These words seem particularly topical as we are about to renovate our kitchen, and also because a student asked me about the difference between the three words just the other day. Renovate and renew are very similar, both meaning to ‘make new’, but they are used in different contexts:

We renovate things like buildings, old vehicles, canals etc, which are very concrete things.  It is not necessary that the things are particularly old, or indeed broken in some way. It is enough that changes are needed, and those changes may involve change of use. Restoration is a close synonym, but it means to restore to original condition. So, in the case of our kitchen, we are renovating (as we want a new look and functionality), not restoring (we don’t want it to look as it did before). Renovate should not be confused with decorate, which refers only to surface finishes like paint and wallpaper etc.

We renew things like passports, contracts, information etc, when the time has come for changes. We can also return to a task with renewed energy after we have rested or received good news. My employment contract will be up for renewal at the end of the year.