How To Budget For Your Renovation

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If you are about to start a kitchen extension, loft conversion or an internal renovation, it can be really challenging to know where to start on the budget. This can be one of the most daunting parts, but it's so important to get an idea of the cost of your project and also make sure you stick to it along the way.

We chat about where to start and how to budget effectively. We also share some tips from our renovation tours, where we have chatted to some lovely renovators over the past months. Nearly all of those we have interviewed have stressed how important budgeting is, so we wanted to share their tips too...thank you to all of those who have helped!

If you are thinking about a renovation in the near future and need some help finding an architect or designer, we can match you with the most suitable ones for your project.

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1. Start with the high level cost 

The first thing you will want to find out is how much it's going to cost to carry out your renovation project. This is so tricky, as an architect likely won't commit to a high level cost until they have carried out plans, and a builder won't be able to accurately quote until they have seen both the plans and structural calculations. 

We have solved this issue by developing our extension cost calculator, which will give an indication of your renovation cost. Our cost calculator will give you a high level indication only, however we have tried to factor in all of the costs, including VAT and professional fees, so that there are no nasty surprises when you come to budget for your renovation project. We think our extension cost calculator is a great place to start to work out if you would like to go ahead with the project.


2. Spend time budgeting in detail

Once you have your high level cost, you can then start to budget in detail, remembering to update your budget as you go too. It's so important to budget in as much detail in the early stages, making sure you capture as many of the costs as you can. 

If you have a budget, it means you won't let your costs get out of control and keep spending on things that you would love...remember there is always a compromise!

We chatted to Marisa @oakappledecor who has the most stunning barn conversion. We asked Marisa what her biggest piece of advice was, and it was all about the budget and planning. Her home is truly stunning, which shows how you can achieve something quite sensational and make your money go further if you spend time at the outset budgeting and planning. 

"With good planning it should be fairly straight forward to figure out costs but it can be easy for things to spiral cost wise unless it’s all budgeted for in the plan." says Marisa.

Stunning kitchen by oakappledecor

So many renovators spend time budgeting and feel that it's so worthwhile. The owners of @renovategate pulled together their own spreadsheet so they could keep on top of the costs. 

"I created a mammoth excel detailing costings and timescales for everything and updated actual spend against what we'd budgeted. It really helped keep us in our spend zone, so much so that we ended up going over our budget by only €15...I'm sure this was a fluke!"


3. Get plenty of builders quotes and then work with your builder

Select several recommended builders for quotes after you have the planning permission drawings and structural drawings. The builder really needs this information to give you a detailed and accurate cost for the build work (particularly the structural drawings and calculations). If you try and get a quote early on, you will likely get something fairly inaccurate that will change too. 

Asking 3-5 builders to quote will also mean you will get an accurate view of the cost. Giving them a detailed prospectus and comparing several quotes will make sure that you pick up on as many of the costs as possible - one might pick up on something that another might miss.

Confirm with your builder what they have not included within the price - some builders may not include the cost of basic supplies and others will. If you are working with an architect they can help you tender to the builder and confirm in detail what has been included.

Jen from @crack_the_shutters carried out a huge extension and renovation to a 1920s home and did so by working closely with her builder.

"We had a thoroughly planned budget on a spreadsheet, which we used to update every week. We were very lucky that our builder gave us a very detailed and transparent quote from the outset, which meant very few surprises along the way." said Jen. 

Lastly, work with your builder if you need to save money. They are really creative in helping you save if you are honest from the start. Don't try and squeeze them on their labour costs as this will likely cause issues as you go, but look at what you don't need to do or where you could reduce the labour hours. 

Looking at things like changing the bathroom layout to work around the current plumbing could save a lot on the labour costs.

Beautifully renovated bathroom in the home of @crack_the_shutters


4. Don't forget the extras

When you are budgeting for a renovation, it's easy to focus on the big costs such as the kitchen, builders quote or the bathroom. Many of us forget about the other costs....big costs like the party wall surveyor fees (not always required but often is!), extra build costs like the skip and portaloo hire, or even the small costs such as light switches, spotlights and skirting. Even the small costs can really mount up, so try and factor in absolutely everything.

Our budget tool has listed many of these costs to try and help you not forget! If you don't like spreadsheets, you can save down our budget tool and update as you go! It's simple to use and sets out so many of the costs for you, many that you wouldn't have thought of.


5. Think of your trade offs

Once you have planned your budget in detail you might find that it all tallies up to much more than you would like to spend. We then recommend that you look at what is and isn't essential to creating your dream home...most people will need to make some compromises to make sure they don't overspend.

So it might be that you really want underfloor heating throughout your home, however it might work out better on your budget if you just have it in your kitchen extension (or not at all). Or you may dream of aluminium windows, but your budget might only stretch to coloured UPVC. 

Just make sure you invest in what's important to you. Imagine when it's all complete, what will matter the most to you? Some things you won't even remember you ever wanted but that kitchen you have spent hours dreaming of will always be important to you.

Trade offs can also apply to things like the materials you use. The owners of @theottohouse have the most beautiful colours throughout their home, and they shared their best trades off with us. "We chose very expensive paint colours but had nearly all the colours matched by Valspar which saved us a lot of money on paint." We love the mid-century colour palette that they used throughout their home and think this was a brilliant idea.

Dining area in the home of @theottohouse


6. Carry out the work in stages

Although renovations can be stressful, and many people like to get the mess and inconvenience out of the way at once, it might be easier to do the work in phases in order to be able to budget for it. It's best to plan the whole project and work out what you can do in phase 1 and phase 2, making it far easier to plan and budget for.

We spoke to Emma from @the1930srevive who has done exactly that, this made it easier to budget and also made it less stressful with two small children.

"When we were planning out the kitchen, we thought how useful it would be to be able to see the children playing while making dinner and so we decided to remove the wall between the two. The loss of a wall meant we had to add in two extra steels to hold up the upper floors of the house and this completely blew our renovation budget meaning progress on the rest of the house has been a lot slower than we anticipated, but I’m still glad we done it." said Emma.

Beautiful kitchen / diner in the home of the1930srevive



7. Do lots of the work yourself

There is so much of the work you can do yourself that don't require any skills, only a lot of grit, determination and strength! Preparation for the builders such as ripping out the old bathroom, kitchen and lifting old carpets are areas where you can save on your budget. 

We were in awe of the work that @inside_the_white_house did themselves in order to help keep the costs down. 

"In order to accommodate the side extension, we knocked down the garage and a rear sunroom. This was done by the help of family and myself. This was probably the biggest challenge as we did this over weekends and evenings after work. We also completely underestimated how long it would take and how much rubble and mess it would create. We wanted to do this to keep costs down before the professional builders started. "

Stunning kitchen from the home of @inside_the_white_house


8. Upcycle and shop around

One of the best ways to stick to your renovation budget is to upcycle things that were originally in your home or you find online. This can be anything from wooden flooring and tiles...you can find some amazing flooring hidden under carpets that can be restored far cheaper than it would cost to replace them. Plus it's an environmental win too.

The owners of @theottohouse love shopping around and upcycling, lovingly restoring some of the houses existing items. 

"I kept costs down by purchasing a lot of the larger items in the Black Friday sale (I had a spreadsheet and everything!) and shopping around for vintage items on eBay and Facebook Marketplace. I have also done a lot of upcycling of items that were already here, from replacing the slats for rattan on the cupboard in the bathroom, to using tile stickers in the kitchen, or painting our uPVC door."


9. Have a contingency too

No matter how much detail and planning goes into your budgeting, there is a high chance that you will overspend. This is because things often crop up that you least expect, this could be anything from higher architects fees because you've had to amend your drawings, a boiler that gives up during the renovation or structural issues that require more work by the builder. Either way, it's always a good idea to add 10-15% to your budget to make sure you have enough for any unexpected surprises.

We chatted to Emily, owner of @fallowgrey, and asked her what the biggest challenge of the renovation was. "The budget! I think it always costs more than you expect it to as additional costs always pop up." Emily also did a lot of the decorating herself as she has such a creative flair, which also helped keep the costs down too!

Beautiful bathroom in the home of @fallowgrey



If you need some help finding an architect or designer, we can match you with the most suitable ones for your project.

Find an architect or designer

Published: April 22, 2020


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