Six Steps to Planning (and Sticking to!) a Remodel Budget

Its the time of year when many of you are contemplating your next project, but every remodel requires careful planning, preparation and budgeting.

Estimating remodel costs up front can seem like and impossible task - so many factors contribute to the bottom line of a project, including the size of each room, underlying problems that you’re blissfully unaware of, the cost of the materials and the extent of the remodel. Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to give you a good ballpark figure for your new space, and allow you to clarify what expenses you are like to incur and where you can make adjustments right from the outset

  1. Map out a detailed budget before you start.

If you are like many of our clients, you have a rough idea of your total budget, but haven’t really drilled down any further than that. While you’ll need to get estimates from licensed contractors - and yes, we do mean more than one - but you can start to map out many of the costs by yourself.

One of the challenges of living in the Bay Area is that home remodels are more expensive than the national average so searching ‘ how much is a kitchen remodel’ online isn’t much help. Following design DIYers in North Carolina or the Midwest on Instagram is great for inspiration, but the alluring taglines of ‘remodel a bathroom in a weekend for under $3000 doesn’t tell you that they already had the tools, the expertise and often at least one product sponsorship…

So, what to do instead? We recommend that you head over to Houzz, where you can search projects by location, so you can see what types of projects are going on in your neighborhood, and how much they have cost. Most projects have descriptions that discuss what structural changes were made, what types of cabinetry, appliances and finishes were included and allow you to get a much better idea of where they allocated their budget.

If you need some help, we’ve created a handy project planning spreadsheet that you can use to get you started.

You’ll need to click on “File > Download As”. You can then download in your preferred format and save to your own computer.

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2. Don’t forget the ‘hidden costs’.

The most common reason for going over budget on fixtures and fittings? Forgetting to include tax and shipping costs in your planned budget. For kitchens and bathrooms, bulky items like cabinetry, appliances, bathtubs and shower enclosures often have to be shipped cross country and have both a hefty shipping cost and a significant lead time. For those of you who love stone, marble or granite countertop, remember that fabrication can almost double the cost. Make sure you understand those extras when you are making selections, so you can truly compare costs. Working with a designer can often save you a great deal of stress at this point - they have the experience with individual suppliers and can advise you on the real costs before you fall in love, and give you suggestions on other options that might work as well or even better for your space.


3. Know your timeline to avoid material delays

While some can’t be avoided (opening up walls in old construction highlights unexpected issues), stoppages caused by materials not arriving in time means increased labor costs, potential additional housing costs and can disrupt an entire project. The contractor is working to a tight timeline and having workers standing idle or subcontractors unable to get started are the quickest way to break your carefully planned budget. Know your ordering, manufacturing and delivery lead times and if at all possible, add a buffer.

4. Revise as you go.

Every project hits unexpected costs - whether you discover your dream tile that is twice as much as you had allocated, you need to upgrade your electrics to accommodate that steam oven combo or your dimensions mean that you’re going to need a custom solution to that difficult corner. Every time you have something unexpected, update your spreadsheet and if necessary, make accommodations somewhere else. The sooner you make those small adjustments, the easier they are to handle. If you’re working with a designer, they can often suggest alternatives that can help keep you on track without sacrificing the overall appeal. Using LVT or engineered flooring instead of custom hardwood can save on both materials and installation costs and there are some fabulous options out there if you know where to look. Similarly, you might choose to use a standard tile for large expanses and then use that eye-catching custom tile as an accent in a shower recess or range backsplash - positioned to draw the eye and maximize the visual impact while minimizing the financial impact.


5. Custom comes at a cost.

When it comes to custom finishes, the devil is in the details - and often, those details are non-standard sizing, specialized installation requirements or even custom housing. We all love those beautiful tile designs, elegant baths and unique cabinetry,, but as designers, we know that managing custom finishes requires special attention to detail. Our cabinet design process, for instance, involves detailed measuring of the space, meticulous recording of outlets, drains, pipes and HVAC vents, the creation of both a before and after room profile in CAD software - all before we actually get to the actual cabinetry layout and finish design. We send all our clients a virtual reality 3D walkthrough so they can experience what the room will look like from all angles and make changes - anything from cabinet placement, flooring, lighting and even window and door placement. All this happens before a single order is placed, so clients know that their new space is exactly how they envisioned it. The same software helps us with many custom finishes that might not have standard sizing - custom tile, for instance, will have color and sizing variation that makes it both beautiful to look at and more complicated to install. We’re able to accurately estimate quantities, create detailed install guides for the contractor and save everyone time, money and stress.

6. Stay involved.

No matter how carefully you planned the project in advance, there will always be questions that need to be answered and decisions made - and the quicker you are able to respond, the more successful your project will be. Being accessible - whether by phone, email or in person visit - allows contractors to keep up the momentum of a project and avoid having to make decisions themselves. It happens in every project - from finishes that look different to the ones in the showroom to choosing how high to hang the towel hook - we all have personal preferences that can’t always be predicted. Changes are often difficult and costly - even small holes drilled have to be refilled, refinished and repainted - and in some cases, impossible. So stay connected to your designer and contractor and know when those key installs are happening, so you get exactly what you want, first time.

Want to find out how we can help you? Head over to Work with Us, where we explain our process and how you can book a complementary Discovery Call.