Renovation, Extension or New Build: What’s the difference?

June 5, 2023
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Renovations, extensions or new builds, what’s the difference? These terms might be used almost interchangeably. However, each of these architectural projects are completely different.

Here’s how:


 A renovation is a change in form or structure. If you’re renovating you are working towards changing the appearance, function or feel of the place. Depending on the complexity of the renovation, this can involve building permits (especially in the case of historical buildings), resource consents, demolition, carpentry, plumbing etc. An architectural designer will help come up with the plans for these projects and source appropriate contractors and materials to complete the construction.


An extension is a space that is added to an existing building like a bedroom, a conservatory or a lounge. Extensions don’t require as much demolition as a remodel but will require contractors, resource consents and an architectural designer. Depending on the specifics, you may also need an electrician or a plumber.

Extending up or Out?

It’s also important to keep in mind that when it comes to adding extra rooms to an existing building, it is often cheaper to build up rather than out as this involves digging, pouring concrete and building a foundation. This can also mean having to investigate any existing powerlines or underground pipelines which all adds to the overall cost.

Building up is often the least expensive option for adding space. You can add to your building’s square footage without compromising on yard space and it eliminates any need for foundations and concrete fill. However, you will still need to investigate any height restrictions set by your local council and will need to account for stairs which can change the floor plan of the new room and existing spaces considerably.

The good news is these are all things your architectural designer can assist with.

New Build

A new build is a home or building designed and built from scratch. For this type of project, you will need to go through everything from drawing up house plan designs, navigating building permits and resource consents and surveys, and will need to hire a team of contractors and subcontractors.

Knowing the differences between the types of architectural projects can help you get your head around the project you have in mind and will give you a better idea of the budget you need.

If you feel a little overwhelmed with the prospect of a building project, or have more questions about just what to expect, Design@OurHouse is here to help. We are a family-owned, client centric, boutique Architectural Design studio ready to help you with new builds, renovations or multi-unit developments.

Get in touch today to find out how we can make the best of your next building project!