Top Tips for Renovating on a Budget

Top Tips for Renovating on a Budget

Design: DMVF Architects, Photographer: Ruth Maria Murphy

Let’s get one thing straight from the start – your project is going to cost more than you think. If your only experience of home renovation comes from TV shows, then you could be in for a nasty shock. Renovation shows often get big discounts from the professionals and suppliers they feature and they can give the impression that the house has been fully fitted out and furnished at a cost way below market prices. Even if you have researched every aspect of your project meticulously and you are lucky enough not to have any big surprises along the way, there will be something that adds to the cost. It could be that it takes an extra week to get your electricity connected while you twiddle your thumbs in your overpriced rental, or the culprit might be that beautiful parquet flooring you saw on Houzz last week that you just can’t stop thinking about.

So be prepared for compromises on your costs and be ready to adapt. No matter how carefully you budget and how strictly you stick to it, you will never know the final cost until the project is finished. And keep in mind that sometimes a problem can present an opportunity. When we discovered that our floor joists were rotten and we would have to pour concrete, we used the opportunity to put in underfloor heating as it was only a small increase on the cost of the concrete floor. Now I don’t know how we ever survived without it.

1. Prioritise Structural Work

If you can’t afford to do your garden now, make that next year’s project. Design: John Feely, Photographer: Ros Kavanagh

If your budget won’t cover everything in your plans, make sure to focus on any necessary structural work. Non-structural work, such as decorating, furnishing and landscaping, should be the first thing bumped from the list. You have the rest of your lives to put the finishing touches to your home but any structural work that you put off is likely to cause huge upheaval and cost considerably more at a later date than if you get it done now. Even if you are only doing a small amount of renovation work, this principle still applies. If you are decorating room by room but you also want to insulate, do all the insulating, plastering and electrical work in one go and leave the painting and decorating until you can afford the time or money to get it done.

2. Think Long-Term

With careful preparation, your structural work can be done in phases. Design: DMVF Architects, Photography: Ruth Maria Murphy

While you might be tempted to cut expensive yet invisible items such as insulation or a new boiler, you need to think ahead to the potential ongoing costs of decisions like these. If, for example, your heating bills are going to increase by more (over a five- to ten-year period) than you are saving, then it is a false economy.

You can also plan your work in phases if your budget does not currently stretch far enough. If you know there will be a phase two at some point in the future then you can prepare the infrastructure now. For example, if you can’t afford that second storey right now, put in the necessary foundations so you can do it at a later stage. You have the builders and tradespeople on site so make the most of them – plumb for the utility room you haven’t fitted out yet or put in cabling for the solar panels you’ll get next year.

3. Buy the Best You Can Afford

Buy the best kitchen you can afford. The costs of replacing a cheap kitchen at a later stage can be more than you think. Design: DMVF Architects, Photography: Ruth Maria Murphy

Don’t be tempted to use cheap finishes, planning to change them in a year or two. If you do this, it is not simply the cost of the kitchen or sanitary ware that needs to be considered, you also need to factor in labour, skips, new fittings, the possibility of having to move pipes and electrical sockets and of course, the hassle of it all. And if you never get around to changing it, you’ll have lingering pangs of remorse hanging around your beautiful new home. Spend a little extra now and you will save money in the long run.

4. Take Your Time on Interior Design

Don’t buy all your furniture at once. Save up for that Eames lounger you’ve always dreamed of and you will appreciate it all the more. Design: DMVF Architects, Photography: Ruth Maria Murphy

Furniture should be the very last thing you include in your budget. It is something you shouldn’t rush into buying anyway. Until you have a clear understanding of the interior design plan for each room, don’t be tempted to buy a sofa or a coffee table in isolation just because they are on sale. Once you’ve got a bed to sleep in and a chair to sit on, you’ll survive while you save for the furnishings that will bring you joy every day. Your home does not have to be perfect before you move into it – don’t forget, many of us spent our childhood years watching TV on hard kitchen chairs while our parents saved up for a three piece suite!

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