What‘s The Difference Between a ’Refresh‘ and a ’Remodel’?

When it comes to remodeling, as a client, you read stories all across the internet about DIY Projects, Hiring A Contractors, and Tip’s To Not Get Overcharged by shady contractors along with all sorts of other topics. A trend that has really been catching a lot of attention are influencers sharing their completed ‘remodeling’ projects for sensationally low cost. Anyone would be justified in asking, just how exactly is this possible? 

Just like this TikTok:

Well, I’ve traversed the web and after reading the most common questions, I have answers. 

The Complicated World Of Home Beautification

Everyone always seems to want the latest styles in their home, the truth is most people have no real idea how difficult, or expensive this may actually be. If you’ve ever received bids or estimates for a home remodeling project, you may recall having quite a bit of sticker shock when you read the bottom line.

The reality is that there is always a great way to make something great, and there is always a way to make something appear great. What I mean by this is for example, you can buy a rather expensive computer desk from restoration hardware, like this one here which can cost thousands of dollars, or you can order a relatively comparable desk from Wayfair, like this one here which can cost (at the time of writing) nearly 75% less. Sure there are stylistic variations, but the truth is, each desk is a fine product by it’s own right and has it’s place in their respective homes and guests would likely not really scope the cost difference without a long dedicated look. That being said, there IS a substantial difference between the two products, the product from Restoration Hardware is made of real wood, and comes assembled. These features allow for a great deal of certainty that the product will last through any moves that you may make and likely be able to be passed on to your kids. The product from Wayfair however is made of particle board, and vinyl facing, likely arriving in a box leaving you to assemble at your own discretion. The clear truth about the difference between these products is that you get what you pay for. Quality and durability matter as much as how pleasing to the eye a product might be, the product likely won’t last and will begin to show wear far earlier. Leaving you with a product that just doesn’t look that great anymore.

The same story can be told about remodeling work. You truly do get what you pay for. Real hardwood cabinets vs plyboard pre assembled or maybe porcelain tile with actual backer board vs adhesive stick on ultralite stone mosaics. The quality of the products you use in your remodel makes a huge difference on project longevity and overall value.

Where do we think the $400 DIY TikTok Kitchen will be in 4-5 years?

Introducing the ‘Refresh’, The Best of Both Worlds

The secret truth that remodelers won’t typically tell you is that if you are truly on a budget or looking for great value you CAN have the best of both worlds. You can significantly adjust the way that your space looks and feels with a few artful projects that won’t cost nearly as much as a ‘Studs out remodel’ (A project where you demolish the whole space and replace everything with new materials.) A ‘refresh’ is just that, a small project or projects that make a big difference. 

By adjusting a key feature, the room can feel different enough to seem new. Maybe you can add an accent wall or a new tile backsplash. These relatively small changes can make a large impact. Especially when done correctly. 

You can read more about designing a successful ‘refresh’ project here.

Some Common Refresh Projects

Common ‘refresh’ projects can vary widely based on the type of room and budget. For some small refresh projects such as a bathroom refresh project you might consider adding or replacing some tile work, or adding a more modern LVT or vinyl plank floating floor. If you’re considering a larger space like a living room, you may consider painting or retiling your fireplace mantle. Even though the most popular projects may vary by space, here are the 

most popular projects the would be considered refresh projects:

Most Popular Refresh Projects:

-Adding or swapping out a backsplash


-Installing new door and cabinet hardware

-Replacing Cabinet Doors

-Floating floors like LVT or Vinyl Plank

-Swapping out fixtures

How do you know the difference between a ‘Refresh’ and a ‘Remodel’ project?

When trying to compare and contrast remodeling projects with refresh projects it’s important to remember that all ‘Refreshes’ are remodels, but not all ‘Remodeling Projects’ are refresh projects. This is why it can be confusing. 

A remodel can be a comprehensive process where you sign contracts, meet with designers, set budgets, design construction plans and work with the local planning department to complete your project. This entire process can take a substantial amount of time and money. At times leading into the 10’s of thousands or more.

In contrast, a refresh project is generally much smaller. A ‘refresh’ is something that you would not need a designer, drawings or permitting for and would usually take 1-2 days rather than several weeks or longer. Additionally, a refresh project would normally be 1 to 3 specific small projects rather than a collection of several medium to large projects. For example, a refresh may consist of adding shiplap to 1 wall and painting all the walls. Whereas a remodel would consist of adding shiplap to one wall, retiling the backsplash, installing new flooring, installing a new shower surround with new fixtures in new locations and painting the walls.

Is a ‘Refresh’ right for me?

A ‘Refresh’ can be a great option for those wishing to breath new life into their home without committing to a more expensive project. If you are craving a change of scenery, rather than a change of functionality a ‘Refresh’ may be a great fit. People tend to remodel for various reasons, but mainly people remodel because their space doesn’t fit their needs as it should. Someone may have a shower that is too small, or maybe they need another sink in their primary bathroom so they don’t have to share 1 with their significant other. These changes are where a refresh wouldn’t cut it. However, if you’re among those trying to make their space exclusively look different, a ‘refresh’ will deliver the best value for the best price.

What does a ‘Refresh’ cost?

As with any remodeling work there is no true clear cut answer to this question. As I always tell my clients, “I can remodel with a $150k dollar budget for a primary bathroom, that has ultra luxury fixtures like this shower head from Chown, here or I can remodel your primary bathroom with $5k budget, using fixtures like this shower head from Home Depot, here 

That being said, a ‘refresh’ is best suited for someone who doesn’t place a high value on their project, but rather want’s “something nicer or more updated”. This type of project can cost from $1k for some painting and tile work to $6k for a new tile shower with fixtures and glass shower door. Really the cost depends on the project. All in, you are looking at a cost that is far less than the average cost for a remodel.

Let’s get your refresh project started with a free consultation today!