An architect's secrets to cutting down your renovation costs

Value engineering on your project can be considered a dark art. Many consider cutting down costs to be a direct compromise on the final quality of your renovation. However, this need not be the case. Good design and strategy can normally provide a high quality end result while also providing excellent value. The two can and should coincide!

Below are my top 10 methods and strategies for reducing cost while retaining high quality design for your renovation.

1. Make use of what’s already there

The main problem I see with planned renovation works is the use of an ‘everything must go’ approach to achieving their goals. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Chimney breasts often provide useful pockets either side for fitted cupboards. Awkward L-shaped townhouses can provide for excellent light-well garden spaces. Every space doesn’t have to be a huge opening with steel above to be successful! Neil and Fi’s story will show you that.

Creativity is often most useful when working within set limitations.

2. Limit removal of the existing structure

Related to the point 1. Major structural changes are often the most costly to carry out when considering renovation works.

If a similar result can be achieved altering non-loadbearing walls it’s usually always wiser to do this from a cost perspective.

3. Consider phased or ‘barebones’ renovation work

This secret cuts costs by controlling cashflow and working with the assumption that you have time available. Some general tips when considering this strategy:

  1. Prioritise major works such as groundworks and structure

  2. Leave cosmetic and small items for the DIY days later on

  3. If considering major phased development, design and strategy is very important to get right. Neil and Fi’s property renovation course will support you with planning.

4. Project manage yourself

If directly building the work seems a bit too physical, you can opt to manage and direct labourers and sub-contractors yourself.

If considering management contracting think about the following:

  1. Do I have the project management skills necessary to make a saving?

  2. Do I have the construction know-how necessary to make a saving?

  3. Will I be comfortable coordinating waste, supply of materials and arranging people to arrive on-site when needed?

5. Avoid expensive + irreversible decisions

This ties in with considering budget at an early stage. Making sure your design is flexible enough that cheaper alternatives can be swapped out can help you get the bulk of your renovation done on budget now, and fine tune later. The more expensive features to watch out for are:

  • Use of corner glass glazing

  • Open plan designs requiring lots of steel structure

  • Large basement works

6. Is your layout too big?

Similar to point 1, sometimes it’s clear that a design may be too ambitious (or simply too large) given the client’s goals and requirements.

While a 40m2 kitchen and the additional 3 bedrooms may look amazing in the initial designs, the cost, time and labour required quickly have diminishing returns. Really get to know what it is you want and need.

7. Consider your selected materials and products

Often a small reduction in an item used throughout your project can make for huge savings. Here are some items to consider:

  1. Lights - Pendants in the centre of a room can be used instead of a spotlight in each corner, which can save approximately 100 pounds per room.

  2. Kitchen - Kitchen prices can be greatly reduced when designing and fitting yourself with off the shelf products. Also look at local stone yards for off cuts and reclaimed materials.

  3. Bathroom - Sanitary ware pricing scales quickly, particularly with designer brands, consider cheaper options.

  4. Windows and Glazed doors - Slightly thicker frame sizes will be more affordable and looking for cheaper suppliers can sometimes save hundreds.

With all cases it is possible to achieve the same or better quality, normally in exchange for some research and time spent.

8. Limit excavation and groundworks

As with alterations to structure, digging out large areas of earth and retaining excavation from caving in is usually an expensive endeavour. If budget is an issue, these works should be avoided where possible.

9. Check the condition of your property

Every renovation is different and is heavily dependant on the property itself. For this reason it is important to how a thorough understanding of the condition of your property either through a surveyor or your own investigation. Consider the following:

  • Damp patches at low level can mean wall or floor waterproofing issues, which can be expensive to fix.

  • Structural damage can be an expensive problem must be rectified.

  • Major works can trigger additional requirements under building regulations, most notably Part B (fire).

10. If the option is available to you, consider the self-build route

When considering the final cost of some self build projects vs renovating, self-build is a no-brainer.

However it’s important to note that self-build on even a modest project can be considered something of a lifestyle change and full-time job.

If considering self-build think about the following:

  1. Do I have the time?

  2. Do I have the physical ability?

  3. Do I have the knowledge to conduct the work?

  4. Do I have the equipment to conduct the work?

  5. Will I be happy doing the work for an extended period of time?


Cutting down on renovation costs as shown in this guide doesn’t need to be a compromise to your project. If anything, dedicating the time, planning accordingly and designing strategically can actually improve the quality of your design.

A great place to begin your renovation is by getting free access to our Survivor’s Guide to Renovating. It’s packed with practical tips so you can set your renovation project up for success!