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What caused you to go over budget with your remodel?

14 years ago

I understand that it's not unusual to end up over budget with projects. I'm trying to be as prepared as possible but can't afford to go over budget. If you did go over budget, what were the things that caused it? Things you had no way of knowing (like mold,etc)? Design changes? Material changes?

I'm planning to use the same footprint I have now and hope that it insulates me somewhat but I'd like to hear from those who've been there. TIA!

Comments (36)

  • 14 years ago

    Quick answer: Everything.

    Long answer: Everything times two.

    Cryptic answer: If you don't ask, I don't have to lie.

  • 14 years ago

    Scope expansion, plain and simple

    Start with kitchen remodel
    Add enclosing exterior patio area and installing three sets of French doors across new living room exterior wall
    Add removing load bearing walls so you can open kitchen to newly enlarged living room
    Add replacing flooring in bedrooms and hallway to match living room
    Add removing ugly bay window and replacing with French door to (almost) match new living room doors
    Add painting bedrooms
    Add replacing front patio columns and replacing ugly vinyl siding with Hardiplank
    Add installing new flagstone patio so you have somewhere nice to step when you go into the backyard from the living room and bedroom
    Add replacing the mudroom door to match all the new French doors across the back of the house
    Add this
    Add that
    Add the other

    You get the picture.

    I also had a few uh-ohs, like the leak in the gas line between the meter and the house. You need to add some contingency funds to cover the uh-ohs that MUST be fixed.

    One way to reduce cost overruns is to eliminate the do-overs. You might be able to change paint color without spending a fortune, but you can't rearrange things easily.

    Shop, shop, shop for all the little items (lighting, hardware, etc.) as soon as you know exactly what you want.

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  • 14 years ago

    Everything is more expensive than you think it is. Most people's budgets are unrealistic from the start given their want list. You want to stay under budget? Then reduce your quality of materials and the scope of the project from the beginning. Otherwise, you're guaranteed to go over.

    A contingency fund isn't optional. It's mandantory. If you don't have at least 20% over, then don't even begin the project. Your risk is too great.

  • 14 years ago

    I found the perfect solution for the budget I knew I would exceed. I just didn't bother making one! lol! My project was not a kitchen though, it was an entire house. It took 6 years and was DIY, paid for as we went. If I had not wanted Quartersawn white oak floors, custom cabinets, granite, a huge sunroom, vaulted ceilings, custom french doors, etc. it would have been done much faster. But it is my forever home so it was worth the delay. And's not done. The master bedroom is still bare studs and the sunroom floor still has builder's paper on it. But the part that is done is exactly what I compromises. I'll get the rest done within the next couple of years.

  • 14 years ago

    The older the house the more likely that things will need repair/replacement once they are exposed and examined.

    Some things can be spotted up front if you are careful.

    Galvanized steel pipes WILL need replacement. Just count on it.

    Cast iron DWN smaller than stack size (less than 3 inches) is another item that is on the remove and replace list.

    Electrical wiring in a kitchen more than 20 years old WILL need to be upgraded.

    Copper supply lines are hit or miss, depending on water quality (and 'improvements' in water quality have been implicated in causing problems with copper pipes).

    Plastic supply lines need to be examined for boi-mass.
    They are far more prone than copper.

    You still can get caught when soffits turn out to not be empty and studs and joists have been notched excessively.

    Sometimes you can make intelligent guesses about what is behind finished walls, and sometimes things are undetectable until the wall is open.

    Since there is no way to budget for 'unknowns' beyond keeping some money in reserve, just about everything goes over the initial budget to some degree.

    Hold some 'management reserve' until well into the job.

  • 14 years ago

    Three categories -

    Things we added - like "as long as the lectricina is here let's have him hang the light over the pool table, and run ethernet cable to the TV and kitchen."

    Odds and ends which add up - stain to refinish the door, tile saw (we laid it ourself,)

    High End Envy - Everything looks so nice, why not spend a rediculous amount to get the faucet I love.

    That said there are things we did NOT do to keep the cost under control (like giving up the warming drawer and radient heat in the floor.)

  • 14 years ago

    You never know what you will find. In our case when we removed the floor we found large cracks in the slab. Fortunately the engineers report said they weren't a structural problem which could be fixed with high strength epoxy. I am so glad we didn't need to excavate, support everything on piers and rebuild the foundation. We had some contingency funds, so were able to do the epoxy repairs without much pain (but future projects will be subsequently delayed) Not only would that have roughly doubled the reno budget, it would have added 3 mos to the timeline so more hassle, $$ for eating out/convenience foods,etc. And we had no idea until the floors came out.

    Short of that you need to factor taxes, delivery charges, etc into the budget. And some scope creep.

    Best advice: plan, plan, plan then be ready in case the plans to go out the window

    Good Luck! :)

  • 14 years ago

    Since I didn't make a budget, I didn't go over.

    There was waste.
    #1 cause of waste was buying things that you don't end up using.
    Buying materials too long in advance was often the reason.

  • 14 years ago

    I had a budget that was blown out when the City Planners required so much more than we thought they would require (new rules) as a result of what they found when they did demo. Doubled the cost of the "bump out" with the foundation requirements.

    So, after that news I had to make some changes. I was able to keep my budget mostly in order by revising my kitchen plans...out went the built-in refridge (now just a regular FD), goodbye Wolf range (bought lower end model), goodbye custom cabinets (bought semi-custom), switched to no-name brand sinks, got rid of the sanded in place floors and bought pre-engineered, reduced the size of the island, got rid of the wine refridge, no fancy pantry pull outs (just regular pull out drawers), no magic corner (now a lazy susan), goodbye cool backsplash tile (using cheaper granite as backsplash).....many many things had to be revised and changed.

    Still, the best way that I have found to keep within my budget was to not even look at anything that was outside my range. When I went to the store, I'd always say, "Don't show me anything above X dollars". If I didn't see it then I wouldn't mourn for it.

    We too are doing a whole house remodel so the kitchen was just one part of the project--easier for me to say that my $$ needs to be spread throughout the whole project and I could save in other areas (cheaper front door, cheaper windows, etc). Good Luck! It's great you are planning for this.

  • 14 years ago

    For us it was two things, one we could control if we had the will power, the other we couldn't. Note that we were doing foundation work and a gut and complete redesign of our entire ground floor, so quite a bit beyond the kitchen.

    1. Scope expansion. We added stuff on - flooring, lighting, additional drywalling, additional stained glass in powder etc.
    2. Old house. Our house was built in 1877. This project essentially became the 'fixing 130 years of other people's mistakes project.' Things we didn't foresee but had to repair and pay for: foundation wasn't just poor, it actually didn't exist under the centre part of our house; the beams in the ceiling between the first and second floorts were spaced too far apart; there had been a fire years ago behind our fireplace (had to rip the whole thing out); etc.

    A new build would be much easier to budget for - few surprises. Dealing with old houses I think you are guaranteed at least one or two expensive surprises.

    Regarding the kitchen itself: so far everything has been pretty much on budget. We estimated a little too low for counters, that is about it.

  • 14 years ago

    We are doing a major home renovation and started with a very realistic budget. My kitchen budget was pretty much on target. If I went over somewhere I cut somewhere else. For instance my frig was $500 over budget but I found 2 chandeliers for $300 less than my budget and a pottery barn knock off at overstock and saved another $300. I searched the web and local businesses for the best deals. And when I found it I always asked for an extra discount (and usually got it).

    I have a detailed file with 6 worksheets and 12+ columns. Where our budget was blown was on things like - oh oh - ALL original wiring back when they invented electricity - replaced it all; architect measured bathroom wrong - lost 16" so we had to take out 2 chases and rework a lot of new plumbing; almost all the plumbing in the walls are original (1840 - 1880's) - replace. Since the cement truck is here let's pour the cement in some areas in the basement or add insulation under the kitchen. Our added expenses were the unsexy stuff - things people cannot see or in the walls.

    Before you begin figure out what is important to you - for me it was granite. I saved money by choosing a less epensive fabricator who got good reviews. (OK, I would probably not recommend him unless you're on a tight budget but that's another story) Cabinets were not as important so I could choose the cheaper door, etc or a less expensive manufacturer. If you wait until you're making the decision than it's like - I want the best I can afford. A little here, a little there adds up really quick. If you go back to the original list it helps keep you focused. The biggest budget breakers are usually what's not seen and in the walls.

  • 14 years ago

    I could have saved a LOT of money if I took my architects original plans for my kitchen and posted it here. Instead I worked with him for months to finalize the kitchen and 2 days before I was going to order cabinets I posted them here and totally changed my kitchen design around.

  • 14 years ago

    Our budget was to find a balance we could live with between cost and all the other factors (functionality, quality, longevity of the design/use, and appearance). I choose less expensive when it had little impact or could (and likely would) be upgraded later. The sinks were about one-third the price of the usually chosen fireclay apron front sink. The 'bones' were the highest priority. Some things we anticipated, others we did not. Replacing the hardwood floor and new windows was unexpected.

    Did we spend more than we wanted? Yep. The way I look at it is that structural and functional things were delayed for years-20 years. DH doesn't want to spend money. We could have paid and done it long ago. The remodel cost is just spending it now rather than in the past. DH still doesn't like being in debt. But I am amused how often he comments on how much he likes what we've done. And I am thrilled he spends time in the kitchen rather than in his office all the time like he used to do.

  • 14 years ago

    A shocker for me was the electric bill for the month of demo and reno...$1,300!!! This was the month of Jan/Feb very cold.

  • 14 years ago

    First, I think we were very naive about the costs for the quality of materials we wanted. After that sticker shock subsided we paused and made a deliberate decision to go with higher quality materials. Then we realized that truly skilled labor does not (and should not) come cheap. We allowed for competitive bidding, but in the end selected the team we thought would do the best job for a fair price.

    I shopped online and was a bargain betty for a lot of it. What I struggled with budgeting were design choices I opted to not make until we were well in to the renovation. I wanted to see the island to determine exactly how many pendant lights I wanted....I wanted to have the cabs in place THEN decide what handles I wanted. Then the dreaded backsplash selection.... it just goes on and on.

    We did go significantly over what our initial "guessing out of thin air" budget was, but do not regret it one bit. Sure, it meant that other house projects were put off a bit and I still cringe when I walk in to our master bath knowing that its renovation isn't even on the radar screen right now.

    HTH!! Control what you can, stay disciplined, but give yourself some breathing room on a few things if at all possible.

  • 14 years ago

    Thanks for all the great responses! The input is invaluable. Ours is "just" a kitchen remodel. We did however, notice a new crack in the wall and wanted to have it checked out before we started on the kitchen. 12 piers later, I'm poorer, but know the foundation is solid. I can certainly commiserate and relate to the joy of surprises! I'm hoping that all of the leg work and research I've done (this site has been fabulous!) will prepare me for those things that I CAN control.

  • 14 years ago

    I wouldn't exactly say we went over budget, but there were a few real shockers in our GC's initial estimate. For example, $12K to bring the electric up to current code, and $10K for heated make-up air for our ventilation system. So there is $22K that will never be seen, but had to be done before we even thought about cabinetry or appliances. Then, there were all the little (and some big) change orders that revealed themselves after demo.

  • 14 years ago

    Did you have to take every wire out of your house and re wire it? 12K seems like a lot of money to bring the house up to code.

  • 14 years ago

    Agree with live_wire about things being more expensive than you imagined...tile for the backsplash turned out to be a big item, and the faucet and pendants were also more than budgeted. The budget didn't include replacing cookware with induction-compatible pieces either.

  • 14 years ago

    For us it was a combination of unrealistic expectations and suprises.

    I was spot on with estimating the cost of many things, but for instance, I budgeted $4000 on granite, knowing I was being on the frugal side.- planned on going with a cheap fabricator and picking an A level granite. In reality we ended up with a C granite and an expensive fabricator.

    Suprises - who knew we would have to do seismic retrofitting on the window we moved and that the anchor bolts to do such would be $700!

    Also in a DIY, the nickel and diming from daily trips to Home Depot can get you!

  • 14 years ago

    The infrastructure materials (electrical, plumbing, foundation under enclosed back porch, trimming out the supporting beams and posts) all cost more than we'd estimated. I upped our custom cabinets by an extra $3 K because I wanted the Blumotion hinges, soft-close doors, butler's pantry pullouts, mixer lift....that caused a great sucking sound to come from my DH. Oh, well!

    When we finished, he said, "Now, we're not spending any more money, right? On anything, right?" And the thing is, I can't get into my slacks because I'm cooking so much better now. So I need new clothes. And I can't buy them. So, instead, I'm buying extra canisters for the new pantry instead....kind of like a hidden expense.

    The decor for the new kitchen is all extra. You want it just right, and that takes money you never took into account beforehand. It's fun!

  • 14 years ago

    I saved alot on alot, but in a few things I bought (Shaw sink, soapstone counters, Rohl faucet) were very expensive. Yes I could have done something cheaper, but these things were key to the look I wanted. I was able to adjest by doing IKEA cabs, doing some DIY, and RESEARCH like nobody's business. In my case, it is the little things that add up that got me. $100 here and there for odds and ends add up very quickly.

    Planning is huge, and if you can, a little investigating is helpful too. Before finalizing my plans, I drilled bit holes in the walls where I thought there might be "issues". We looked in the soffit to see if it was empty (it was), and to see if the joist ran in our favor for the hood venting (it did). Had I found anything in there it would have drastically changed my plan. I also drilled into a wall to see how far I could move it, and found that we had radiator pipes in it that I was not expecting. Because I did this we were able to avoid any surprises, and my floorplan worked out perfectly.

  • 14 years ago

    I changed to marble instead of a ceramic floor in my master bath. I changed from vinyl to ceramic tile in the upstairs baths. I went from a corian to a granite counter top in the master bath. The granite counter top meant we had to buy porcelain sink bowls.

    The builder assumed the top of my tub surround would be tile. I assumed the top of my tub surround would be the same as whatever went on my vanity counter. So that meant we had to pay the difference. Most of my inspiration pictures with white subway tile showers also have subway wainscoting and I decided I couldn't live without it after we'd signed the papers. We upgraded from the builder faucets and accessories. We switched toilets. And we switched from O'Leary paint(which my builder uses) to Benjamin Moore paint. We added a cabinet between the sink bowls on the vanity. And we upgraded the lights.

  • 14 years ago

    billp1, $12K covered all the electricals, much of which was upgrading the infrastructure. We needed a new box as total capacity was maxed out, but we have extra now should we need/want to ever do more work (at least, before codes get retooled again).

    We had two estimates, and both were in the same range. Perhaps electricians get paid more here than where you live? The labour costs really get you if you can't do any of it yourself.

  • 14 years ago


    We live in New York ( nothing cheap) and we just up graded our home power to 300 amps which included new box, breakers and grounding the house
    per code. Total cost was $1800.00

    Maybe we got a great deal but the work passed the local electrical inspector.

    Now we will start the kitchen where our contractor is running 4 new circut's to handle the additional power needs.

  • 14 years ago

    $10K for heated make-up air for our ventilation system

    Um, what? It would have been cheaper to crack a window and pay for a little extra heat. Or just not heat the vent. As I said, what?

  • 14 years ago

    Ummm, about to replace part of the backsplash I just had done today!! Something always has to go wrong, doesn't it? This was our last thing to do and I hate it.

  • 14 years ago

    There are three kinds of budgets: money, time, and personal energy. Each can go wrong.

    Our house is sited on an old lake shore artificially covered with fill dirt, which I had suspected, but when our digger dug down farther than the floor of the old basement and still did not find the bottom of the footings, we realized that the original builder had started out on the old lakeshore grade and then had started block work and filled in alongside it and poured the floor on the fill some feet above. Fill was probably trucked in from foundations of many other houses in the area, a 1950s housing tract.

    The new basement space is 9 feet deep (old one is 7 feet) because the digger didn't trust the fill and we are now dealing with the need to let things settle before installing step, sidewalk, driveway, etc. because there is so much fill here. Also, I am choosing strong porcelain, not ceramic, tile for our lobby to address the probability of cracks from settling. This all costs money and time and I'm living with a lot of sand and dirt walked throughout the house.

    Naturally, none of this extra block work and excavation and basement insulation and egress window and heating ducts and all the rest was cheap. Ten years from now, I will have a fabulous space for storage or something, but right now, I have an expensive, sunken-access unused room in my basement that cost us weeks last October when we really needed that time and energy.

    [bitter mode off]

  • 14 years ago

    I don't know what happened to the first part of my posting above. It doesn't make sense unless you know that we got advice very late in the planning process that basements in this part of the country are very cheap living space. We had already arranged for a crawl space, new front step, and driveway pour last fall. The advice was true as far as it went, but.... read the rest above.

  • 14 years ago

    Heated make-up air. This is another code requirement where I live, for my 600cfm vent. I cannot just "crack a window" when all are frozen shut for 3 months per year. For 7-9 months, the furnace is operating, and it isn't considered wise to suck air out of the kitchen unless the same amount is coming in elsewhere, in case it should otherwise come down the chimney bringing with it CO and other flue gases. And it is heated because 600 cfm with a temp gradient of 40C (70F) can quickly overwhelm the output of my furnace.

  • 14 years ago

    hijacking for a minute:
    Homeowners often don't have the facilities to let them cook that kind of food that makes greasy steam without ruining their home environ_ment. Apartment renters have even less. The post by cooksnsews tells me why restaurants get customers. People go to restaurants to get the kind of food they wouldn't dare cook at home.

  • 14 years ago

    One more item about codes in my city.... All new builds and major renos now require kitchen ventilation, and any vents over 250cfm require make-up air. Yeah, it adds beaucoup to the cost of renovating, but the idea behind it all is to ensure safe indoor air quality, since all new builds have to be very tightly designed to limit heat/energy losses to the outside environment. The temp gradients that we deal with for so much of the year provide a tangible incentive for most of us to retrofit our homes as efficiently as we can.

    Folks can eat out as much as they please (lots of folks don't cook anyway!) but they'll still need to have code compliant kitchens in their homes.

  • 14 years ago

    When you give a mouse a cookie ....

    That's what happened to us. Kitchen remodel - check. Replace the knob and tube wiring in the whole house to the tune of $18k - check. Bump out the back of the kitchen to move the laundry room inside - check. Stucco the bumped out kitchen - check. Landscape the back yard because the new windows in the bumped out kitchen look over the back yard - check. Build a wrought iron fence and haul in loads of crushed granite to keep the dogs in one portion of the yard and not tear up the new landscaping - check. Add more flagstone patio to connect the existing patio to the new bumped out kitchen - check. Paint the brick on the outside of the house - check. Go ahead and paint all of the window trim and wood work around the house - check. Replace the garage doors because the new bump out of the kitchen went into the posts of the garage - check. Get the flagstone guys to install brick over the new stucco on one side of the house so it all matches on that side - check. Rip up the carpet and refinish the original hardwood floors in the DR, LR and hallway - check. Enjoy it immensely - check

    A year and a half later, start it all over again with bathrooms. And reworking every closet in the whole house. And repainting the whole house. And repairing and making the 75 yr old painted doors look new. And adding insulation. And on and on and on.

    It was suggested before we ever started to tear the whole thing down and start from scratch. It may have been cheaper. :)

  • 14 years ago

    I so much appreciate the postings from others with budget issues.

    The code thing regarding air intake to compensate for big vent units is something that is rarely mentioned in industry mags, promo pieces, etc. Those of you with new construction already have air handling built in because of the new, tighter regulations, but those of us with old houses are stuck with big bills.

    We opted for a lesser vent unit which would not suck the flame off a pilot light in the water heater.

  • 8 years ago

    General contractors here give you an all inclusive budget so if there are structural issues they didn't anticipate, they absorb the cost. I'm sure that adds to the overall price, but there you are.

    I'm going over budget on materials. At first I wasn't going to buy a new dishwasher, but I did. Then I went for more expensive flooring, counters, and backsplash. I figured I'm only going to do this once in my lifetime, so might as well go for it (within reason).