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What is the difference between office fit out and refurbishment?

To the untrained eye, an office fit out and office refurbishment can seem virtually identical. In fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, when it comes down to the purposes and processes, they are actually quite different.

Fit outs and office refurbishments are closely related – of course – but each has their own set of objectives and actions. To fully wrap your head around the difference between the two, you first need to have good ground knowledge of what each entail…

What is the difference between an office fit out and office refurbishment

Let’s start with:

A definition of office fit out

In a nutshell, office fit out is the transformation of a space so that it can be used.

This comes in varying degrees, from a completely empty shell of a building to a blank canvas which needs personalisation in the form of things like glass walls and bespoke kitchens.

The different types of fit out:

  • Shell & Core – This involves transforming the interior of a shell, including things like cladding, lift shafts, mechanics, electrical and structural work.
  • Cat A – Category A offers the next level of finish which encompasses elements such as suspended ceilings and partition walls.
  • Cat B – Category B is the most closely related to refurbishment in that it including features like office furniture, fabrics and technology installation.

social space in office with leather couches and matching leather chairs

Now, for comparison, let’s look at…

What an office refurbishment project involves

A refurbishment project involves the renovation or reimagining of a space which already exists and/or has already been used.

A refurbishment can include things like new furniture, updated technology, new flooring and refreshed brand manifestation.

Office refurbishment checklist:


Employees in biophilic office

So, to summarise…

The main differences between fit out and refurb are:

Fit out involves making a concrete shell into an inhabitable space; completing the internal structure and interior design of a space which doesn’t already exist.

Refurbishment comes further down the line when a lived-in space becomes outdated or lacking in resource and needs to be redesigned to combat the issues being presented.

Question: which one do I need?

Our answer:

It really depends on two things:

  1. The issues you may currently be facing with your current environment
  2. What you see yourself ideally gaining from the new workspace

For example:

If you’re currently working in an enclosed office and feel that a lack of collaboration is holding your workforce back and hindering motivation levels, a Cat B fit out may be required to transition into an open plan office and create new collaborative working areas.


Collaborative workspaces and breakout areas are a great way to inspire creative and boost productivity. Consider including these in your office fit out project

If a communication of brand image and values is your problem, a refurb could be the best solution.

This would enable you to update your office furniture, introduce a new colour scheme or reconfigure the spaces to introduce more diverse work settings such as breakout and private focus.

Leave it to the professionals!

We help our clients pinpoint this through face-to-face conversations as well as workshops and evaluative surveys.

Whether it’s a fit out or refurb project you require though, it will likely be one of the biggest investments of time and money you will ever dedicate to your place of work.

how to choose the right design for your office

For this reason, we would always recommend speaking to an industry professional who will be able to use their skills and experience to best advise you.

Click to find out why we always champion the benefits of partnering with an office fit out specialist.

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