So what is a renovation?

This is a great question raised by Mark A yesterday and worthy of a new thread. It should provoke interesting discussion and we should all benefit from the insights gained.

So what is a renovation ?

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For me renovation is bringing a forgotten miserable ugly old house back into the 21st century and turning it into a palace or a ‘coup de coeur’. No renovating it back to what it was before. That is boring and pointless.

It does not have to be a clichĂŠ historical pile of stones it can be anything.

The last two renovations we did nobody would touch because they could not see beyond mess. Our last house was for sale for 4 years in an area where property is sold within a month. Now it has life again and we are very proud.

That is a renovation.


Each to his own.


Question you have to ask yourself when doing a renovation is what am I going to renovate it into ? A family house ? A museum ? A roll top bath and stony walls. Is that really practical ?

A quick flick through Greenacres and you can seen countless renovations for sale that are just another renovation. Many of which will take years to sell.

You need to identify before renovating who is your target market if you need to sell ? Expats NOOO. French families…Yes !


Renovation as the word suggest is about renewing. It should really be about the fabric of the buillding. Bringing it up to current standards of insulation, thermal and energy efficiency and so on, as opposed to restoration which is taking it back to or maintaining it’s original state.

Roll top baths, exposed stone, beams and so on are more about interior design and decoration. They are really just a matter of fashion and taste.

As for, if you are designing for resale and therefore have a target market in mind, it is worth saying that there is a market amongst French buyers for Brit renovated properties, particularly amongst the more kind of Homes and Interiors style.


Renovation as opposed to restoration, not to be confused.


Valid point…but then you have ask what is restoration ?

True but, if someone has had a grand idea of putting a roll top bath in then the infrastructure of the piping is going to be a pain in the bum to reverse if you want something more practical.

You could argue that reversing it is renovation !! lol

In my book, restoration is restoring something to its original condition, as faithfully as possible, to preserve a piece of history so that it can be appreciated by future generations. It goes hand in hand with conservation.
Renovation is bringing something up to date, giving it a facelift, giving it a new lease of life.
Horses for courses. If you have a listed building that’s part of local heritage, renovation would be appropriate so that its interest is not lost. If you have a tired old building with no historical significance or cultural value, renovation would be appropriate.


Does preserving it involve installing wooden windows (or other materials) that will eventually rot/degrade or installing PVC windows that won’t ?

Yes well that’s a good example isn’t it. I would say installing pvc windows and electric shutters is quite definitely renovation. Restoration would be repairing the original window frames if possible, or if that’s not possible then replacing them with as close as you can get - wooden frames, antique glass.

Yes wooden windows will eventually need maintenance again, but that’s the nature of the beast, restoration is an ongoing process. Otherwise kiddies would grow up thinking that people in the 16th century used PVC and electric shutters because when they visited a supposedly “preserved” 16th century castle that’s what they saw. A restoration should illustrate how things were at the time, so that people understand history and appreciate how different things were back then. That’s how I see it. Restoration is not something you would undertake on a whim, and certainly not as an investment. It’s a labour of love that you do because you are passionate about heritage and history and you want to make your own contribution to it for future generations to enjoy, and it involves painstaking research and not a lot of scope for the imagination, it’s all tied in with respect for the building as it was originally conceived. Probably there will be compromises but only after a lot of heart searching. Whereas renovation is all about taking the building as a blank canvas and using your imagination to turn it into whatever you want.


So what do you with your restoration once you finished it ?

Live in it ? Can you live in it ? No telly, no WIFI. Its cold, with uncomfortable old period furniture. Only fireplaces to heat it.

I bet those who don’t like PVC windows are happy to have WIFI, Sky telly, a B&Q kitchen.

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The thread is about what someone perceives as a Renovation…it asks the question…

Anna has quite rightly raised the Renovation/Restoration debate… and (in my view) she gives a very clear explanation of both aspects…

Thanks Anna…


Preservation and restoration usually go hand in hand and are, as Anna says, about keeping as far as possible, to the original spec. So if wooden windows were original, then ideally, you would replace with wooden. It is a normally a very laborious and expensive process, requiring specialist skills that not a lot of builders have these days.

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Watching craftsmen at work preserving/restoring an old property can be quite enthralling…especially with the old-fashioned tools and their skilled use… and often in difficult circumstances…:scream:

Watching a renovation can be just as much fun… with modern tools and materials… but still fascinating…:slight_smile:


Exactly - so what most people do, is renovations.
Restorations are typically done in partnership with a heritage organisation, not by an individual off their own bat unless they happen to work in conservation and have the skills, or have a passion for learning those skills, or be a millionaire who can afford the artisans Stella talks about.
But you might carry out a combined restoration/renovation as an investment, eg to offer top of the range accommodation in a restored château with lots of original features where people will pay top dollar to stay in a piece of heritage and will expect authenticity for their money.

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Oh dear, the generalisations have started!

But the Elysee in Paris has PVC windows !!

You keep saying that lol. What do you mean ?

The French. Expats. It gets repetitive especially as you are so out of touch. I cannot take your comments seriously, trolling?

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My OH and I are passionate about French history and French houses/architecture. It is our hobby. So I find it quite an interesting debate.

I don’t express my views literally but happy to counter argue keep the the debate going.

Calling someone a troll is usually a done so by someone who is a troll themselves to be fair. You have not added anything to this and the other debate without being rude.

I said, if you were doing a restoration project, then “ideally” you would match the old like for like. This, in practice, isn’t always the case. Sometimes heritage organisations will insist on certain original features being kept, sometimes not. It may be that in the case of the Elysee Palace, that a decision was made that, in the interests of thermal efficiency, modern double glazed units were acceptable. I don’t know, you’d need to ask the heritage architects involved.