HomeRenoBudget1 (1)

Photo: James Bombales

When it comes to home renovations, ‘as seen on TV’ isn’t always reality. Home reno shows on HGTV and other networks often receive products and materials for free or at discounted costs, making a substantial renovation seem affordable. For some real world advice on planning a budget for your home renovation, we turned to interior designer Rebecca Hay of Rebecca Hay Designs. The Toronto-based designer has a diverse portfolio ranging from condo renovations to luxurious private residences and large scale commercial projects.


Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hay. Photographer: Stephani Buchman Photography.

1. Get a ballpark figure

In order to avoid sticker shock during your renovation, first get an idea of how much your dream reno is going to cost. Even a small space such as a powder room can cost a lot more than you may think. Common expenses to consider include basic demolition, framing, insulation and drywall, plumbing, wiring, fixtures and materials.

“Talk to your designer or friends who have renovated and start collecting data on what a renovation of your size will cost,” says Hay. “For example, a bathroom reno rarely comes in under $20,000, so be prepared for things to cost more than you expected.”


Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hay. Photographer: Stephani Buchman Photography.

2. Create a realistic picture of what you want to accomplish

Watching Chip and Joanna Gaines flip a Waco ranch home is a great way to get inspired for your home renovation, but unless you have a celebrity budget to work with, these types of renos aren’t always realistic. Before you start your project, determine what you are prepared to spend and see if it aligns with what you want to do. Consult your financial advisor to see what financing options are available and the types of loans that you can apply for to get a clearer picture of what you can spend.

“This is where having a good designer or contractor on board will help,” says Hay. “A good designer can determine if your budget is realistic because they have the experience to know what it’s going to cost. As a designer, I always try to balance high-end finishes with thrifty finds to create a unique and customized space.”


Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hay. Photographer: Stephani Buchman Photography.

3. Stay organized by creating an itemized spreadsheet

Take some time to carefully list everything you can possibly think of that needs to be budgeted for, from truck or trailer rentals to furniture and accessories. And consider going room by room to record what needs to be changed, upgraded or fixed.

“Create an itemized spreadsheet of all the elements that are involved in your reno,” suggests Hay. “And don’t forget to include construction costs, millwork (kitchen cabinets), materials or items not included in construction such as design fees, lighting and any furnishings.”


Photo: James Bombales

4. Set aside 20 percent of your budget for a contingency fund

Once you know how much you can afford to spend, Hay recommends setting aside 20 percent of your available funds for unexpected costs. You can never really know what’s behind your walls or ceilings until they’re taken down. Support beams may need to be replaced due to pest damage or dry rot, and mold may be growing where you didn’t expect it to be.

“Always consider 20 percent extra for contingency. You see this talked about all the time, but honestly not enough people do it,” notes Hay. “If, by some rare chance, you don’t end up spending it, you can always use those funds to spend on the pretty accessories at the end of the project.”


Photo courtesy of Rebecca Hay

5. Get ACTUAL numbers and plug those in

Now that you have a spreadsheet, it’s time to do your homework and research average renovation costs. “When I was first starting out and didn’t have much experience with budgets I would create a high/low budget for my projects,” says Hay. “This is a little more work, but will help you see the big picture and help you see the wide range that can occur.”


Photo: James Bombales

6. Don’t always rely on a contractor’s “allowance”

An allowance is an estimated cost that a contractor will include as a line item for something that hasn’t been determined yet, but can vary in price. Examples include tile, flooring materials and plumbing fixtures. “Be sure to do your research and look into the price of these items to know if what he or she has “allowed” is enough for the end product that you are looking for,” explains Hay. “If you’re hoping for all marble tile, chances are that your contractor has not allowed for this, and so it could be a surprise extra.”


Photo James Bombales

7. Set priorities and trim where needed

When you’re working on creating the home of your dreams, it’s easy to get carried away with the latest design trends, technology, finishes and materials.These can add up, causing expenses to skyrocket. To avoid any future finance-related stress, make sure to set priorities and trim the project to fit your budget. “There is always wiggle room as long as you have a healthy and realistic budget for what you want to achieve,” says Hay.

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