Starting Your Project Part 1: Budget


You have to start somewhere. Whether it be compiling all those pins or actually starting to interview designers, you must jump in at some point. Here are some things to keep in mind for every project, no matter how small.

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Please believe me when I say, your budget will determine everything. It will have a say in the product choices that you make, the options that you have available to you, the contractor that you hire, and could even have a say in your timeline. You may even have an unlimited dream budget, but should really stay within a certain budget to fit with your home. All of these things must be considered before you start any project.

Product Choices

Product choices seem to be the most obvious to be restricted by budget. You may not be able to afford that professional stove you have been eyeing or even those granite countertops. Product choices are usually where cuts are made if needed. Make a list of must haves and alternatives you would be okay with the the other items on your list. Having these decisions already made, will help of cuts need to be made later down the road.

Product Options

Product options are determined by budget due to the availability and the costs associated to acquire the items. For example, you may need to go with a mid-range cabinet line to meet your budget. This line may still be high quality, but may keep prices low by not offering that fancy organizer cabinet you have pinned a hundred times. Even if you could afford the fancy organizer, you may need to go with an after market choice, like this one, that isn’t quite as fancy just because it isn’t offered by your cabinet manufacturer.


Do not, I repeat, do not go with your least expensive labor option without doing your homework. This may be a seemingly easy way to reign in that budget, but this is often a costly mistake in the end.

The do-it-yourself option is often seen as the least expensive, but may not be. You must consider if you have the required skills (and patience) needed. These skills aren’t just the actual work, but the ability and time it requires to research permits, codes, schedule deliveries or pick up materials, and interview any subcontractors. Is there room in the budget to call in help if you end up needing it? How much is your time away from your other work and obligations worth? Do you really want your first tile experience to be with that gorgeous $20 a square foot tile that you just had to have? How much will you spend on the tools you will need to properly complete the job? All of these things must be included to reveal the true cost to taking on the project yourself.

Decided to hire a contractor? This is the best option for most homeowners. Not only will you get their experience, but a lot may be taken off of your plate when it comes to subcontractors, permits, material deliveries, etc.

When searching for a contractor, not only should you make sure they are licensed, bonded, and insured, but you should also be interviewing them and speaking with their previous clients. The least expensive contractor may not always be your best option. What is included in their bid? Does it include any basic install materials? Do they have the skills and time needed to complete the job? Can they provide valid references and examples of their work? Do you feel that they will give your project the time and attention that it deserves?

Make sure to consider the size and duration of your project when making your labor decision. A well thought out plan will make a huge difference in the end.


Believe it or not, but your budget can make a difference in your timeline as well as vice versa.

When choosing a contractor, for example, are you getting a bargain price because they are only working on your project in the evening and on weekends? Are you paying a premium to assure your project has their undivided attention to go as fast and smoothly as possible?

On the flip side, saving money with in stock cabinets can mean that they can be picked up and installed quickly verses ordering and waiting weeks.

While all projects take time which will be determined by many factors, including complexity, make sure you are clear on the true time frame of your project. Also be willing to budget that extra time to make sure the project is done correctly. After all, things never go 100% as planned.

Other Budget Considerations

After reviewing the main budget items, you may have expected these points. What is usually unexpected is to include a budget buffer of 40%, 60%, or more. The amount of the buffer will be determined by the complexities of the project and how thoroughly the project had been planned.

If you are doing a complete kitchen remodel, including updating electrical and plumbing, you may need 60% or more of your budget kept for contingencies. After all, you never know what you might find once they start opening up walls. In comparison, if you are just replacing countertops, you might be able to only have to set aside 40% because less will be disturbed and the need for contingencies will be lower. Your contractor should be able to give you a good idea as to a recommended amount for your project, but remember, even they can’t foresee every possibility.

Where a solid plan comes into place is usually on time and materials. You may expect when you are tiling a floor to include tile and grout in your budget. But did you think to include, cement board and screws, mastic, caulk, and any sealers and grout additives? These items add up and take a huge chunk of your budget. This doesn’t even include any materials to repair damaged sub-floor or leveling that may need to be done once the old floor has been removed and the area assessed. This is where that contingency fund comes into play. Do you see now why it is so high an amount?

A solid plan will also help your budget when it comes to time. Did you plan ahead to be without a kitchen for three months? That budget may need to be increased to cover takeout for dinners.

One last thing to keep in mind when it comes to budget and that is to keep within the value of the home. Unless you have the budget to blow and you plan on living in the home for the rest of your life, there is no reason to put a $100,000 kitchen in a $200,000 house. You will never re-coup your investment. It is recommended to spend about 5% to 15% of your homes value on a kitchen remodel. The opposite could be said as well. If you have a $700,000 home, but only put a $10,000 kitchen into it, you could be bringing the value of your home down.


As you can see, this is where an in-depth budget and/or working with a design professional will really help to get a clear picture of what your true budget should be. Can you still afford to start the project and do it to your requirements? Or would it be better to wait another year or two to make sure if a contingency arises, you will be able to cover the added expenses? Setting your expectations accurately is key to a successful project.

Please make sure to read Starting Your Project Part 2: Timeline

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