House renovations: how much should I budget for renovations and how do I keep costs down?

Whether your renovation project is a simple refresh or a grand redesign, planning and sticking to a budget is key. Here’s how to keep your home renovation on track

House renovations: how much should I budget for renovations and how do I keep costs down?

Despite the budget blow-outs we’ve all seen on TV property shows, a major renovation project doesn’t have to cost the earth. You can ensure everything stays on track and on budget by planning ahead, pricing up and working out where to make savings without cutting corners.

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How much will a house renovation cost?

Your first step is to calculate how much the work will cost. At the very minimum, you’ll be paying for materials and labour, and if you’re extending or extensively remodelling, factor in fees for an architect and possibly a structural engineer. Planning permission applications and building regulations approval can also incur charges, as can a party wall agreement, which is required if the proposed work affects a wall shared with a neighbour. To get an idea of what you can expect to spend, ask friends and family who’ve carried out similar upgrades recently and visit myjobquote.com for average prices of hundreds of home improvement jobs, though remember that labour costs vary around the country.

How much do I need to budget for hidden costs of a renovation?

Very project incurs unforeseen costs, so set aside at least 10 per cent of your budget as a contingency fund. However prepared you are, certain problems – such as dodgy plumbing and unsafe wiring – may only come to light once panels are opened up and floorboards lifted. Don’t forget to budget for skip hire and rubbish removal, scaffolding when working above ground level, and renting alternative accommodation if your home’s going to be uninhabitable or without a kitchen or bathroom for a few weeks.

If possible, live onsite during the build – or with relatives or friends – rather than forking out for a pricey Airbnb. If you’re making do with no cooking facilities, your food bill’s bound to go up if you’re on a diet of ready meals and takeaways.

How can I fund my renovations?

Unless you’re funding the renovations through savings, you’ll need to pay for them via a home improvement loan or credit card, or by remortgaging your home or extending your existing mortgage. Utilising your mortgage is the cheapest way to borrow. ‘If you’re looking to finance home improvements through your home, there are lots of remortgage options available,’ says Will Rhind, mortgage expert at online mortgage broker Habito. ‘Or, you can take part of the equity and sell the amount you need to do the improvements back to the bank, so to speak. This would get added to your mortgage debt to pay back in the future, but you’d get a cash lump sum now.’

Make sure you seek out reliable tradesman

To find reliable builders and other trusted tradespeople, seek personal recommendations and try websites such as ratedpeople.com and checkatrade.com, where homeowners have given reviews. It’s also worth posting on local online community groups, such as nextdoor.co.uk.

Get at least four quotes, and before you go ahead make sure everything’s in writing. Find out whether builders and other contractors are registered for VAT as if their turnover is below the threshold, you won’t be charged an extra 20 per cent for labour.

How can I keep the costs down of my renovation?

There are plenty of ways to make savings, as long as you’re prepared to do your homework. Where possible, reuse bricks, roof tiles and other materials, and repair rather than replace timber windows.

Source kitchen and bathroom fittings, appliances, flooring, paint and tiles by shopping around: visit showrooms, check out online retailers and try trade suppliers. Always negotiate and ask whether there’s
a discount for cash, and stick with standard specifications rather than having items made-to-measure.

‘Budget for everything upfront, and research different suppliers of materials and fixtures like lighting, before sharing this with tradespeople who work on the project,’ advises Adrienne Minster, CEO of Rated People. ‘This way, you’ll ensure you’re getting
the result that you want, for the best value.

Will helping with the labour help reduce the cost of renovating?

If you’re able, you can reduce labour costs by doing some of the work yourself. Depending on your competence at DIY, you can paint, tile, sand floors or even rip out an ancient bathroom in readiness for a new one to be installed. Try not to deviate from the agreed plans as any changes will bump up costs, and chase deliveries to avoid expensive delays.

Ashleigh Hanwell, a kitchen designer, has recently finished renovating her third property, her 1930s house in Hartlepool. ‘The house was a repossession and in a bad way, and we were lucky that we were able to remain in our old home while we were renovating it,’ she says. ‘It needed gutting and to cut costs, we did a lot of the work ourselves, including installing the bathroom, which we got a plumber to certify. Once I’d planned a room and picked a look, I did loads of research to find the best price
for everything. If you can, try to see items in person so you can check the quality, and make sure quotes are detailed and
not vague.’

How can I keep track of my spending?

Many seasoned home-improvers swear by spreadsheets to keep on top of budgeting, and these are now supplemented by a number of clever apps. Budget my Reno, £1.99, and Home Improvement Planner (HIP), £4.99, are easy to use and enable you to manage your spending along with other handy features.

Meet the experts

Will Rhind is a mortgage expert at online mortgage broker Habito, whose aim is to make mortgages simple. 

Ashleigh Hanwell is a kitchen designer and keen hands-on home renovator. Her latest project is her 1930s home in Hartlepool.

Adrienne Minster is the CEO of Rated People, which matches trusted local tradespeople to jobs via its app and website ratedpeople.com

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Image credit: Getty Images