Remodeling vs. New Construction – Is There a Difference?

Can a residential contractor manage both remodeling projects and new construction projects successfully? Well that depend. On the surface, remodeling and new construction appear to be similar. But are they? Sure, they both incorporate similar materials & products and upon completion the may even appears to be identical.  However, there are inherent differences between each project type; some obvious and some not-so-obvious. Our firm provides architectural services for remodeling projects as well as new construction. Over the past decade, we have observed the unique differences between the two project types.

While a new home is typically constructed in a methodical sequence from commencement to completion, a home renovation often involves many intricate steps that need to be coordinated with clock-like precision. Selective or partial demolition is a common component of a home renovation. Frequently load-bearing walls are removed and structural members are modified. The existing construction needs to be  properly supported until the new framing elements are in place. In response to the desire for an open-plan, it is customary to reroute and reconfigure mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems whence interior walls are removed.

The construction schedule for a renovation project is often impacted by the fact that the homeowner is living in the house during the project. Items such as start & end times of the workday will need to respond to the homeowner’s schedule. There may be “black-out” days on the schedule that are caused by life-events. The work schedule should be clearly reviewed with the homeowner prior to commencement.  Moreover, the contractor and sub-contractors need to be aware of their behavior on the job-site. The significance of a smoke-free job-site with acceptable language and appropriate music cannot be over emphasized.

A fundamental goal of renovation projects is to complement the existing character of the home. An addition should not look like it is an addition. The new work should be woven into the fabric of the existing construction. It is also important to consider the personality of the neighborhood. The materials for the project should be selected to create a coherent design solution. A remodeling project will regularly require the need to accurately replicate details and profiles.

Large renovation projects are often divided into smaller, manageable phases. A master-plan will illustrate the overall project in its entirety. The intent of a master-plan is for each phase of the project to be “self-sufficient” and not dependent upon the later phases to be considered complete. It is common for the architect, remodeler and homeowner to work together to create a master-plan for the project.

Like most relationships, success comes from good communication and teamwork. -jfa