Planning is key, especially when it comes to high-cost projects like an extension, a kitchen makeover, or building a house from scratch. But even though no two building / renovation projects are the same, there is one thing that links up all of them: a budget, without which even the easiest, most straightforward project is a fail before it even starts.
Don’t think for a minute that you can proceed with that planned project (whatever it may be) and then treat the costs as an afterthought. So, in order to help you plan your building- or renovation project more properly, and avoid financial disaster, let’s see some tips from the experts when it comes to setting up (and sticking to) a build budget.
From the get go, be realistic about how much your project is going to cost. Calculating on the pessimistic side is best, as it can help to avoid nasty surprises later on.
Since it’s at the beginning stage of the project, take your time to itemise everything realistically and meticulously.
Life is full of surprises, and your project is no exception. Building projects are complicated and the odds that a few unexpected surprises will pop up are guaranteed. That means your budget needs to make room for a few changes.
Work out exactly what these contingencies might be and earmark funds accordingly. A healthy rule of thumb is budgeting about 10% of your total costs for unforeseen expenses.
And bear in mind that the work can take longer than expected – that means be prepared for any possible delays and make sure you also have a bit of flex time if something needs to be reworked.
Make sure everybody on the team (especially designers) has a thorough knowledge and understanding of costs. It’s a fine balance between not getting carried away with grandiose design concepts and steering clear of boring or mundane designs – and your designer needs to be able to accomplish this.
Avoid a total disconnect between design and costs that can lead to a waste of money, plans and work. And if you suspect that your designer or architect is not paying close attention to costs, cut them loose ASAP.
A budget is a continuous thing, not a once-off element. You don’t plan your budget meticulously and then just trust that an evolving design, which may have seemed financially practical from the start, will continue to be so at the end of the project.
At each step of the project, advice should be sought to make sure everything is still on budget. Things are going to change, whether it’s a helpful alteration suggested by an interested party or the need to switch out one element for another. However, with every change, it needs to relate back to the original costs and budget – is one thing goes up, then another thing must come down.
That meticulous planning you started out with needs to be carried through your entire project. From the start, decide what needs to be done and find out exactly how much materials and labour will cost. Be strict about your schedule and costs and only make changes if necessary.
Make up your mind and stick to it – dawdling too long wastes time and money. Decisiveness can mean the difference between a project which ends on schedule and within budget, and one which runs late and costs way more than originally planned.
Always get three quotes before hiring someone for the job. Ask that each quote be itemised so that you know exactly what costs what. This will allow you to see where and how you can reduce costs, if necessary.
Be honest about your DIY skills – don’t just take jobs for sake of saving a penny or two.
Tackling a job yourself in order to save money, only to have it redone by a professional at a later stage wastes time and money – the extra costs of the labour and materials could easily have been avoided if you had just been open and honest.
However, when it comes to more straightforward aspects of a project, you can certainly pitch in to help things proceed more smoothly – for example, tidying up the work site after each day, basic landscaping tasks, etc.
Extra costs, if not watched, can work up to about 40% (or more) of your original budget.
To avoid such a nasty shock at the end of your project, always insist that any extras (i.e. fitted wardrobes, additional power points, garden walls) be properly costed and agreed to in writing before they are implemented. Once you get the prices for the extra work, relate them to your budget before commissioning them.
At the end of the day, hiring a professional is always best, as they are trained to do what you need doing. But that doesn’t mean only architects, landscape designers or kitchen planners – a seasoned project manager can also make a huge difference to your budget, timelines and quality of the project.
Just like your DIY skills, be honest about whether or not you feel up to managing this project right from the start. If not, employ an experienced, efficient manager to do the job for you. It can ultimately mean staying within your budget, even cutting a few costs here and there.
Speaking of cutting costs, did you see these Brilliant budget living room hacks?