Inside: Tips and a Free Printable to help you tackle one of the hardest part of renovation– Creating (and sticking to) your budget. Have the courage to tackle your own crumbling renovation!
I pull my sponge across the will-never-be-white-again linoleum walls of our shower and in the final strokes, a little bit of the wall crumbles. It sinks down the drain of the bathtub along with my hopes of making this bathroom last any longer. The crumbling issue lurking behind the walls finally turned into an emergency.
“It’s time,” I sigh, complaining to our lab-chow mix, Mikey.
I look around at the bathroom that’s seen more years than it was ever meant to and all its flaws emerge, more dire than I’d ever noticed before. A pool of water sits in the corner of the unleveled vanity. I feel the slight incline in the floor as I fetch the broom from the other room. But what cracks me open is the crumbling rot peeking out beneath the full window in the bathtub. Yes, you read that right. FULL window.
It took all my strength not to drop the broom and walk away. Heck, it took more strength not to toss that broom right at those crumbling walls and check into a hotel. But, I cleaned the rest of the bathroom, praying every moment that the remaining walls would stay intact.
Sometimes, you need to hit rock bottom before you realize just how deep in the waters you are. We knew we needed to do something. We just needed a plan.
What You Can Expect in This Post
Feel free to skip around, but be sure to snag your free printable at the end!
Having the Tough Conversation
A and I knew we’d averted our eyes to our crumbling bathroom walls one too many times. It had been complaining for months, years even. We knew we had to work quickly.
We took measurements and talked at length one night about the work that needed to be done. I told Anthony my vision for the simple, farmhouse design. After all, we live in a simple, small farmhouse circa 1899.
Some design decisions emerged out of necessity. We have some serious challenges ahead. Not only do we have to fix this problem now just to have one functioning bathroom, but it’s actually only a temporary fix. In a few years (give or take), we hope to tear down and add onto the entire backside of our house. It isn’t level and needs an expansion to solve some of the other functional problems in our home.
Guess what that includes?
Yep. You guessed it. The bathroom we’re renovating now.
As with many renovations, our budget is tighter than a pair of skinny jeans.We need to be extra careful not to blow the budget since we’ll likely be re-doing our work at some point down the line. The budget is the most important step in planning a renovation. It’s too easy to go to the store and start tossing things in the cart, but when you get to the register you’ll likely have an abrupt wake up call.
Things you should discuss before planning a renovation (big or small):
- What needs to be done
- What you can do yourself vs. what you need to hire somebody to do
- Styles and designs you like (cue my favorite inspiration resource — Pinterest)
- Potential Challenges (space size, awkward layouts, time restraints, etc.)
Make lists for each topic and keep them all together in one place so you can easily reference it during your budget and planning sessions.
Planning Your Emergency Renovation
Once the hard conversation about the scope of work and general design inspiration ended, I began my research. The best decision I made was having a picture of what I wanted in my head before the research stage. Thank you, Pinterest. Do you know how many choices there are out there for tile alone?
Luckily, I already knew I wanted a gray tile for the floor. Even limiting to those parameters still made me want to crawl under the covers and never emerge.
Trust me, you want to think about the design before you start looking. Otherwise, you may get sucked into the black hole of all the options available. Renovation is stressful enough. Avoid the added pressure by knowing what you’re looking for before you begin.
Since I took the time upfront, I focused my research on specific materials. Finding reasonably priced options became a lot easier. When I’m budgeting materials, I start with a general idea of how much I think we should (or can) spend. This helps me keep our spending in check, but if my research suggests we need to raise or lower that budget, I adjust accordingly. Usually, my initial budget includes a range of costs, like spending between $400-$500 on a vanity. Then, I find a few options I like within that range.
My budget for that material usually ends up being somewhere in the middle of that range, but I always leave a little wiggle room. The little bit of extra in a line item prevents us from dipping into the contingency for forgetting to include something like screws or drawer pulls.
See? Creating a budget doesn’t have to be a headache!
6 Tips for Creating a Successful Renovation Budget
Ultimately a budget has to fit the specific needs of the project and the people planning it. But, there are some things that help ensure that you stick to the one you make. Here are six things to keep you from breaking the bank with your renovation:
1. Create a Contingency Fund
Once you have an idea of how much materials, labor, etc. are going to cost, make sure you add at least 10% of that number to your budget in case of surprises. If you’re tackling a project with major electrical, plumbing, or structural work, consider having a larger contingency of 15-20%. This gives you the necessary breathing room for a healthy budget and will ultimately prevent major stress from surprises that are almost always inevitable.
2. Set a Preliminary Budget before you shop.
Have an idea of what you would like to spend before you start. Then, adjust your budget accordingly as your research progresses. Just make sure to finalize your budget before you make your first purchase. You want to have a solid budget before you start spending, or else it can become a slippery slope.
3. Research, Research, Research
Unless you work as a contractor and are an expert at material and labor costs, make sure to do your research.
For contract work, get multiple quotes from competing companies. We like to get at least 3 quotes for any major work. Our decision often doesn’t depend solely on the price, either. We like contractors that cover their bases. Customer service goes a long way. We were recently impressed by a tree service who provided their insurance information without one of us having to ask! If they take the initiative for the free quote, that says a lot about the work you’ll get after you hire them.
Do the same with materials. Check different companies for pricing. If you’d rather purchase from a certain vendor, ask if they will price match a competitor. It costs you nothing to ask.
If you put in the time and effort up front, it can end up saving you a boat load in the end. This could mean the difference between being a few dollars under or going a few hundred (or thousand) dollars over budget.
4. Itemize Everything
I’ve never kicked myself for having a budget that was too detailed. Itemizing everything helps me make sure I don’t leave anything off the shopping or to do lists. We started this practice after going to the hardware store three times in one day for a project. We had to stop and start the project so many times that it took hours longer to finish than it should have.
Ultimately, it makes the whole project run more efficiently and keeps us from running to the hardware store for last minute materials.
5. Track Costs
As you make purchases, log them in your budget spreadsheet and subtract them from what you planned. It keeps you honest. Keep your receipts together and double check everything you log. If you keep them with your shopping and to do lists, it helps keep better track of what has already been bought and finished, too.
6. Bring Your Budget Along
We use Google Sheets to create all of our project budgets, because both A and I can pull it up on our phones at the store. While we shop, we can make sure what we buy stays within budget, and we can update our spending in the car before we go home. If we’re in the parking lot double checking, it also creates one more opportunity to check our list and make sure we have everything we need.
It’s all about those checks and balances, right?
I do these things with every project. Having a detailed plan puts my mind at ease that even if a surprise surfaces, I’ll be able to take it in stride.
Bathroom Renovation Preview
Right now we’re preparing for our bathroom renovation. We created an overall budget, which includes all of the materials down to the spacers for the floor tiles. Since we’re both relatively handy, we’re doing a lot of the work ourselves. But we’re also bringing in the expertise of Anthony’s Dad, who is a professional carpenter.
He is Godsend during our renovations, especially when crumbling walls are involved.
We discovered early on that a custom vanity would be necessary because of the layout of our bathroom, so we are already building one ourselves. A more detailed post will be forthcoming once we finish, but here’s a sneak peek of the frame!
We still have to add an adjustable shelf and door to the middle pane. We’re also adding a fake drawer to the top to leave room for the sink. When it’s finished, it will be painted a milky white with a stained oak top and a drop in sink.
We really can’t wait to see the final product!
We’re going with a simple, farmhouse theme (because we all know I’m obsessed with Joanna Gaines). We’ve decided on white subway tile with a dark grout for the bath/shower combo and a gray tile for the floor. We’re bringing wood tones into the design with the vanity top and some floating shelves. Color and texture contrast will be brought in with the decor.
Here’s a rough drawing of my vision:
[insert design sketch]
Tackle Your Own Crumbling Problems
Too many times we say we’re going to make improvements to our homes, and instead we end up putting it off until we’re just ready to sell those problems to someone else to fix. Sometimes, our houses decide when it’s time for a renovation. Don’t let fear keep you from taking action before your cleaning routine forces you to realize it’s time.
Tackling a renovation doesn’t have to be hiding under the covers, waiting for someone else to deal with the problem. One of the hardest part of renovation is deciding how much to spend and sticking to that budget.
Now, it’a your turn.
A Printable to Help You Budget Your Reno
This post includes a free printable to help you plan your next renovation budget. (See below for the link to download it.)
Here’s a sneak peak of one of the pages in the workbook:
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the workbook. You’ll get the four-page Budget Planner workbook, plus join my weekly newsletter! Just click here to download and subscribe.
- Print. Any printer will do the trick.
- Start budgeting your next project. Whether you’re in a crumbling situation, or just want to get a leg up on your next project. Get started now!
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