The only checklist you'll ever need to renovate on a budget

By Jacqueline So | 22 Jul 2020

Conceptualise the project

One of the easiest and most subtle ways to drain your renovation budget is by doing trial and error because you don’t know what you want. Before you start on a project, always have an idea of what you’re going for so you can plan efficiently.

Ask yourself, “Why do I want to renovate this space?” Is it about modernising your home? Is it for the purpose of selling or renting out? Will it be about your personal taste, or should it appeal to a broad demographic?

Consider what you have

Once you’ve developed your vision, it’s time to see what you’ve got to work with. Don’t get so focused on renovation being about “new” that you miss out on the fact that not everything has to be overhauled completely.

Evaluate your space as objectively as you can, and pick out aspects of the room that don’t really need much work. If there’s something that doesn’t really work in one room, can you repurpose it for use in a different space?

Clean up

When the space you’re working with is a mess, it can be hard to distinguish “broken” from “just needs a good scrubbing.” By doing a major cleaning, you could uncover some really good existing elements that don’t actually need to be replaced.

For instance, what if that dingy kitchen cabinet you dislike is only grimy due to years of accumulated grease and dirt? What if that door hinge just needs proper oiling? Looking for where you can make repairs instead of renovating can keep your budget healthy.

Clarify what you need

After you figure out what doesn’t need modification, it’s time to determine what does. There are some things that cleaning can’t improve on, like walls with peeling paint or chipped tile flooring.

Sometimes it can be all about your chosen aesthetic as well. For instance, if you want a modern, minimalist living room, does that grandiose vintage chandelier still belong, even though it still works?

The important thing is to distinguish what the room needs from what you simply want from it. Focus your budget on the essentials, and you’ll have more left over for the little things later on.

Set a reasonable budget

When doing a full renovation, many people make the mistake of splurging on what they consider to be the most important rooms – the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room – and wind up not having enough for the entryway, garden or laundry area. The first two are important in assessing the curb appeal of a property, while the third is rarely seen but is one of the most functional areas of a house.

Set aside realistic funding for each space. Look at every change you need to make and ask yourself, “How much could this all cost?”

Canvas widely for prices

This is one of the most time-consuming aspects of renovation, but it has a massive impact on how much you end up spending. Whether it’s products or services, you need to do some serious shopping.

Go out to warehouses and shops, get recommendations from as many people as you can, check out websites and resumes. Don’t be embarrassed about being thorough – be as specific as you can about what you like and what fits your vision, even if it takes a while to find the right thing or tradie.

Compare quotes

Working with a tradie can be a blessing or a curse depending on who you get, so hiring the right people is vital if you want to get the project off the ground in a timely manner.

The question you want to ask is: based on their record, can this tradie deliver what I want with quality? With services, you get what you paid for, so you don’t want to merely pick the cheapest option.

Make sure that the quotes you’re given cover inclusions so that there isn’t any confusion about costs in the middle of the project.

Cosmetic is the way to go

The best way to stay on a budget in a renovation project is to keep changes cosmetic. The biggest expenses are incurred when you do major modifications that necessitate much labour and time.

For instance, do you really need to rip out your entire kitchen and mess with the plumbing in the process? Must you tear out all the flooring if it’s actually perfectly functional? Do you have to re-wire the room if there’s nothing wrong with the original setup?

Compromise should be an option

Will your room be complete without that ornate lighting fixture? In many cases, compromise is necessary if you want to work on a budget.

Now, this doesn’t mean you jeopardise your vision, but you do have to allow for a certain level of flexibility. Be willing to work with your tradie when they suggest something different from what you originally had in mind, and be open to alternative products that are more cost-friendly but still suit your vibe.

Naturally, you will have your non-negotiables, so ask yourself, “What am I willing to change in order to get the best, most profitable outcome?”

Remember: Colour adds new life

One of the simplest ways to instantly bring a space to life without making a major change or requiring tradie work is a fresh coat of paint on surfaces. It immediately makes the space look new, and you can easily choose colours that suit your current design palate.

One important thing to consider when you’re doing a DIY paint job is what room are you working on? That will inform the kind of paint you use – there are paints for indoor and outdoor use, as well as specific ones for moisture-heavy areas like the bathroom and kitchen.

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