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How To Budget House Renovations or Be An Effective Project Manager

mythic paint
Let me begin by admitting that this may be the least catchy blog title I have written to date, it is but in my defense it describes exactly what will happen in this post. When you are creating a budget you have essentially made yourself the project manager so be prepared to own this title. Fortunately for me I worked for charities for over a decade so I have many, many years experience of doing big things with small budgets. The house I am currently renovating is not my first rodeo so I want you to learn from my monumental screw ups as well as my resounding successes. As there is a lot to go through I am going to do the whole post as bullet points, that way I get to intersperse the post with pictures, after all I am a blogger and that is kind of my thing.
garden renovation
This may sound like a nonsense question but think about it for a second. A home is where you nest, where you nurture yourself and your family and is very different from a house, which is essentially bricks and mortar. You may be planning to renovate a house as a rental property and that will effect your decisions or indeed to sell it on fast so you can move up the property ladder. The first house I bought was in fact something that I wanted to turn around within the year and sell on so let’s look at that story. I was lucky that I bought this house in a rising market so my mistakes, (which were few), were swallowed up and I still managed to make a profit, phew! It was the first house I had ever bought and even though I knew what my end goal was I still became a little distracted by excitement and spent too much in certain areas. If you are planning to turn your project around fast and sell on look at the ceiling price in the area, there will be one and use that to inform your budget. Don’t think just because your house will look so great that it will smash the ceiling, it may clear it a little but that is it. That being said you can still make a house have a homey feel and in fact I insist you should even if you plan to rent it out. My current project is a home, it is a long term, dare I say it, forever house so I can spend a little more and invest in areas that I want to rather than need to invest in. I am not looking to turn a profit in a short space of time so if I want to save up for fancy pants floor tiles in the kitchen I can do.

blocking off a doorway
We all have our budgets informed by what we earn but just because that is what you have available to spend that is what it is going to cost – spoiler alert it never does. You will look at what the final bill is estimated at for completing a room or a job, have a small coronary and immediately just make the numbers smaller. This will not help you, if you are honest with yourself from the outset you will not have as many nasty shocks and trust me you want to keep them to an absolute minimum. You may have to wait longer to complete work which leads me nicely onto my next point.
a bookcase fireplace
As I mentioned in the previous point the cost of a project may be more than you are able to spend therefore you have two options; can you make it cheaper or wait. Making a project cheaper invariably entails DIY. Now in my current project I have already decided this is a home and will therefore be spending more money in the long run but that does not mean I have buckets of money, far from it so in order to save for some things I need to keep other projects as cheap as possible. An example of this is the lounge in my new home. Now storage is a key requirement and to meet this need I would like a built in cupboard in the alcove, there is also an issue with the chimney stack. The chimney stack and wood burner needs professionals to tackle it is way beyond my capability plus I don’t fancy climbing up scaffolding, also any solid fuel heating work needs to be signed off for home insurance purposes. I cannot change this but I can make the alcove built in cheaper by building it myself, the downside to this is I work full time and raise a family so the cupboard is on a long to do list that chops and changes all the time, that is just the nature of the beast. Most house projects also include having to buy some new furniture or soft furnishings, if you are not making them yourself patience can still pay. Everywhere has a sale at some point, hang on for it, trawl the second hand shops and the internet and don’t jump at the first thing you see just because you need to fill a gap, wait for the bargain.

loft space conversion
fix a hole in the wall
To explain this point it is best if I just use examples. You go to the DIY store you see their own brand paint is cheap as well as the value brushes so you go for it with the saving you can surely paint three rooms instead of one. Well not necessarily sometimes it pays to save up and get the more expensive paint as it has better coverage. I went for cheap paint for one of the rooms in my first house and had to return twice to buy more as it was so thin, this can be the case for some brands too so go on to forums and see what people are saying about products. The value brushes I bought kept dropping bristles so I had to continually pick them out with a pin, lightly sand and re do areas, all in all a false economy.

ripping out a fireplace
new wooden fireplace DIY
The true cost of things can go further than this, let me use the new lounge again as an example, (the lounge is really proving to be a great blogging tool today). The fireplace was awful, a huge marble thing that was too big for the room, it was not original and I felt no guilt about ripping it out and replacing it with a fireplace that I designed myself. This left an issue with the hearth stone that needed covering. I had originally planned to sand the floorboards but then thought hey why not put solid wood flooring down and fix the hearth issue. Then I looked at the price of solid wood flooring and ouch does not quite cover it. So I was determined to go back to plan A. Before I did I made a cost comparison on Excel, boy do I love Excel for these things. I added up the cost of hiring the sander, the sandpaper, the varnish, the new floorboards that I would need for the areas where repairs needed to be made and of course a new hearth stone. I then compared that with the cost of the flooring and there was £186 difference. So it was still cheaper to sand but I then factored in the extra insulation I would get from the solid wood flooring and boom we have a winner. To be fair I also looked at carpet for insulation and that did not come in cheaper plus carpet in a high traffic room needs replacing. Don’t always assume that the most expensive thing is not the most cost effective option. If you don’t have the money yet, which I don’t I refer you to the patience comment I made earlier.
EXCEL spreadsheet house budget
Okay I say bean counter as that is the term people use for accountants but really nuts and bolts counter would be more accurate. People plough into a house budget and remember all the big things; sofa, paint, wallpaper, kitchen worktop but what about everything else? What about the cleaning cloths, the drop cloth, the screws, the sandpaper, the nails, the grout. Have you ever been to Ikea? Of course you have even people who hate Ikea have been to Ikea at some point. Well it is the Ikea effect, you walk through the marketplace after winding your way through the endless displays of perfectly square rooms and are met with multitudes of signs for things that are £1, £5, £2, and you think hey pretty cheap. Then you get to the till and the cashier asks you for £100, WTF, but this was only £2, yes but you filled your trolley with that stuff and it adds up. The lesson here is avoid nasty surprises by knowing exactly how much you are spending, right down to the masking tape.
<looking at radiator catalogues is my new Saturday night>


I have already mentioned that I love Excel spreadsheets when it comes to anything that involves the slightest amount of maths and here is why. You can get them to keep a running total, you can program the maths in at the beginning so  that it will automatically make changes for you and you are not re calculating from scratch every time. You can have a budget and actual spend column so that you can see any areas where you are losing a grip, it will also allow you to steal from one area to give to another, (more on that later). You can add all sorts of other information and notes also such as measurements, where to buy and best of all it is all in one place and you can edit it without destroying a rainforest.For this house I am keeping all of the spreadsheets in one workbook and each tab is a room, easy.
Farrow and Ball yellow paint
Have you ever heard the expression ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ well you have now and if you were like me then you will have done it. In my teens/early twenties it was not uncommon for me to send a cheque to the Gas company with the money I had put aside for the electric, but I knew that I had a weeks grace with the electric so would have earned some more tips by then. In your house you will have to do this as no one has an infinite pot of cash, well no one I know anyway. You have saved for the carpet in the bedroom it is the last thing you need to do in that room but then the guttering need repairing so the carpet goes on hold and the funds are moved around. You could find a dining table of your dreams, not the one you originally budgeted for but if you don’t do the papering and make the blinds yourself you can move some money around. You see most of planning a budget is knowing how and when you can juggle the budget and you can do that effectively when you have a clear and meticulous plan all nicely noted in your Excel spreadsheet

painting a ceiling

Okay this is easier said than done and it is really only very important when you have a third party completing work for you, unless you pay yourself to do DIY an idea I am warming to. You are no fool you have had your joiner/builder/plumber give you a quote but with the best will in the world it does not end there, ready for another spoiler alert…it never does. So you need a new front door and you have already noticed that this will probably mean you need a new door casing as the current one has seen better days but what about when they take out the current one, what horrors are lurking in the brickwork. I once decided to redecorate a room with a bank holiday weekend, no problem I thought. I pushed on the walls the plaster felt sound, not blown. So I got the steamer out and started to take the wallpaper off the walls and with it came the plaster, all of the plaster. It was a DIY, one that I thought I had everything ready for but there I was covered in plaster and miserable and no contingency fund to get a professional in. So after endless trips to the tip, I re-pointed the brickwork, cleaned it up with a wire brush, sealed it and painted it and in the end had a nice loft apartment like space. If I had asked someone to do some work in the bathroom and was left with £500 more to pay that would have been a darker tale. So how much, well how much is a piece of string but I save 1/3 more than the quoted price, every time. You see why it takes me so long to get room makeover photos on here now don’t you.

So there we have it house budgets 101.