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Project on budget with Bryan Baeumler

People often ask me how to keep a renovation on budget. Truth is, I could write a book on the topic. The first chapter would be all about planning.

If you want to stay on budget, the first thing you need to do is know what your budget is. Sounds obvious, right?

Trust me, when it comes to renovation, people usually do it completely backwards. Sure, it’s hard to resist fantasizing about the ultimate home makeover. And it’s fine to dream your dream. But you need to be able to set the dream aside and take a good hard look at your budget.

Then, put 25 to 30% of that budget in your back pocket to pay for unexpected problems or upgrades that pop up. Now you can plan a renovation to fit within the budget you’ve got left.

Feel better? You should. You’ve taken your first step to keeping your renovation on budget.

Why keep so much tucked away? Believe me, there are plenty of forgotten or unexpected costs in renovation, including disposal, hardware (like cabinet or drawer handles), permits and engineering fees. And there are even more surprise costs when people open up a wall and find that joists have been cut, discover hidden electrical junctions and other issues that need to be addressed. These costs should all be manageable with that healthy contingency fund.

Some common pitfalls to avoid, because they can send costs skyrocketing, include adding on to the scope of work once it’s started, making numerous changes to the plan or design, not making decisions quickly and not being willing to compromise on finishes if additional work or cost is required. Micromanaging your contractor can also be an expensive manoeuvre, if he knows what he's doing. But not managing the project closely enough can be costly, too. It’s a fine line.

Wondering if you can save money on materials and still have a great reno? Sure. The best plan is to prioritize the things that will be hardest to change later. For example, to have a custom kitchen look, without the price, use off-the-shelf cabinet boxes and customize the doors! Countertops are easy to change at a later date, and you can economize here by choosing from some of the good looking and very resilient laminates available these days. There are also a lot of great veneer materials like Ecostone and engineered hardwoods that give the look with a slightly lower cost. On the flip side, if you find an area where you want to spend a little extra money, be prepared to make compromises on the finishes in other areas to compensate and stay on budget.

Once you’ve set your budget, planned your reno and things are going ahead, the best way to stay on track, financially, is to keep detailed records of every purchase and expenditure, and review the project on a regular basis. Most renovations go significantly over budget. That’s usually because people under-estimate costs to begin with, optimistically thinking their renovation can be done faster and cheaper than it actually will. This is a very common trap: be realistic with your budget to begin with and it's easier to stick to it!

Trust me, you’ll enjoy your wonderful new kitchen or family room much more if you don’t destroy your bank account in the process.