5/04/2023  •  , ,

Types of Kitchen Renovations: Is Your Reno Cosmetic or Structural?

Estimated Read Time: 6 Minutes

When it comes to home improvement projects, there’s no more exciting endeavor than a kitchen renovation. 


Whether you want to update its dated appearance, create a more functional layout, or increase the resale value of your home, there’s no shortage of possibilities. 


One important decision you'll need to make is whether your reno will focus on structural changes or cosmetic updates. Each approach has its own benefits and considerations.


At Deslaurier, we have over 40 years of experience manufacturing custom cabinets and providing kitchen design expertise. While we do not offer renovation services, we have spent decades partnering with contractors and renovators to give our clients the custom kitchen of their dreams. 


This article will detail cosmetic and structural kitchen renovations, so you can better understand which category your kitchen project falls under. 


Let’s get started! 

Table of Contents

What is a Cosmetic Renovation?

What is a Structural Renovation?

What Renovations Require a Building Permit?

Kitchen Renovators and General Contractors

Examples of Cosmetic Kitchen Renovations

Examples of Structural Kitchen Renovations

What is Your Kitchen Reno?

Design with Deslaurier Custom Cabinets 


What is a Cosmetic Kitchen Renovation? 


A cosmetic kitchen renovation involves making aesthetic upgrades to a kitchen without making any major alterations to the layout or structure of the space.


These updates can help to give the kitchen a fresh, improved look without the need for extensive remodelling or structural changes to the home. 


Cosmetic kitchen renovations are often less expensive and less disruptive than more extensive projects, making them a popular choice for homeowners who want to update their kitchen’s appearance without breaking the bank.


That being said, cosmetic renovations can still be quite expensive. Depending on the scope of your project, you could end up updating virtually every feature of your kitchen! 


What is a Structural Kitchen Renovation? 


A structural kitchen renovation involves making changes to the fundamental layout, design, and functionality of a kitchen. 


This may include removing or adding walls, relocating plumbing and electrical fixtures, changing the shape or size of the kitchen, or expanding the overall footprint of the space.


A structural kitchen renovation can be a long-lasting, significant investment, that may result in your family’s temporary relocation (depending on the extent of the project). 


Of course, the good outweighs the bad, as structural renovations greatly improve the functionality, aesthetics, and overall value of a home. They’re ideal for homeowners who want to expand their existing space or revamp their current kitchen to increase their home’s resale value. 


Unlike cosmetic remodels, more often than not a structural kitchen renovation WILL require a building permit. Let’s dive into what that entails. 

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What Renovations Require a Building Permit?


In Ontario, any homeowner can undertake a construction project on their property, whether or not they have qualifications in the field. However, doing so may require the acquisition of a Provincial (or State) Building Permit. 


The Ontario Building Code Act stipulates that: “a building permit is required for the construction of a new building, an addition, or alteration of any building or structure with a building area over 10 square metres (approximately 108 square feet).”


As we mentioned earlier, structural renovations and building permits go hand-in-hand. If your renovation adds or removes walls, doors, or windows; or relocates plumbing, electrical, or utilities, you can safely assume you’ll need a building permit for your project.


These building codes ensure that any changes to your home’s structural systems meet the health and safety standards in your city. Renovations without any structural modifications do not require a permit.


Categorizing your renovation as a cosmetic or structural project is a simplistic guide, and not always as clear-cut as it seems. The best way to determine if you need a building permit is to contact your local building code client service centre. 


In Ottawa, you can dial the number for Building Code Services at 3-1-1.


Kitchen Renovators and Contractors


Even though any homeowner can technically manage their own renovation, we always suggest hiring a licensed renovation contractor to help you with your kitchen project.


A kitchen renovation contractor will oversee your home improvement project from start to finish. They’ll manage the renovations’ budget, hire necessary subcontractors, deal with the building permits mentioned above, and ensure the project is completed on time and up to standard. 


One final note on Building Permits: even if your contractor agrees to handle the logistics, the liability falls on you, the homeowner. A professional contractor can apply and arrange inspections on your behalf, but it is ultimately your name on the permit.


Do your due diligence, as not every renovator is the same. Some kitchen remodelers may specialize in exactly the services you need; others may not be right for you if you’re considering large, structural changes to your home. 


If you’re doing a complete overhaul, you may want to consider the services of a general contractor.


Most larger kitchen renovations could benefit from general contractors. A general contractor differs from a kitchen renovation contractor in terms of the magnitude of the project. 


General contractors routinely work with complete home construction, whereas kitchen renovators will specialize solely on kitchen projects. It never hurts to consider general contractors for your kitchen renovation, particularly if any add-ons or structural alterations are being made. 


Some kitchen contractors can accomplish these tasks, but if you are having trouble finding kitchen-focused contractors capable of completing your larger kitchen remodel, consider a general contractor to oversee your project. 


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Examples of Cosmetic Kitchen Renovations 


Cosmetic kitchen renovation can include a wide variety of features. Think of them as “surface” level changes; anything the eye can see is fair game. 


So long as utilities do not move locations, you’re free and clear! 


Updating kitchen cabinets is one of the most common cosmetic alterations and can also include new countertops and backsplash.


If the bones (boxes) of your cabinets are in good shape, a less expensive way to freshen your existing cabinets is by simply refacing or refinishing them. This also prevents further expenses by allowing you to keep your current kitchen countertops. 


If you do choose to replace your kitchen cabinets, it’s also the perfect opportunity to update your kitchen flooring, as well!


Smaller alterations include new kitchen light fixtures, replacing hardware, or a fresh and new paint colour on the walls. You can even upgrade your kitchen appliances for new models, so long as they remain in the same space with no significant plumbing or electrical alterations. 


Examples of Structural Kitchen Renovations 


These types of renovations require careful planning and coordination with a licensed contractor, as well as obtaining any necessary permits and ensuring compliance with building codes and safety regulations. 


Examples of structural kitchen renovations might include creating an open-concept kitchen by removing a wall between the kitchen and living room. 


It could also come in the form of an addition, constructing a central island and breakfast bar to create a more versatile, functional kitchen area.


Structural projects can come without knocking down walls or making additions to your space. Think of something like repositioning appliances or sinks to create a more efficient kitchen layout. A renovation like that will require licensed plumbers and electricians. 


Of course, structural renovations also involve “cosmetic” features like updating or replacing cabinetry, countertops, flooring, and other fixtures. 


For instance, the example listed above about relocating appliances will almost guarantee the need for new kitchen cabinets, countertops, and possibly flooring!  


What is Your Renovation? 


There are several reasons to renovate your existing kitchen


Whether you want to create a bigger kitchen layout, assess signs of damage and deterioration, or give your space an updated appearance. 


Hopefully, you should know whether your renovation will be structural or purely cosmetic. If not, a good place to start is by writing a list of the alterations you plan on making and seeing if they fit the requirements of a building permit or not. 


When determining the scope of your renovation project, it’s always important to consider your budget, lifestyle needs, and long-term plans you have for your home. 


Design with Deslaurier Custom Cabinets 


As you can see, not every renovation project is the same. Whether it’s time for a facelift or you want to knock down a few walls, we hope this article helps you understand which category your future kitchen renovation will fall under. 


If you have your eye on custom cabinetry for your upcoming kitchen renovation, Deslaurier Custom Cabinets has everything you need. With over 40 years of experience in our name, we provide our clients with a fully customized design process with our talented team of designers


Book a free consultation today with a Deslaurier kitchen expert at our Ottawa showroom!

Live outside the area? Find a Dealer to connect with near you! Interested in becoming an authorized Deslaurier dealer? Visit our Become a Dealer page to learn more!

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