How to Stay on Budget During a Remodel

Housing Finances

Whether you’re preparing to spruce up your home with a redecorating project or considering a significant home renovation, the stress of going over budget can put a serious damper on the experience.

According to the 2013 Houzz & Home survey, 41% of people who remodeled in the past five years exceeded their initial renovation budget.

But don’t let the task of budgeting dissuade you from moving forward with your renovation.

Houzz data shows that the investment is emotionally worthwhile – four out of five people report feeling more relaxed in their home after completing a remodel, while 84 percent find themselves spending more time at home.

Creating a realistic budget before you start a project can significantly reduce the stress along the way.

Here are four tips to help you stay on budget during your next home remodeling or redecorating endeavor.

Set a maximum budget

When setting your budget, use tools like the Houzz Real Cost Finder to come up with a starting point.

Choosing materials and products that will be used in the process also helps to accurately estimate the cost of the project, so choose these items upfront so you can understand the impact they will have on your budget.

When working with a professional, provide as much detail about the products and materials you require as possible.

Contingencies – generic budget line items for a product or material – are often insufficient for what a homeowner really wants, from countertop materials, to appliances or even a fireplace, so do your research and be specific.

Once you’ve determined your initial estimate, build in an extra cushion to allow for a few splurges or upgrades and extra wiggle room for any contingency that may arise.

Unanticipated structural problems are not uncommon in major construction projects, so increase your cushion if your project involves tearing down walls, changing plumbing or replacing outdated wiring.

If you are working within a set budget, you’ll need to work with whomever you hire on what tradeoffs will be necessary to stay within your maximum.

Keep the same footprint

Consider what projects you can complete without moving walls or other systems behind the walls.

Building an addition, moving walls, or relocating sinks and stoves involves major construction as well as new electrical, plumbing and flooring work.

A design professional or contractor can be incredibly helpful in analyzing how to maximize the space you already have.

Consider displacement costs

You may have your dream kitchen remodel teed up, but getting there will mean living without a traditional kitchen for a few months and eating out daily can really add up.

Before you break ground, consider how you’ll live while your home is under construction. A temporary “kitchenette” with a hot plate and toaster oven can be a solution.

Consider safety; if you have small children, moving out of your home during a major renovation may be the best option, so factor in the costs of a rental home.

If you have pets that have free rein in the house, you may have to board them during the process or find a way to confine them to the construction-free zones.

Meet with professionals at your home

Before you choose an architect, designer, contractor or other home professional to work with, invite them to your home to get a sense of who will be right for the project.

Consider who asks the right questions and who is willing to provide a rough cost estimate.

Ideally, be prepared to share some basic space, electrical, mechanical and lighting plans to help a contractor provide a more accurate budget estimate.

Liza Hausman is Vice President of Community at Houzz, an innovative residential remodeling and design platform and community. Ms. Hausman has experience spaning advertising, consulting, marketing and social strategy for Fortune 500 brands to a host of innovative startups. Over the last seven years she’s worked with interior designers,architects and contractors to remodel and decorate nearly every inch of her home in Palo Alto, CA.


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