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Renovation budget: 3 tips for keeping it under control

Renovating a house can be tricky, especially in terms of budget control. Property owners like yourself usually prefer to focus on the bright sides of a renovation, like searching for inspirations on the internet, rather than getting prepared from a technical perspective. This approach may ultimately cost you more, in terms of both time and money, than originally planned.    Fortunately, based on 15 years of hands-on experience in high-end renovations of the most desirable properties in London, we will share with you some useful tips on how to get into the right frame of mind to control your budget.
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#1 Obtain detailed plans and scope of works 

To get a realistic overview of the possible renovation budget, you should contact professional architects.


They will advise you about which changes will be possible, and what will generate particular costs. At the end of the design process, you will receive detailed construction documentation, drawings, and specifications that will help you save on the next stages. 


Detailed documentation allows the builders to accurately price your renovation project, which is not possible with only a simple set of planning drawings. The less precise the information available to cost a project, the more flexible the final quotation will be. 


At GBG Building Services, we work with clients on a negotiated contract basis so that we can cooperate with architects early on during the design stage. This way we help to work with them on buildability issues, identify problematic and risky elements, and advise on the costs of different solutions. As a result, we contribute to making the specification more precise and the renovation budget better controlled.

#2 Choose a reliable contractor

You will meet contractors who will reassure you that the project will be executed on budget, and thus feel that you have agreed a good deal. Promising an unrealistically low price for an unspecified project is a common technique to ‘catch a client’. By falling for this trick you may ultimately end up paying double the proposed sum of the project because of ‘unforeseen costs’. The truth is that those expenditures could have been predicted from the beginning and listed as probable extra costs, or at least been identified. 


The main reasons for such stories about home renovations are: 

  • missing details in the specification from the client that could help to make the quotation more realistic,
  • estimations using cheap, often poor quality, alternative materials,
  • the client focusing on price as the most important factor while ignoring the overall reliability, quality, customer service experience, communication time, project management and responsibility of a project.  


In contrast to the above, a reliable contractor will identify and explain the likely additional costs and expensive elements, plus suggest good alternatives. Then you can compromise where necessary in order to control your renovation budget.


How to recognise reliable contractors? 

They usually:

  • ask a lot of questions and want to know your project requirements in detail,
  • provide detailed logical quotes and explain everything under scrutiny,
  • work with you at every stage and explain various options,
  • price all preliminary costs required to run the project and not just the work to be done, which would artificially make the offer cheaper,
  • identify missing items in the plans and drawings, i.e. electrical points that are required according to building regulations.


A real example from GBG Building Services:

A client wanted to add a frameless glass balustrading to replace an old wooden one. We informed them about the likely costs of such items as a realistic Provisional Cost (PC) sum when quoting. They agreed to go ahead and explore this further.

It had to be safe, look great and also meet that budget. Knowing the subject well we offered a solution.

It was a system on a single rail hidden in the floor void with two separate low iron glass panes slotted from above. Our PC sum also covered additional supports to the existing floor structure that would be required for the system to be stable.

With this option we did not sacrifice on quality, yet ensured a slightly smaller cost than originally predicted. This was a pleasant surprise rather than a shocking disappointment for the client.


How should you and your architect cooperate with contractors to limit unforeseen costs of renovating a house?

  • Allow a chosen builder to be involved early in the design phase to give pricing feedback as early as possible.
  • Be realistic, think ahead and ask the builder how the project will be built and managed.
  • Ask for details and write the answers down, for example: 
    • Are the site and project managers involved?
    • How much time will the site manager be available per week?
    • Who will pay for parking, skips and permits?
    • Who will protect common areas?
    • Are shop drawings and samples included in the joinery price?
    • Will contractors dedicate enough time for site meetings to discuss, explain and cooperate with everyone involved?
  • Scrutinise PC sums. Some contractors present them as realistic while others provide a minimum number in order to look cheaper. 
  • Trust when a contractor identifies in detail that the specification misses some obligatory items that may cost a certain amount of money, and try to negotiate from the beginning which of them will be absolutely necessary. 

#3 Expect the renovation budget to go over if you change your mind too often 

Every project is prone to unavoidable changes, such as structural limitations or design alterations. However, being aware of your expectations at the very beginning of the project may help to limit them. 


For example, changing your mind during the project because you suddenly have an idea to raise the ceiling by 100mm in a 600 sqm property after the plastering has already been finished, will naturally increase the costs and project duration drastically. The same could be said if you decide to make countless small changes as things progress. 


A real example from GBG Building Services:

Our clients, together with their own designer, were proposing radical bedroom design changes to their master bedroom several times every few weeks, even after being cost approved each time. Additional work adapting to the new changes, including to plumbing and electrical services, was therefore required. This was particularly difficult with sound proofing already installed and the walls plastered.

The lesson here is to focus on the design phase, rather than rush to start the construction stage. As a result of doing so, costs will be kept within the original budget.



Takeaway: plan wisely and accept a renovation budget


Even if you are a beginner in renovations, you should delve deep into the project from the very beginning to avoid costly mistakes later. It is better to spend more time on defining your expectations and asking the right questions before the project starts than during the construction process. In doing so, you will save your precious time, plus limit stressful situations and delays that can ruin your project timeline. 


Whatever project you carry out, we can support you by sharing our knowledge at each stage and save you from having a few headaches along the way. Simply let us know here.

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