Renovating a house on a budget? Trying to save money on your renovation? Then read on!
Ever since starting our semi-detached 1930s house renovation, we've learned a lot along the way to keep control of our house renovation costs. If you're new to renovating, you’d maybe not appreciate how quickly costs can spiral, but with some careful planning, you should be able to renovate your house on time and on budget.
In this post I'm sharing ways Neil and I reduced and controlled the cost of renovating a house. Hope it helps you!
Disclaimer this post contains affiliate links (all opinions are honest)
1. Do you definitely need that architect?
Depending on the scale of the project, you might find yourself paying over the odds if you go straight for an architect. We think we could have saved a few grand by not booking one for our 1930’s house renovation. We even had a couple of people say the same thing to us before our project - did we listen to them? No.
If possible, discuss with your contractor whether an architect is required, it’s entirely possible for some projects that you can simply get by with a structural engineer or architect technician. You can read more about this in our post that answers the question “Do I need an architect?”
2. Get several designs drawn up and get the cost for each one
When Neil and I first moved in to our house, we thought we wanted to extend out the back of the building and create one large open kitchen diner space. We had 1 architectural plan drawn up for it and got a quote from our contractor to carry out the work.
The cost that came in was circa 80K, which we could have gone ahead with, until we had a more modest build idea, remodelling the current space while still retaining everything we needed from our original brief.
We got a few more drawings made for the smaller idea and costs came back much more affordable. Moral of the story is, pay for 3 design options varying big and small, and crucially, get costs alongside your ideas. With information you can make much more accurate, informed decisions - and like us, you may be able to achieve a lower cost build but still end up with a space ideal for your needs.
3. DIY the things you can, pay for the things you can't
Neil and I aren't A star students at DIY but it is a sure way to make a staggering saving on your house renovation. If you or your partner are handy, or even curious to try DIY, you'll make a big saving on labour costs.
If like Neil and I you're not so handy but enjoy painting and decorating, even that can save a lot of money on your total renovation costs. Do whatever you can to bring your own skills to the work you’re doing, even if it means the progress is slower.
Try your hand at tasks such as painting, tiling, minor plastering, making shelving, fitting coving, skirt and architraving or even if you’re the type of person to jump to ‘no, I could never do that’, believe me, you absolutely can. And you’ll gain a skill for life! Check out our shed door DIY here that Neil is super proud of.
Teaching yourself a new skill can be as easy and sitting through some YouTube videos and losing a few pounds on practice supplies. Try your hand at tasks such as painting, tiling, minor plastering, making shelving, fitting coving, skirt and architraving or even If you’re the type of person to jump to ‘no, I could never do that’, believe me, you absolutely can. And you’ll gain a skill for life!
4. A note on plastering
If you’re going to go for a quality finish, fresh plaster is the way forward, but the bill can be pretty eye-watering as it is a big job. Consult a plasterer about the state of your walls and they should be able to give you some direction on where you can make a saving.
Where the plaster is in good nick you might be able to get away with breaking off where it has become de-laminated (come away from the main wall) and getting a plasterer to just skim it rather than fully plastering. This keeps material and labour costs down.
You can check for de-lamination by simply knocking on the wall, where you have solid walls, there will be a different hollow sound. Also, make sure that you get 2-3 quotes and do your research about the tradesmen.
Local community boards are a good place to look for recommendations. Plastering is a bit of an art and it's easy to get it wrong. Always try and do as much prep work as possible, anything that a plasterer has to do will add up...consult the plasterer about what they would like done by you to keep the cost to a minimum.
5. Plan ahead with your steel beams
If you’re doing a kitchen diner knockthrough for example, where a steel beam is required to support your house, and you have not yet done a loft conversion, it would be prudent to ensure that your structural engineer specs out the steel beam for a loft conversion.
Even if you are not planning on doing a loft conversion at this stage, a bit of extra thought could make your property more saleable in future and reduces headaches and saves money further down the road if you change your mind.
6. Buy on Gumtree / Ebay / Car boot sales
We bought things like our fireplace mantle, our storage chest, framed wall art, kitchen knobs and second hand antique chairs from sites like these which saved us lots of money. Other things to look out for are leftover tiles if you're tiling a small area, taps,/brassware, unwanted tins of paint, Belfast sinks etc. It feels such a sense of achievement when you find something you need on sites like these. Saving money and saving the planet!
7. Consider 'mending' or 'fixing up' rather than replacing
It's likely that your property has a lot of charm of its own.... Picking up carpets may expose a wooden floor or parquet flooring in need of a sand which is cheaper to do than laying new flooring.
Or perhaps like us your window frame is fine and just the glass needs replacing - it’s also amazing what this PVC cleaner can do, we used it with great success. Then there's interior doors, can they benefit from a sand or repaint rather than a complete refit? It’s amazing what a bit of filler and a nice coat of paint can do.
There are lots of ways you will be able to retain the character of your home and make updates without breaking the bank, plus it will be a lot more eco-friendly to do it this way which is a huge bonus.
8. Borrow or rent large power tools
Take it from us, we bought a couple of things that we used maybe once or twice and are now just gathering dust in our garage. Certain items such as certain types of sanders will be far cheaper to hire. Another thing you can do is wait until your build phase and ask them nicely if you can borrow their equipment, it would therefore be free to use and brought to your property for free!
9. Track every single penny coming out of your account
When you're renovating, it's easy to nip down to B&Q for paint brushes and end up coming home with a sander and 50 pound later, you’re going off the rails on your budget. Small purchases might feel unimportant at the time and in comparison to bigger costs involved with a renovation, but they add up and could be the difference of you going over budget if not tracked carefully.
Our first tip is make a record of every penny you are spending, and better still, have a remaining balance figure update you, so you can keep an even more careful eye on costs.
When we renovated our house, we used the renovation spreadsheet which is inside our renovation online course (which has all of our renovation costs as an example) to take care of costs. Easy to quickly fill it in, easy to see how much we forecast for a specific area, and even easier to see whether we came over or under budget, it literally goes red or green depending on how you’ve spent. (You can also find it here: house renovation costs spreadsheet uk)
10. Cheat on paint colours
We would always advocate investing in quality paint but sometimes whilst lusting after a perfect paint shade spotting that wince-inducing price per tub is just too much. Getting the colour you want absolutely doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Get a colour card of the posh paint and take it to your local hardware store.
Both Valspar and Dulux are able to mix custom colours on request so you’ll still be getting similar paint colours but for less. Make sure you go for reputable paint brands though as budget products can often waste more than they save, needing numerous coats or having to buy whole new tubs after they start to flake.
11. Paint it!
A kitchen or bathroom can easily become one of the most cost-absorbing parts of any renovation. If you simply haven’t got the budget for a flash new one, spray paint can work wonders. Changing the colour scheme of a kitchen, including kick boards and door pulls, can give the feel of a whole new space and breathe life into old cupboards for a fraction of the cost. The same goes for tiles, just be sure to use tile paint, not ordinary emulsion. Best of all, this leaves a nice big saving to be spent elsewhere in the house for something you’ve really got your heart set on.
12. Buy ex-display
If you’ve got a specific kitchen design or brand in your sights but it’s a little beyond the limits of the renovation purse strings, ask the company if they sell ex-display models. Being a hard-wearing piece of kit, display kitchens don’t often suffer significant damage, just a minor scratch here or there. You can potential save thousands in the kitchen alone but be careful, many are sold without a warranty and you may have to fit it yourself.
13. Sell on what you don’t want
When we finished our flooring job we sold our surplus floor on Ebay. You should have seen the smile on the guy’s face when he picked it up! He loved the bargain he was getting, we loved the extra bit of cash that we just managed to magic up. It just goes to show what is out there - brand new supplies for a fraction of the cost.
Nothing but rubble and dated wallpaper scraps should be making it into your tip. For anything in one piece, you should be able to get something back for it, given a little time to find the right buyer. Try listing your old bathtub, sinks, taps, tiles and even light fittings on sites such as Gumtree or eBay. Any profit is something extra towards the rest of the renovation which is a bonus. Plus, finding a new home for your unwanted goods means less is going to landfill, so it’s a win win.
14. Do demolition yourself
Within reason, gutting a house can be done with a cup of tea and some (wo)man power. Contractors will charge a significant percentage of the total for a demo job. So long as you’re not taking out a supporting wall or tackling pipework, do the demolition yourself. Think of it as a sort of therapy. It’s amazing how many years of colour, and messages you find lurking underneath tiles and wallpaper when you’re gutting a place. We found newspapers dating back to World War 2 underneath carpet!
15. Wait for the sales
If something in particular has caught your eye, it’s worth asking the store staff when they will be having the next sale. Interiors brands often slash prices during mid or end of season sales and, given the usually lengthy renovation time frames, you should have a good few months to work with. You might also find that if you fall out of love with something you once longed for, you’ll find something else which will be a better fit in the long run. So waiting can make for better decision making, too.
16. Our final tip for keeping your house renovation cost under control is to plan your project carefully
We teach our renovation course students the power of upfront planning. It reduces headaches later down the road both in stress and on the pocket. Start with our free 3 day email series “A Survivor’s Guide to Renovating” for tons of tips on how to renovate the right way:
What we wish we knew about renovating before we started
Grab our Free Survivor's Guide to Renovating
👉 Tips on budgeting, getting trustworthy contractors & delivering on time
👉 A step by step method to follow
👉 Confidence to do things right; don't regret wasting money!
We hope our experience will help you bring your house renovation within budget!
Thanks for reading!
Fi and Neil