Budget right the first time

Author: Lenore Brooks Design | | Categories: Bathroom Drawings , Bathroom Interior Design , Bathroom Renovations , Colour Pallet , Designs For ADHD , Home Renovation , Interior Decorating Services , Interior Design , Kitchen Drawings , Kitchen Interior Design , Kitchen Renovations , Residential Interior Design

According to Chatelaine, most Canadians underestimate their kitchen renovation budgets. Obviously, this can be a serious problem. How can you avoid it? Don’t start with the budget!

Always start with ANALYSIS

No matter how much money you have to spend, analysis is the place to start. It will help you figure out your need-to-haves, nice-to-haves, and want-to-haves. This will help guide the many major and minor decisions that you make throughout your renovation.

Here are the four steps to get you started:

1: What problems are you solving?

If you’re thinking of investing in a home renovation, chances are it’s not just to make things prettier. That may be one goal, but usually there are additional issues. Common issues include:

  • spaces that are under-used or awkward
  • the need to replace or repair damaged or worn-out things
  • a change in lifestyle that changes your needs or wants

2: Dig into the problems

Next, go a little deeper and do some brainstorming. Focus on defining problems instead of proposing solutions: “I can’t have a relaxing bath” instead of “I want a soaker tub.”

Here are some points to get you started:

  • Are you doing the activities you want to do in the space? Can you do them well?
  • What’s working that you want to keep?
  • What different activities would you like to do in the space?
  • Is the problem entirely within the space, or is it related to other non-functioning spaces (for example, shoes out of place in the bedroom might be a problem best addressed in the entryway)?

3: How much disruption can you manage?

Major renovations mean major disruptions. Getting a clear picture of how much time, effort, and disorder you are willing to put up with will help define how big or small you want the project to be.

If you are fine with moving out for six months, you can consider a total gut and addition. If you want everything done within a week, you are talking about a much smaller project. The size of the project will have a major impact on the cost.

4: Risk

All renovations bring risk. There is the risk that you will discover an unknown problem in your home, and there are what I call project management risks. At this stage, we want to focus on the unknown problems type of risk.

At this stage, you need to consider how much risk you can manage in terms of time and cost overruns.

Almost any renovation problem can be solved with enough money. So, how much money do you have to throw at things like discovering a termite infestation or a plumbing disaster that stalls the main renovation plan?

For a standard risk project, we recommend setting 15-20% of your total budget aside in a contingency fund. Plan for a larger contingency fund for riskier projects. Larger projects and renovations on older houses generally carry increased risk. According to MoneySense, depending on the size of the renovation and the contractor, you may need as much as 30-50% for contingencies.


Whether you plan to do your project yourself or hire a contractor, once you have an idea of the problems you want to solve, consulting a designer or architect is a good idea.

I know this seems like a plug, but remember our story about the people who thought they had to spend several thousand dollars replacing ugly tile but discovered all they really needed was a few buckets of paint? If you bring in a designer while you are still planning the project, you will maximize your ability to find money-saving solutions to the problems you need to solve.

What we’re recommending here is different from getting a design quote, where you’d need to know your budget already.

We recommend a paid, one or two hour consultation with an interior designer, architect, or both (depending on the type of project).

This sort of design consult will allow you to discuss the problems you’ve identified, along with your risk tolerance, timelines, and maximum budget cap in order to hone in on the best project options. Basically, you can review the work you did in step one with a professional to see what you may have missed, and find out if they have additional ideas.

This is the time when you have the best chance to save the most money. Discovering that you can solve your problem without digging out your basement, building a new addition, or replacing all your tile will represent major savings that cannot be achieved at any other time in the process.

And making sure that you have a clear understanding of the risk, as well as additional costs like permits, will mean you can make informed decisions about any compromises you may have to make.

More and more design firms are offering this sort of hourly consulting, so don’t be afraid to contact a local designer and ask! And, yes, if you are in Kitchener-Waterloo, we definitely do this sort of consulting.

At Lenore Brooks Design, a planning consultation goes into detail about your needs, answers your questions, and suggests solutions. If you decide to hire us for a custom design within two months of a planning consult, we consider those hours as part of the whole project, with the fee already credited to your account.

Interested in a planning consult? Let us know!

Finally: begin the BUDGET

Once you’ve completed your analysis and you have a better handle on the nitty gritty of what it is you’re going to do, you’re ready to start budgeting.

In part 2 , we show you how to take all the information you collected here, and turn it into a realistic budget for your project.

Blog by Lenore Brooks Design