5 Vital Tips For Sticking to Your Renovation Budget

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By Kate Reggev
Keep things from getting out of hand with these insider tips.

One of the hardest parts of a home renovation —aside from dealing with and living through the renovation work itself—is keeping to a strict budget, especially if it’s a tight one. From unexpected circumstances to tastes that may veer toward the higher-end of the market, staying on budget is no easy task, but the key tips below will ensure you stay on track.

1. Don't Wait to Start Researching and Planning.

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Oftentimes, the more planning you do and the fewer changes you make, the higher chance you have of staying within your budget. Take the time to figure out what the scope of the project is and get a sense of how much work is needed so that you can make educated decisions when presented with options. It’s also a good idea to start familiarizing yourself with general costs of purchasing materials versus labor costs, which can really drive up a budget. 

2. Don’t Rush the Bidding Process. 

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While you might be eager to get started on your project once you hear the estimate from a contractor, remember that patience can be a virtue, especially when it comes to home renovations. 

Many experts recommend obtaining bids from three different contractors so you can compare and contrast, and get a better sense of more abstract factors such as recommendations, the contractor’s reputation, and seeing more of his or her completed work. Wait until you’ve heard back from a few different options so you can accurately analyze the results and make an educated decision.

3. Always Put Contingencies Aside. 

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During any renovation, it is critical to set aside money for the "what if" or emergency scenarios. For example, there might be plumbing that you didn’t anticipate needing to replace, or new electrical rewiring that you didn’t know wasn’t up to code. Conventional wisdom suggests adding 15 to 20 percent to your contractor’s renovation cost to safely consider these contingencies. However, every project is different, and these costs can be even more when working with a particularly old or unusual home. 

4. Consider Realistic DIY Limitations. 

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Doing things yourself can be a great way to reduce construction costs and stay on budget during a renovation project. Some projects, like painting or repurposing furniture, can be done by just about anyone, even if you don’t see yourself as the handy type. 

However, if you’ve never delved into plumbing or electrical work before, a major renovation is usually not the right time to get started, as this type of work is best left to professionals. Even something as seemingly simple as demolition work can quickly become more complex if you are replacing plumbing or electrical fixtures, so take note of what is being removed. 

5. Be Selective About Splurging. 

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One of the hardest, yet potentially most satisfying, parts of staying on budget is learning where to save and where to splurge. There are certain items or pieces that are worthy of spending more on, whether it’s a sofa that will last you a decade or kitchen countertops that will really help improve the value of your home. 

Usually, your contractor or other design professional can advise you on locations or pieces where a higher-quality product is important versus something more basic. Typically, items such as appliances, windows, and doors are worth spending more on, while choosing cosmetic finishes can be an example of when you may want to see what is on sale or available at your local hardware store.