Budgeting for a DIY remodel project

5 min read

When it comes to DIY projects the fastest way to get in trouble is to skip one step. It's the first step and it's a big daddy: Making the project budget.

Full disclosure here: This is my particular weak spot. I get so excited about starting the project I just dive in. It's only later when I have the unmitigated pleasure of explaining to my wife that, yes honey, that bathroom project is going to cost three times what I originally thought (guessed).

What do these five have in common? They are all behavioral tips. Anyone can find the big sale at the box store, but it's a lot more difficult to alter behavior. However, if you want to save money, change the way you think and it will save the most cash.

5. Know your skill set.

It took me a long time to learn this lesson, because I like to think there's no home improvement project that I can't figure out. Over time I've learned the hard way that, while I'm pretty good with tile, I suck as a plumber. Sure I know the trade, but that knowledge seems to get stuck somewhere between my brain and my hands. So, I'll lay tile, and call the plumber when I need to. You may think this is costing you more money, and it is IF you get it right the first time. But if you get it wrong...it's going to leave a mark on your wallet.

4. Allow for waste.

This is generally overlooked by most DIY'ers. Unless you're just so darned good at everything you do, you're going to make mistakes. And when you make mistakes you will be buying more material. This is not a big deal for some materials, but in some cases it can be catastrophic. Again, using tile as an example: Even if it's the same brand and style of tile...no two tiles lots are the same. If you under-estimate on tile and have to buy tiles from another lot -- there's a pretty good chance they will not match. Buy a little extra the first time. If you have left overs you can almost always take it back.

3. Consider "hybrid" projects.

Some of the most successful projects I've seen are a blend of Contractor and D.I.Y. If you can find a contractor to work with this model, here's how it usually goes: You bring in the contractor and determine which aspects of the project you can tackle, and what parts of the job can be handled by a pro. For instance, you can paint walls -- they can tie electrical runs into the service panel. You can save money this way, but it is often difficult to find a contractor willing to work this hybrid process.

2. Shop "used."

Places like Habitat for Humanity's "ReStore" offers some fantastic deals on used and new building materials, appliances, and all kinds of stuff. It's not always applicable, but you owe yourself at least one trip there to see if you can save money on at least a part of your project.

1. Stick to the code.

Increasingly city and county building departments are getting more restrictive about what projects you can and can't do without a permit. And once you enter the permitting process there are inspections required all along the way. If you're unfamiliar with the building code in your area you are likely going to do several aspects of the remodel project over, and over, and over. Code is not up for interpretation. Ignoring it will cost you a bunch of cash, especially when it comes time to sell your home.