It is possible to keep a renovation on budget. We’ll tell you how. Image: Darren James Interiors
Keeping a renovation on budget is a top priority for a lot of homeowners, but many find it much easier said than done. Renovations are variable by nature, so if you don’t stay on top of your costs and fees, they can easily add up — and leave you with a final bill you’re unprepared to handle.
We’re here to help prevent that. With just a little planning and diligence on your end, it’s completely possible to keep your renovation budget under control. Don’t believe us? Keep reading. Below are some of our best tips for staying on top of your remodeling costs. Whether you are renovating now or in the future, it never hurts to be prepared.
Start your project by making a realistic budget. Image: Arbib Hughey Design
Be realistic from the start
Too often, when people try to save money during a renovation, they make the mistake of setting their budget too low. They try to cut corners by saying they’ll do work themselves or shop around until they find wholesale materials and create their budget using these anticipated figures. And if they’re unable to stick to these promises, they’ve already set themselves up for sizable overages.
The better thing to do is be honest about how far you’re willing to go to save money, even if it ends up inflating your initial budget more than you’d hoped. If you know you’re not one for DIY, be realistic about how much it will cost to hire a pro in your area. Work your budget off of a middle-of-the-road estimate rather than the most affordable.
Remember, the whole point of having a budget is to feel prepared. If you work out realistic figures and decide those numbers are too expensive, you can always hold off on the renovation while you save up enough money.
Give contractors specific details about your vision for the project. Image: Highgate House
Get specific about what you want
Have you ever gotten quotes from contractors only to have them come back with wildly different estimates? If this has happened to you, it’s likely you weren’t able to offer many specifics when talking about your vision for the project. This led the contractors to fill in the gaps with their best guesses, which may or may not be in line with what you’re hoping for.
When you have to stick to a budget, specificity is one of the best tools at your disposal. The more you can tell your contractors about what you want the end product to look like, the closer they’ll get to a realistic estimate of your final bill. Ideally, your goal should be to get so specific that the only variances between each company’s estimate are labor costs and fees.
To pull this off, you need to do your research. Before you hire a contractor, make sure you have a clear picture of what you want the end product to look like. Think about the materials you want to use and what changes you want to make to your current layout. Use sites like Freshome as a starting point for design inspiration.
Don’t let changed plans blow your budget out of the water. Image: The House Designers
Stick to the plan
Once a remodel is underway, it can be tempting to add on to it. All of a sudden you may find yourself standing in your kitchen remodel, looking at the dated flooring in your living area and thinking that could use a makeover as well. While it may be easier to take care of that project while your house is already torn apart, if sticking to your budget is your first priority, we’d advise against following this urge.
If you keep adding to your project’s to-do list — or changing your mind about what you want midway through — it’s going to come at an added cost. Plus, you likely won’t have as much control over what those costs will be. At that point, you’re at the mercy of your contractor’s judgment and you likely won’t even know the full extent of the charges until you have the final bill in hand.
Instead, it’s best to stick to the plan you have in place. File away that other project on your mental to-do list of home maintenance tasks and treat it as it’s own entity. Take the time to plan and budget it the same way you did your current remodel. That way, even if it happens shortly after this project, you’ll feel in control of your spending.
Leave room in your budget for unexpected incidentals. Image: CMM Custom Homes
Plan for the unexpected
That said, even the tightest remodeling budgets need to have wiggle room to cover unforeseen expenses. Sometimes remodeling uncovers a maintenance issue that needs to be taken care of and sometimes it really is worth the cost of changing your vision along the way. Plan for these costs ahead of time, so you’re not surprised as they crop up.
Conventional wisdom says to add 15-20% on top of your winning contractor’s estimate to safely account for these contingencies. That may seem like a lot, but this is one occasion where it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you don’t have enough room in your budget to cover that amount, you may want to take more time to save or scale back the project.