what's the difference between fit out and renovation (2)

What’s the Difference Between Fit Out and Renovation?

Fit-out construction and renovation construction are different forms of construction projects, which cater to the client's specific job requirements. 

The variety of terms used to describe construction projects can be confusing to someone seeking to hire a construction company or those new to the construction industry, so here we explain the differences between the commonly-confused 'fit-out' and 'renovation'.

As companies grow and evolve, it can become inevitable that they require updating or even moving to whole new premises altogether. So if you're looking at relocating or getting your office space revamped, you'll probably be interested in finding out a little more about the key differences in terminology used within the industry. 

They may sound like two almost identical things. However, the phrases' office fit out' and 'office refurbishment' actually mean two quite different processes.

Key Differences between Fit-out vs Renovation

What Is A Fit-Out?

A fit-out is a construction process that ensures that a newly-built interior space is suitable to be occupied.

This means that a fit-out includes everything required to make the interior space suitable to the specific needs of whoever will be occupying it. At a base level, this typically entails the installation of flooring, ceilings, electrical service and partitions.

An experienced construction company can also install furnishings, kitchen areas, internet connectivity, branding and more.

A 'turnkey' fit-out results in a building that is already completely fitted out to the extent the developer can open the door with the turn of a key and start using the facility as intended.

Fit-outs allow businesses and venues to implement their vision of what an establishment will look like and ensure that the occupiers of the space are safe and properly catered for. 

Office fit-out is the general term used to describe any renovation work related to making sure an office interior space is fit for purpose. Think of the fit-out process like the preparation stage; this is when the proposed office space is being made into somewhere safe for you and your employees to work within.

The fit-out stage helps prepare the blank canvas that will eventually become a fully functioning and refurbished office. Fit-outs don't always include the actual office space – they can also include the preparation of other areas such as stairways and car parks. You might require an office fit-out service if you relocate your office location to a new build.

Shop Fitouts FAQs

A fit-out can encompass interior walls, plastering, electrical, flooring, decoration, lighting, mechanical installations, furnishings and or any other improvements made to the interior of premises. A fit-out is said to be complete once it is ready to be occupied and used.

A shell & core fit-out involves undertaking the electrical and mechanical work required to make sure the essential things like lifts can be used, and lighting can be installed. Office refurbishment generally refers to stripping back and renovating an office space that has already been fitted out in the past.

A fit-out deed, also known as a fit-out access deed or fit-out licence, is a legal document that provides you with a licence to access the premises for a set' fit-out period'. Lease (and any other documents); security deposit or bank guarantee; and. Required insurance under the lease.

The tenant is usually responsible for the costs of installing fixtures and fittings in their shop – this is called the fit-out. The tenant may also be responsible for some or all of the landlord's costs of preparing the shop for your fit-out, known as landlord's work.

Good question, since the two terms are often interchangeable. Firstly, to fully understand the difference.

Different Types Of Office Fit Out

what's the difference between fit out and renovation (3)

Due to the many processes involved in making a building suitable and safe to work in, there are a few varying kinds of office fit-out depending on the stage of development your building is at. Some companies may offer one type of fit-out, whereas some will offer the whole package.

Shell & Core

These kinds of fit-outs involve getting the basic, concrete structure of the building ready for the purpose. With a Shell & Core fit-out, building teams have already been put together and constructed by building teams. The space they've constructed is only the 'shell' of the building, so a shell & core fit-out fully prepares this space for use by adding basic mechanics and electrical work.

Category A

A Category A fit-out is the next step up from shell and core. This stage is where more complex mechanical and electrical work is added, such as lighting. Raised access flooring and suspended ceilings are also fitted out during the Category A process, alongside toilets, fire detection systems and air conditioning units. After this stage, the space is now fully functioning and ready to be furnished.

Category B

This is the closest type of fit-out, similar to office refurbishment, where the final details are added, and interior design techniques are considered. The difference is that the phrase 'Category B Fit Out' describes the interior design, furnishings and finer details added to a space that didn't already have existing furnishings.

What Is A Renovation? 

In the construction industry, a renovation is improving or upgrading an aging, non-functioning or damaged building. While a fit-out is concerned with creating a new space, a renovation typically involves updating or redesigning a space that is currently in use. A renovation is usually required if a client's facilities are outdated, need more room to facilitate business growth or require modernisation to breathe new life into the space. Renovations can be broken down into two categories: cosmetic and structural.

A cosmetic renovation is concerned with the aesthetic features of a space rather than the structural development. These renovations often involve doing cosmetic repairs, updating fixtures and lighting, reviving tired surfaces and improving the appearance of the space as a whole. These renovations are a good way to quickly and efficiently reinvigorate your commercial, residential or hospitality building without having to bear the financial and time burden that structural changes bring. 

A structural renovation focuses more on the functional aspects of the building by upgrading and changing the structural elements of a space. Structural renovations can include:

  • Building extensions.
  • Adding or removing walls.
  • Changing a building's floor plan and making electrical and plumbing upgrades.

While these renovations are more costly than cosmetic changes, they can drastically increase the usability of a building. They are particularly useful in improving the versatility and functionality of old buildings which require structural innovation.

Office fit-out

This is often a larger scale project that can take a building from a shell to a useable office space. It may begin with suspended ceilings or mezzanines, window installation, bespoke kitchen areas, partitioning to create quiet areas or even the addition of lifts and new staircases. Think internal construction.

Office refurbishment

Office refurbishment is often required when a space has already been used, yet the company feels it should be updated and redesigned. While the initial Category B fit-out installed before the new office refurbishment may have been fully functional and appropriate at the time, the needs of companies can change.

This means it sometimes becomes necessary for businesses to update their workspaces. General wear and tear can be considered another factor here, as furniture and surfaces can become damaged over time.

Much more low-key than fit-out, an office refurbishment may refer to new flooring, furniture and re-imagined layout. Electrical elements such as wiring, lighting and IT trunking can be included in a Refurb project, as can plastering, painting and decorating. This would be the final stage before the office is ready for occupation.

The Key Differences

Ultimately, office fit-out prepares the blank canvas, the structural work of the building ready for use. There are three types of office fit-out, each describing a different process and stage of preparation. A shell & core fit-out involves undertaking the electrical and mechanical work required to make sure the essential things like lifts can be used, and lighting can be installed.

Category A office fit-outs are the next step. This involves the next stage of preparation, where the basic shell of the building is transformed to include features such as suspended ceilings, raised access floors and more complex electrical and mechanical work such as fire alarm systems and aircon units.

The final type of office fit-out is a Category B fit-out, where the final furnishings and design details for a new build are put into place. Category B fit-outs can go down to even the smallest detail, depending on the style of office you're looking for. This type of fit-out is the kind most similar to the next phase we'll summarise – 'office refurbishment.'

Office refurbishment generally refers to stripping back and renovating an office space that has already been fitted out in the past. It doesn't involve taking the basic structure of the building and preparing it for use – as this has already been done during the fit-out, perhaps several years ago. Despite this, the work done by office refurbishment companies has the power to upgrade any workforce's environment completely.

Difference Between Renovations, New Construction and Retrofitting

what's the difference between fit out and renovation

Many phrases used in modern construction, such as renovation, remodel, and retrofit, have similar meanings and may be used interchangeably. However, these types of projects do have unique specific meanings and unique considerations. You need to know the difference so that you're able to communicate with general commercial contractors. 


Renovations are projects wherein the structure is being restored or repaired. Renovations are somewhat synonymous with remodelling. However, the goal of a remodel is to change the structure, while the goal of a renovation is to repair the structure. Some renovations are subtle, hyper-focused on a specific element, and some renovations are more substantial and overlap with remodels.   

A commercial renovation often includes repairing or replacing any part of a building that may be outdated or damaged. It is fairly common to see renovations address structures or specific elements that may not meet current building codes. Renovations are often more cost-effective than new construction or a complete remodel, and typically, renovations also add value to the structure or building. 


Another type of project similar to remodelling is retrofitting. With this type of project, you are adding something new to the original building or structure. However, the goal of a retrofit is to specifically improve the functionality of the building by adding new technology, building systems, or equipment. Conversely, remodelling tends to be more focused on aesthetics and appearance rather than purely functional. 

Today, one of the most common retrofit projects for commercial buildings is making a building more efficient through updated heating elements, improved windows, or new insulation. Rooftop retrofits for commercial buildings may improve the roof's life expectancy of a structure and offer lower maintenance. Seismic retrofitting projects improve a structures ability to handle earthquakes or ground motion. As long as new technology improves commercial buildings, the retrofit opportunities will continue to grow. 

New Construction

New construction projects are very straightforward: constructing a new building or structure from the ground up. Although simple in terms of definition, this type of project is unique from one project to the next. A new construction project often requires working with architects, builders, construction teams, and general contractors at a minimum. 

Building from scratch may be a more expensive option than renovating, but a new build is often the best option for your specific project. New construction allows for the application of modern technology throughout the building for everything from electrical to sustainability considerations. New builds often mean lower maintenance costs over time. 

Your Next Project

Ultimately the type of project you will depend on the purpose of the building, your budget, and the project's goals. However, once you have clarity on the project as a whole, it's easy to decide if a renovation, new construction or even a retrofit is right for your commercial construction project.  

Scroll to Top