January 27, 2021

Home Remodeling 101: Get What You Want, Stay Within Budget

In our loftiest home-improvement dreams, we all have unlimited project budgets. But for most of us, that’s just not reality. As a designer, I work with homeowners every day to help them balance their wants and needs while keeping the budget in check. Today I want to share my experience and help you design the project of your dreams and learn how to stay on budget when remodeling.

Tips to Get the Most From Your Remodeling Project


1. Establish a budget. This one sounds like a no-brainer, but I often find that customers are afraid to give a contractor their budget number in advance. They think the contractor will take advantage, using every bit of that money, even if it’s unnecessary. The truth is: You know what your limit is, so it’s best to be direct and share that number—along with your scope or vision for the project—so the budget can be used to establish realistic design parameters.

2. Be thorough on the front-end. Change orders can be quite costly during a remodel. To protect yourself from unwanted surprises, be diligent about making sure your contractor is including everything from the start. For example, removing a load-bearing wall requires the installation of a beam or posts to offset the load; and a new addition might require an upgraded electrical panel: If you aren’t sure about project requirements and building codes, then you should:

  • Ask previous customers about how well the contractor stayed within budget
  • Get quotes from multiple contractors and compare estimates to ensure that all bases are covered

Keep in mind that change orders can and do occur – we do our best to create estimates as accurate as possible, but we can’t see through walls to identify any unknown challenges that may occur.

The result: You won’t have to make changes to your design due to unexpected cost overruns.

3. Set your priorities. You’re more inclined to get what you want by setting expectations from the start. We all have our design vision—as well as our must-have items, products and finishes. The most important element of your kitchen remodel might be quartz countertops, while mine might be a commercial-grade oven. Start with those top-priority selections and then work from there.

Matte gold bathroom fixtures add glam to a minimilistic room

4. Be willing to compromise. The number-one cost driver in kitchen and bathroom remodels is fixtures. Here are a few ideas for substitutions that will help you stay on budget when remodeling, while still giving you the look you want.

  • Stock cabinet vs. custom cabinet. Reduce costs by going with a mid-grade cabinet. You can use a different color or finish on the island to add interest.
  • Laminate or value-grade granite vs. quartz. There are a lot of inexpensive surfaces that mimic the look of quartz and offer great performance features, but at a lower price point.
  • Basic tile backsplash vs. custom tile. Adding mosaics, liners, designs, etc. increase costs. This is an area where you may opt to go basic on the initial install and then upgrade later.
  • Chrome vs. nickel finish. Fixtures (like faucets and chandeliers) and accessories (like drawer pulls and towel bars) are another example of where a less-expensive chrome option can save money without compromising style.
  • Hardwood vs. vinyl or tile. There are so many great options for flooring on the market, so shop and compare before you overlook some of the more inexpensive products.
  • Quality vs. quantity. Recently a homeowner I was working with pared down the size of an addition in order to get exactly what she wanted in respect to upgraded finishes. Instead of a 300 sq. ft. addition, we did a 250 sq. ft addition. She was willing to make the space a bit smaller to get all of the amenities that were important to her.

At the end of the day, be honest with yourself. If you can make compromises in your home remodeling scope that still fall within your comfort zone (and design vision), then do it. You’ll be more likely to get what you want—and be happier with the end result.

The best is yet to come,

Beth Orr