Monday, March 26, 2012

Glen's Reno Series. Volume 2. Budget

Now that you've had your fill of DIY shows, magazine reading and net surfing, you probably have an idea of what your project will need to look like. Your fuzzy vision of what you wanted in the beginning now looks much sharper and now you can bring that vision even more clarity by entering into the next phase: Budget.

You may ask yourself why you are doing a budget at this stage. Shouldn't I just be going to a contractor and asking him how much it will cost? No, no, no. A budget does two main things. It clarifies what you want instead of the contractor trying to imagine what you want. Secondly, it prepares you for the design stage and forces you to be realistic about what you are trying to achieve. Sure that vanity is a stunning piece but substituting it for another less expensive one means simply changing a line item on your spreadsheet and moving forward.

By no means are you going to be locked into this number that you initially arrive at. Budget numbers move up and down constantly, but if you have your spreadsheet handy, its going to save you a lot of guesswork and keep you from the inevitable denial that can happen when you let costs go out of control.

For the purposes of this exercise we are going to use a bathroom project as an example. Because there are so many options for materials and fixtures in a bathroom it provides a great way to show how a budget will typically get accomplished.

To install a modest bathroom we will start at $4000. This will include a five foot tub/shower unit, a vanity/ sink, and a toilet.  Accessories like towel bars would also be included. Flooring would be vinyl. Anything like removing old fixtures and flooring, moving a wall, adding a baseboard heater, lighting, moving plumbing lines would be extra. This is about as basic as it can get. Any movement from here is going to be up.

In a bathroom we would begin with a list of fixtures and the cost. A spreadsheet would look like this:

Bathroom Project 2012
Vanity/ Sink300
Tile in Tub/Shower600
Shower Fixture300

Like I said, this is the bare minimum. No fancy stuff at all but it gives you a good baseline from which to begin.

So, that two-page spread of your dream bathroom that you saw may not be the one priced above. Look at that tub online and you may find that its a fifteen hundred dollar fixture and not the three hundred dollar entry level one. In bathrooms it is very common that a premium fixture is ten times the cost of an entry level one. That fifty dollar faucet for your sink can easily be replaced with a five hundred dollar one. Apply that to your whole budget and suddenly you have a forty thousand dollar bathroom. Think that's crazy? Well you may just be right, but it is happening every day.

Budget is a good time for substituting materials from your concept and moving them up or down. Want something a little fancier for your vanity than laminate? Throw in a few hundred bucks extra for a Corian counter top. That glass mosaic tile may be nice, but boy is it pricey! Try some subway tiles and watch your price go way down. Deciding now on budget realities can clear your head for when it comes to design time.

So here is the real issue: How can I know how much this will cost me roughly before I talk to a pro? Well, there is the Internet and items like tubs and sinks can be easily priced. But what about services? Most people have no idea how much a plumber charges. Fortunately, someone has done a lot of work to compile this information and it lists just about everything you could imagine that you'd want done around your home. The market that these prices are listed for is very similar to our own and it'll give you a great basis from which to go on to the next phases of your project.

When calculating your budget, try to think of every possible thing. Will I need ventilation for the bathroom? Does the electrical meet code? Will I need to re-install the drywall after I tear off the old wall-paper? Be realistic and don't cheat yourself now and be disappointed later. Make that list as long as possible. Look at every item. Flooring, paint, electrical, demolition, tipping fees, everything. Put it all in the spreadsheet.

Moving into the next phase, design, you'll be coming back to the budget and tweaking it a little. Keep your spreadsheet handy so that you can update your changes.

The design phase is exciting and you'll get to express your creativity. I'll have some great tips on this stage so stay tuned.


  1. great blog...
    your description is good for making the Budget spreadsheet template

  2. Thanks. I think its something so obvious but gets overlooked.