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If you are unfamiliar with construction industry jargon, then you can be forgiven for confusing an office fit out with a refurbishment. It’s not uncommon to hear the terms used interchangeably, but the two are in fact very different.

In this blog, we give an overview of the two terms to help you understand the difference. If you’re undertaking a project soon, then this will spare your blushes and enable you to communicate your ideas clearly to a fit out and design contractors.

So, let’s get started …

What is an Office Fit Out?

Simply put, an office fit out is the transformation of an empty space so that it can be used. There are different types of fit out that take place at different stages of the transformation. These include shell and core, CAT A and CAT B …

  • Shell and Core – Shell and core is the first stage of a building’s fit out. It refers to the installation of the basic structure before the space is usable. Typically, shell and core includes lobbies, lift shafts, concrete and metal frames, and mains water systems.
  • CAT A – A CAT A office fit out is the basic finishing of the building’s interior. Usually, it is commissioned by the landlord and includes suspended ceilings, partition walls, air conditioning and toilets. Once complete, the space will be a blank canvas ready to put to market to find a tenant.
  • CAT B – When a tenant is found, the CAT B office fit out works take place. At this stage, the workspace interior design is tailored to the tenant’s unique needs and aesthetic preferences. This includes furniture, decorations, space planning, branding, finishes and breakout spaces.

The CAT B fit out is the most closely related to a refurbishment, but it isn’t quite the same thing. Let’s look at what an office refurbishment is and how it differs from a fit out …

Read also: What is a CAT A+? Understanding the Jargon of Office Fit Out.

What is an Office Refurbishment?

An office refurbishment comes later down the line when the space is already in use. Often, the office will have been lived in for several or more years and requires a renovation or re-design.

There a number of reasons why a company requires a refurbishment, including the following:

  • Internal Changes – A tenant may refurbish a space because the business is changing. For example, they may be looking to take on more employees and need new a space design, furniture and technology to accommodate them.
  • Tired Interiors – It may simply be a case that the space looks tired and dated and needs freshening up. A refurb at this stage could be key in retaining and attracting talented employees.
  • Company Re-Brand ­– A refurbishment also gives an opportunity to introduce any new branding. This is key for consistency across all marketing elements and can help to create a brand experience for employees and visitors.

The scale and complexity of a refurb comes down to the tenant’s requirements and budget. While it goes without saying that a larger budget will afford more luxuries, a smaller budget can go a long way too. Some new carpet and a lick of paint can really lift a space and boost morale amongst employees.

For an example of a stunning workplace refurbishment, take a look at our recent transformation of XMA.

Read also: 8 Cost Effective ideas for Office Design on a Budget.


In a Nutshell: The Difference Between a Fit Out and Refurbishment

To sum up, an office fit out is about turning a concrete “shell” into a habitable space. It happens in stages — first shell and core, then CAT A and lastly CAT B — before a tenant occupies the office.

An office refurbishment, on the other hand, happens further down the line. Typically, it will come at a time when the space is looking tired and dated or needs to be re-designed to accommodate change.

For fit out and refurbishment inspiration, take a look at our latest projects here.

Thanks for Reading

If you’ve been struggling with construction industry terminology, then we hope this blog has helped to demystify the jargon. Ultimately, it’s a wise idea to learn some of the lingo when embarking on a new project, and by reading this blog you’ve already made a good start!

Still Confused?

If you’re embarking on a new project but still confused by construction industry terminology, then why not give Rap Interiors a call? In addition to 30 years’ experience refurbishing and fitting out office space across London and the UK, Rap’s team prides itself on guiding clients through projects with honesty, transparency and professionalism.

To chat with an expert from of one of the UK’s leading interior design companies today, call 0333 600 1234 or email

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