment. It is also about more than just repairing damage and restoring the old, functional condition. More precisely, there does not even have to be structural damage for a modernization. Rather, the aim is to improve parts of the building, bring them up to date with the latest structural standards, and increase their utility.

Typical examples are the insulation of a previously uninsulated building envelope and the replacement of intact windows with thermal insulation windows in order to save energy costs and create more living comfort. But also the purchase of a more powerful, energy-saving heating system, the soundproofing upgrading of apartment partition walls or the improvement of the fire protection of components are examples of modernization.

Demarcation difficulties

So much for the theory of the distinction between refurbishment, renovation and modernization. In practice, however, the terms often come together again. Structural damage that requires renovation often becomes modernization at the same time. If, for example, an old roof is leaking, many building owners not only remove the holes, but also have the component insulated at the same time. In many cases, the Energy Saving Ordinance (EnEV) even makes this mandatory.

Another example: If a facade is insulated for the first time, i.e. modernized, it is of course given a fresh coat of paint. This work is then purely theoretically a renovation, but one that was only necessary through the modernization. Conversely, a beauty renovation on the facade or roof also requires insulation, i.e. modernization, in many cases. Keyword EnEV.

One could also name many such examples in which the various construction activities in the building stock - renovating, renovating, modernizing - flow into one another almost automatically. The three terms basically stand for something different, but in practice one often leads to the other.


About the author Roland Grimm has been a freelance journalist based in Essen since February 2013 and regularly writes specialist articles for Building material knowledge. Before that, he was a specialist editor at the industry magazine for around six years Building materials market and also editor-in-chief and, from 2010, editor-in-chief of the trade journal building materials practice. Contact: freelance [email protected]

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