Why it's so important to estimate the cost of your renovation before you start

Why it's so important to estimate the cost of your renovation before you start

When it comes to renovation, architecture or interior design projects, we tend to underestimate the amount of time and the budget it will take. This is common, even for industry professionals. Without an accurate budget estimate, you risk starting a project you will not be able to complete, leaving you worse off than before you even started.

So, to avoid this disaster scenario, make sure you take the time to create a realistic estimate for the costs of your renovation project. When it comes to renovating or upgrading your house, many tasks may seem easy and simple to do - even without an architect’s help. However, once you really dive into the process, it is very common for things to get more complicated, for unforeseen things to emerge and for the whole project to get chaotic and spin out of control.

The wisest first step to take before even beginning the renovation is to realistically plan the project, and that includes a cost estimate of all that may be ahead of you.

What you can and cannot afford

Amongst the many ideas and the plethora of trends on social media, it is important to take a step back and recognise what you can and cannot afford. While it is important to pay for quality, beware of succumbing to timely trends, or impulse last-minute buys. When you have an initial budget from the beginning, it can act as a guide and prevent you from diverging too far.

Beware of unforeseen costs

A big trap that leads to distress in architecture and interior projects is the hidden and unplanned costs that usually come up during the process. While we cannot know what unforeseen items may emerge upfront, we know something will. So, fail-proof your budget by adding an extra 15 to 20 percent as a contingency to cover any surprises and unforeseen complications. It is best to have that contingency and not need it, than to scramble and have a hard time covering those unplanned expenses.

Time is money

Underestimating the duration of the project and not having a specific timeline to stick to often leads to the project taking more time than it needs. This can also lead to miscalculating the entire cost estimation of the project. Time definitely is money when it comes to construction, so ensure you have a timeline estimated, along with your cost estimate. Having a realistic timeline will ensure constant awareness of where and how the budget is used.

Permits’ reminder

Depending on what your project entails, you may need to apply for a permit from the local authorities. Proceeding without a permit can lead to costly fines, and you may be forced to undo what you did too. So, make sure your cost estimate covers permits if needed. Remember to account for that in the timeline as well, as permits can have a long lead time before you get approval.

Don't be afraid to ask

Dealing with budgets, timelines, permits, design decisions, material orders and construction commotions can be overwhelming. Having professional help by your side is a major relief and can even save you money - both by planning ahead of time and knowing the best solutions to implement.

An architect will help you prioritise your needs and wishes to meet your budget, while they will be able to advise you on efficient yet quality ideas and solutions. They can help you preserve your budget and only spend it in the most optimal way. To ensure this is the case, make sure that incentives are designed in a way to align with your interests. For example, make sure your architect is not being paid as a percentage of the final project cost.

Realistic may not be accurate

In many cases, projects take time and things change over a longer period of time. This means that even the most realistic cost estimate may turn out to be less accurate than you would have liked as the project progresses. This can be due to a number of reasons, including the design itself evolving beyond the original idea, your wishes changing, but also the costs of external parties, inflation and supply chain issues, as we have all experienced lately. Regardless, starting off with an as-realistic-as-possible cost estimate is better than starting with no estimate at all.

A budget can be liberating!

Believe it or not, a budget is not only restricting, it can also be liberating. How, you ask? The secret is in keeping your budget up to date. As the project progresses, update it to include the actual costs. If something costs less than you had budgeted, you can maybe spend more on something else.

Best result within your budget

At the end of the day, having a realistic cost estimate before you start your renovation or interior project is of utmost importance. This will determine whether you get the best possible result for your project within your budget, and in some cases, whether you can complete the project at all! So, take the time and effort to invest in creating a cost estimate for your renovation - it is the first step towards your successful project!

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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