Estimating the costs of renovating your home

Estimating the costs of renovating your home

When you are buying a house or upgrading your current one, estimating the costs of the renovation by yourself is hard. Information out there is vague, different sources will give you different numbers, and you can never be completely sure you have budgeted all items needed.

Before starting the renovation, you need to know what you are getting yourself into and, most importantly, if you can afford it until full completion. So, creating a budget is one of the primary tasks once you have decided to renovate your home.

An accurate estimate of the project would help you to keep your finances in check and ensure you have enough for all the required work, as well as prevent last-minute surprises, especially if you have a tight budget.

To help you get started with a rough estimation, here are a few things that need to be considered. They are mostly based on the size and scope of your project.

1. What do you want to remodel?

First, you need to decide what areas to remodel. A priority list could even be created based on what is absolutely needed, what would be good to have and what would be nice to have. This includes which spaces you want to remodel in particular, or whether it is a certain aspect of a space that needs to be remodelled. Keep in mind that the larger the area to be renovated, the more expensive it will get.

  • Examples of a “must do” task are a foundation check, fixing a leak in the roof or replacing the windows with double glazed well-insulated ones
  • Examples of a “good to have” would be new floors or new furniture
  • An example of a “nice to have” would be a fireplace

This of course depends on your own needs, priorities and taste!

2. The more protected the building, the more expensive the renovation may get

The ease or levels of complexity of the renovation may depend on the monumental status of the building and any protected status it has. Older buildings, especially ones that are of historic value, could be more expensive to renovate. This could be because of the need to apply for a permit but also because of the structural quality, including foundations, roofs, doors, windows, materials and other fittings that may be old and need more work. The requirements and specifications of the remodelling could also differ based on the location.

3. Do you need a contractor and / or an architect?

Does your project require smaller surface work that you will be able to do yourself, such as removing the wallpaper, installing new floors, a fresh layer of paint, etc.? If you are handy and confident, doing these tasks might not require you to hire any external professional help.

However, if your project involves structural changes or more complicated tasks, these will need to be designed, planned and executed by professionals, not to mention, some may need a permit. Don’t be tempted to save here, you may end up spending a lot more money, wasting time and efforts. Make sure you are not “penny wise and pound foolish” as they say!

4. Be informed about permits and other legal local requirements

In case of structural changes or even lighter changes in case your house is a monument, you will have to obtain permits from the different local authorities. It is always better to be aware of any permits required. There are known cases in the Netherlands where local authorities have imposed a fine and the demolition of works that were done without the required permit.

Follow the rules and apply for the correct permit, this will ensure there are no complications or extra costs during the renovation process or afterwards.

5. Always budget for unforeseen costs

After you create your base budget, make sure you include a buffer. In other words, expect the unexpected! Essentially, keep the following in mind:

  • Most renovation costs start from a minimum of 1000 €/m2. Generally, 1200 €/m2 can be considered as a good average, excluding the architect’s fee.
  • Depending on the scope, the process of renovation could be anywhere from weeks to months, excluding the design process period and the waiting time if permits are required.
  • Construction materials generally amount to 6-8% of the whole price of the renovation. Therefore choosing to buy materials and finishes that are simple yet effective, and opting for ready-made furniture (instead of going for custom-made, for example) will help in keeping the estimate in check.
  • Very roughly, average percentages for a basic renovation project of a residence could be around the following: In the case of a full house renovation, construction takes up 42% of the whole cost, while demolition would take about 6%. The renovation of the kitchen and redoing the flooring of the residence could count for around 13% each while redoing the finishes could be up to 12% of the whole cost. Utilities count for the remaining 14%. Try and allocate 20% as a buffer for contingencies, last-minute changes and unforeseen circumstances.

6. Get professional help

If you are feeling overwhelmed just reading this article, then keep calm and get professional advice. Getting professional advice upfront remains the best way to help you create a good rough estimate of the costs and to manage your budget. Even if you have to pay for a professional to create a cost estimate for you, this will help you save money down the line.

A good architect or a good contractor will help you get a realistic idea of the costs you are getting yourself into before you commit to the project. A good architect will also help you manage priorities and create savings during the project by creating smarter design solutions and doing more with less.

Make sure your architect does not calculate their own fees as a percentage of the construction costs. If they do, then you must ask yourself, where does their interest lie? If they are paid in relation to how expensive the project is, will they really help you preserve your budget, spend it in the most optimal way, and give you advice regarding necessary and unnecessary changes?

When looking for an architect, make sure you ask all the questions you need before hiring them.

Be prepared

Whether you ultimately decide to approach an architect and / or a contractor for help or decide to create your own budget, estimating the costs of a renovation is not an instantaneous or an easy process. It varies on a lot of factors such as protected status, size, location, desired finish level, quality of work, local labour costs, and others.

Make sure to get multiple opinions from experts, and keep a margin of extra time and budget, in order to be prepared for any unexpected items. This will ultimately help you remodel your home within a good budget and on time, and ensure you get the best possible result for your newly renovated home.

Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes


Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes

Architect, author, international speaker, Founder and CEO of AKKA Architects, Stephanie is part of a new breed of young visionary architects who operate beyond the nowadays restrained realm of architecture....

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