Photo by Brock Builders

Although there are many things that can go wrong during a home remodeling project, spending too much doesn’t need to be one of them. At, we hear far too many stories from people who have ended up spending far more than they wanted to spend on a remodel. This doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, there are many things homeowners can do to control the cost of their remodeling projects.

Before anyone begins a home remodeling project, I encourage them to think very carefully about protecting themselves from the top five reasons costs get out of hand.

1. Contractor relationship and the remodeling contract.

Many homeowners find costs spiraling when they remodel because they either have not developed a good working Contractor Selection Workbookrelationship with their contractor or because they don’t communicate with the contractor effectively. Poor communication generally results in a weak contract.

Homeowners must be able to communicate with the contractor — before a contract is written — to clarify what they do or do not want done. There needs to be clear agreement, reflected in the contract, about the extent of the work, the quality of workmanship expected, the quality of the materials use, and other specific details of the remodeling design. All of these details should be spelled out in the contract.

When this doesn’t happen, most homeowners find themselves making decisions and choices that cost extra either in labor or materials. In some cases, poor communication and failure to understand expectations can result in disaster.

2. Poor Planning.

Without careful planning, many homeowners end up spending far more than necessary on many materials, fixtures, etc. They also fail to schedule their projects at times when they can save on some of the associated costs. For example,

  • Many people just don’t understand that many contractors charge lower rates (by as much as 5 . 7%) for work during their slow time.
  • Workers are more productive and efficient in cooler weather than they are in the heat of summer.
  • Shop for materials and fixtures far enough ahead to be able to benefit from shopping sales.
  • Avoiding late changes and upgrades is also part of planning. Changes in the design, the materials, or the installation of items after purchases have been made and work has begun are more costly than most people realize. There will be additional labor costs and materials costs to accommodate each change.
  • Avoid upgrades. They seem small at the time the decision is made, but they add up to significant additional cost very quickly.

3. Budgeting and Estimates.

Unfortunately, too many homeowners start with a remodeling contract instead of a budget. The first thing homeowners should do is create a budget for the remodeling project. The budget should reflect what they already know about the cost of materials, tools, fixtures, etc.

I usually recommend using a planner to help with itemizing costs and related expenses and to keep track of all the information and estimates homeowners gather during the planning stage of their project. I even wrote one to help people with these issues (

People need to remember that different contractors quote in different ways. They need to gather as many quotes and estimates as possible before they decide which contractor to hire. At the very minimum, one should compare at least five estimates; three is not enough. And try to get at least two estimates from different “types” of contractors — large contractors with lots of employees, and small companies with few if any employees.

Creating the budget first, helps homeowners select designs and materials that will result in the quality they want at a price they can afford. 101 Ways to Save Money When by by Dan Fritschen 4. Comparison Shopping.

Most homeowners are accustomed to shopping for deals on most large purchases, such as cars, boats, etc. But when it comes to a remodeling project, many seem to think there are no deals to be found. Many homeowners enter into agreements with contractors to have the materials purchased by the contractor without regard to cost. Many other homeowners assume that the price of all materials will be the same everywhere. When people shop around and compare prices, they can save a bundle on materials, fixtures, tools, etc.

5. Pitch in to Save.

Lack of experience or skill leads many homeowners to conclude that they need to turn a project over to their contractor and just get out of the way. While this is true for some homeowners, for others doing part of the work can be fun and can help keep a project under budget. Painting, demolition, tiling, electrical, clean up are just a few of the projects homeowners can undertake to better manage the cost of their remodel.

I am convinced that if every homeowner considering a remodeling project would plan, budget, shop, pitch in, and be sure they are communicating clearly and effectively with their contractor, most remodeling projects could be completed within their budgets.

If you found this article helpful, you might want to read:

Introduction to Contracts
Contract Checklist
Finding the Right Contractor