Photo by Brock Builders

If you believe Murphy’s Law, something will go wrong during a remodeling project. Spending too much on your remodeling project does not need to be what goes wrong. Homeowner stories of spending far too much on a home remodeling project are very common. This does not need to happen, however. There are several things homeowners can do to control remodeling project costs.

There are five main reasons remodeling costs get out of hand. Keeping these cost increasing factors in mind throughout all stages of a remodeling project will help homeowners keep costs under control and keep costs within their budget for the remodeling project.

1. Inadequate Planning.

Careful planning is necessary from the moment a homeowner begins thinking about a remodeling project. Without careful planning, homeowners almost inevitably end up spending more than they expected on both large and small remodeling projects. Here are some key planning tips:
  • Schedule projects for times when it is possible to save on some of the costs, such as slow periods for contractors and workers. Some contractors charge as much as 5 – 7% on jobs during the slow period. 101 Ways to Save Money When by by Dan Fritschen
  • Don’t schedule projects during the heat of summer. Workers are more productive and efficient in cooler weather.
  • Shop early and regularly to take advantage of sales on materials and appliances
  • Keep upgrades under tight control and keep a running tab of the additional costs as they accumulate.
  • Don’t make changes in design or materials after work has begun. Late changes can be very costly.
  • Be sure materials will be delivered on time. Delays which cause workers to wait are expensive.
2. Failure to be a Savvy Shopper

For some reason, everything homeowners know about shopping for deals on big ticket items like cars and boats just evaporates when they start a remodeling project. There are, however, many ways to find deals and save money. Instead of having your contractor purchase all materials, fixtures and appliances, homeowners should talk with their contractors about items that may make sense for them to buy directly. Construction materials and appliances are not priced the same everywhere or at all times. Price comparisons and sale shopping can result in big savings.

3. Failure to Get Estimates and Create Informed Budgets

Homeowners should learn to begin with estimates and budgets before they start talking with contractors. After researching the cost of materials, tools, fixtures, appliances and decorating materials, an initial estimate can be created. I recommend using a planner like the one I created ( to help homeowners keep track of price notes and estimates.

Once this information has been gathered and inserted into a budget plan, homeowners need to start interviewing contractors and gathering estimates and bids. A good way to get a baseline estimate for a project is to use the calculators at It is important to understand how contractors quote jobs and how different contractors quote in different ways. Once all of the cost factors have been gathered, a working budget should be created. This enables the homeowner to make informed decisions about the contractor and the materials which will create the quality and price desired in the job.

4. Weak Relationships with Contractors and Inadequate Remodeling Contracts

The ability of the homeowner to communicate clearly and effectively with the contractor on the job directly affects the cost of the remodel. Homeowners must be able to be clear about what they do and do not want in their remodel. They must be clear about the quality of workmanship they expect. They must be specific about materials and costs. The also must be able to communicate with their contractor in responding to questions, the need for changes, or problems which might arise.

Clear and effective communication results in clear agreements and these must be stated in the contract. A remodeling contract should clearly list all expectations, the limits of the project, all materials (and specifications), project schedule, and any other details, including what work will be done by whom. When a clear and detailed contract is not written, most homeowners find themselves in situations requiring extra labor cost or additional materials cost. The stronger the contract, the better the project will proceed.

5. Unwillingness To Save Money By Helping

Some homeowners are absolutely right in just turning a project over to a contractor and getting out of the way. Other homeowners will discover ways to get involved in the project and control costs at the same time. Many homeowners enjoy doing part of the work. Homeowners should consider their expectations and their ability to do such work as demolition, electrical, tile installation, wallpapering, painting and cleanup.

My experience has shown that every homeowner who avoids these pitfalls is able to better control and potentially lower costs on their home remodeling projects.