How to Control Your Remodeling Project’s Budget

by Matt Solis


Exceeding a remodeling budget can lead to a host of unforeseen problems, including settling for unexpected options, disagreeing with contractors and being left with an unfinished room. To avoid dealing with these potential issues altogether, consider the following tips:

Differentiate between “need” and “want.” Start your budget with things you need. Research the costs of many different kinds of products and materials, starting with the most expensive necessities and ending with the items you can do without. Major appliances should be at the top of your list since they cost the most.

Make a Top 10 list. Look around your kitchen and decide what needs to be immediately replaced and what can be replaced in the future. Remember the needs of your family. If you have small children, take safety into consideration when prioritizing. Handicapped or elderly family members should be budgeted into your costs and designs as well.

Resist temptation. Know exactly what you want before you search for it so you’re not tempted to buy out of your price range. Uncertainty may leave you vulnerable to purchasing unnecessary products and choosing materials that go beyond your means. Know what features are most important to you and your family so it’s easier to choose when the time comes. There’s an abundance of different appliances that offer different features, but most will get the job done, so don’t pick anything too fancy or high-tech if your budget doesn’t allow for it.

Get a quote. A designer and/or contractor should always visit your home before providing you with a quote for the design and installation. Don’t accept a quote for your project until a full survey has been completed. If you make sure the quote is thorough, you’ll avoid misunderstandings and future overspending.

Double-check. Before you buy products and materials, visit a showroom to see them in person and determine their quality. Also, don’t be afraid to ask friends, neighbors and family members to see their kitchens and ask who they hired. This is a great way to envision the quality of the result of your kitchen remodel if you decide to use the same designer and contractors.

Keep track of your payments. Keep a job file of all papers relating to your project, including all payments. Never pay more than 10 percent down of $1,000 (whichever is less), and don’t pay in cash. Never pay in full until you’ve received delivery of all your goods. Companies that ask for full payment ahead of delivery have your money, but you don’t have your appliances or completed kitchen. Any changes to the scope of work during construction must be accompanied by a Change Order which describes the change, the precise dollar amount related to the change and how it will affect the timeline of the project.

Make sure your written contract contains the following:

  • A schedule that demonstrates when specific construction activities will start and end (such as the framing, sheetrock work or painting).
  • A schedule of payments that shows the amount of each payment and explains what work, materials or services are to be performed before being invoiced.
  • Identification of subcontractors who will be performing various construction activities.
  • Identification of suppliers who are providing materials necessary for these activities.

Once the subcontractors and material suppliers have been identified, avoid risk of having to pay twice under threat of lien by simply writing joint checks in the name of both the general contractor and the subcontractor or material supplier who contributed to your project and provided the mandatory California 20-Day Preliminary Notice. Should the subcontractor or material supplier not be paid by the general contractor, and they’ve provided you with the 20-day Notice, then they can require you to pay them directly even if the general contractor has already been paid for this line item or task.

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