Your First Project: A Budget

Planning a new room renovation or project is such an exciting time. Whether you’re creating plans for a new cozy bedroom or giving your half bath some much needed TLC, the most important step is to align your vision with your budget. This part can make building something new a little less exciting, but definitely more fulfilling. 

Big ideas are fun in the moment, but it can lead to dissatisfaction with the finished project when the budget didn’t support the plan. Thinking within your budget – and let’s be honest, maybe a little over it to prepare yourself – can help you set realistic expectations and keep you on track during a project. It’s not the easiest first step for a home renovator either. Most construction projects come with an automatic “extras” fund because you can’t always plan for everything, but it is important to try. 

The budget process can be exhaustive, mostly because it’s really abstract. If you’re new to home renovation projects, it can be helpful to call in a contractor or two to provide you a quote on a space and get a general idea of what ballpark budget you’ll need. From there, you can also do some online or in-store research on fixtures, materials, and finishes to estimate costs. 

To put it into some perspective, we created a budget for a bathroom remodel to give you an idea of our process. Note, these figures aren’t indicative of a true bathroom renovation, but this should help you outline how you’ll plan a renovation once you have a rough budget. 

Let’s say we want to update a full guest/kids bathroom. We set aside $5,000 for the project, but know that we have an extra cushion of $1,500 that we’re saving for another project later if we need it.

Next, assess what we are working with in the bathroom. The bathtub has seen better years, but still workable and the floor tile can stay with a good scrub. But the rest of the bathroom has got to go.

Once you know what we need, we can move onto the fun part of imagining the space and creating a wish list. We want: 

  • A tile accent wall with built in shelves
  • A new bathtub/shower combo
  • New floor tile
  • A new toilet
  • Convert our single vanity into a double
  • A new mirror
  • A new light fixture
  • A fresh coat of paint

This is the part where you can shape your budget around your needs and your wants. Your direction will be a negotiation – not just with design, but with components of the budget. 

For example, getting a double vanity means we need to bring in a plumber to move pipes behind the wall and a new light fixture means bringing in an electrician. These trade costs, in addition to buying the new vanity and light fixture, can add up. In this case, maybe you decide to keep the workable bathtub and floor tile in order to get the plumber for the double vanity and you get a light fixture that you can install yourself. It’s all about what you want versus what you have the budget to do. 

Here’s two budgets that help break down the bathroom renovation step by step, which can also help you create a timeline of what needs to come first. Realistically, there are dozens of different paths for this scale of project, based on renovator preference and need, but these examples can give you an idea of where to start. 

Option 1

Plumbing/electric/HVAC: $1,000 (3 different contractors needed)

Double vanity materials: $1,750 (cheaper finishes but double the material)

Refresh floor tile and tub: $250

New toilet: $200

Misc accessories: $300

Light fixture(s): $500

Drywall and paint: $500 (do it yourself)

New shower wall tile: $500 (porcelain)

Option 2

Plumbing/electric/HVAC: $250 (DIY)

Single vanity materials: $1050 (nicer cabinet and top)

New tub and floor tile: $1000

New toilet: $200

Misc accessories: $500 (real metal TP holder and robe hook)

Light fixture(s): $250

Drywall and paint: $750 (paying someone to do the work)

New shower tile: $1000 (marble)

In addition to helping you stay financially on track, writing out and walking through your budget can help you visualize where you can gain and lose in order to create your vision. Again, getting a more expensive tile might mean that you need to save on the tub or the light fixtures. Outlining each item with estimated costs can help you move numbers around if something comes in over or under budget during the project. 

You should also anticipate that you likely won’t hit your budget right on target. It can happen (and is always welcome!), but you should always anticipate spending a little more and prepare for any unknowns that could pop up. Pricing out the anticipated route is important, but budgeting or having access to the funds in case things arise is also important for long term success in your DIY life. 

You should also have a backup plan for a worst case scenario – you’re unable to finish a project and you need to call in some help. This is also where getting some of those initial quotes from contractors can come in handy. If you get too deep into the work and can’t finish it, you’ve already had someone come out to estimate the project and know their costs to complete. You always want to have a professional on hand, just in case! 

A budget helps you maximize the execution of your vision, while protecting you from overspending or under delivering. No matter the size of your budget, or the project, your budget is the outline for your project that will evolve overtime, but always remember that it is adaptable as long as you have the funds. Don’t be afraid to move around numbers as the project progresses, or decide to spend more because you saved earlier or vice versa. You don’t necessarily need all your ducks in a row to embark on projects, but starting with even a modest budget outline can help you stay grounded and financially responsible. 

How do you like to budget for renovation projects? We’d love to hear your techniques! 

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