Home Renovations on a Budget

posted by Andrea | 03/8/2011

It’s no secret that Dave and I are in the middle of a pretty big home renovation project right now.

More than a third of our house is completely gutted and we’re just FINALLY starting to round the corner from the demolition phase into the “putting it back together and making it look nice” phase.

I’m definitely anxious to see the finished product but we’re committed to taking our time, doing it “right” the first time, AND staying on budget — which is a lot easier said than done!!

I’ve received numerous emails asking about different logistics for such a large project, but the overall theme for many of these emails is “what are we doing to stay on budget?”

It’s a big question, but I can assure you…we ARE staying on budget.

Tips for Staying on Budget:

1. Be Patient.

Anyone who knows me is probably laughing right now because I’m one of the least patient people I know. If it were up to me, everything would be done 2 days ago. However, when you’re trying to stick to a budget, patience is key.

For example; I knew exactly what kind of sinks I wanted in our master bathroom…but I also knew they cost about $200 each. And the vanity I wanted cost about $2,500 — which I was not willing to pay.

So I waited, and waited, and won’t you believe it — I found the EXACT sinks I wanted for $24 each, and my uncle agreed to make the vanity for about $250.

{That’s a savings of $2,600!!!!}

2. Do Your Research.

Obviously, any large-scale renovation project is going to involve lots of research…at least it should!

I’ve always been the person who wants to “know everything”, so when it comes to renovating my dream house, you better believe I’m researching everything I possibly can!

My research has paid off too…

I found a small, local company that specializes in reclaimed wood flooring {something I had NO idea even existed} and we got a great deal on some of their products. Now our flooring won’t just “look” old and distressed, it will actually BE old and distressed.

I found exactly what I wanted, only because I researched all my options!

You can read more about our wood flooring here.

3. Be Willing to Compromise.

So ideally, we would install all solid wood trim. It’s more durable, it would probably hold up longer, and it’s just more traditional. But it’s also FOUR times more expensive than MDF boards.

Considering we have at least 400 linear feet of trim to install {for now}, and we’re planning to paint it all white anyway, the MDF board will be just fine! With this simply compromise, we’ll end up saving about $1,200 for a nearly identical look.

However, I’m not willing to compromise on more expensive, solid wood doors!

4. Use A Little Elbow Grease.

In case you didn’t know, labor is expensive — I mean REALLY expensive! And even though we are so fortunate to have family members who are willing to help us out {especially my dad}, Dave and I are more than willing to get dirty and do lots of the work ourselves.

Of course we’ll still pay professionals to do the plumbing and possibly some of the electrical and tile work {we’re not THAT good!}

5. Be Patient!

Seriously, patience is the main reason we have been able to stay on budget…so it warrants 2 spots on my list.

What are your best tips for renovating on a budget?



Filed under: HomeRenovations

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  1. Jenn @ Jar Full of Rocks


    Ebay for things like faucets and smaller items!

    We are in the middle of a complete home remodel….this is year 2 of it. Our house was built in 1892 and nothing is level, plumb, or square. We’ve redone all of the electrical wiring on the first floor. The house was still on 60 amp electric when we bought it, knob and tube wiring. Actually, you could literally see the evolution of home electric in our basement. Anyways, we are having custom cabinets done for the kitchen. Its the only expensive thing we’re doing in the entire house. We saw a faucet that we LOVED at the cabinet showroom and when we got home, Hubs looked it up at the company’s website. They wanted $400 for it and that was just not going to happen. So he went to ebay next and found it for $150, which is what we had budgeted for the faucet.

    Also, look at all of your options while you are doing your research. When we did the powder room, we needed to replace the sink from a sink on a cabinet to a pedestal sink because of how small the room is. We found a sink for $40 at Lowes and then just bought a low priced faucet for it. I want wood flooring in my kitchen, but we can’t do it because of the cost, so I’m going to lay plywood on the floor and then take a router and put grooves into the floor and a few coats of polyurethane on it all to seal it. I might stain it to get it a tad darker, but that is how I’m getting my wood floors. And with 2 young kids and 2 90 pound dogs, the plywood is going to be much more durable than wood would have been.


    Andrea Reply:

    Wow…you are serious about getting good deals — we would get along well!

    I’m impressed with your idea for achieving a wood floor look using plywood — that’s such a great idea! And I’m also a huge fan of ebay and craigslist; nearly everything in our home comes from one of those two places. We save so much that we can easily afford to splurge on a few nicer things every once in a while.


    Jenn @ Jar Full of Rocks Reply:

    I’ve seen the “hard wood” plywood floor done with straight lines drawn with Sharpie markers as well. They didn’t want to deal with being on the floor with the router because they had a huge area they were doing the flooring to. They even did small circles where nails would be in the planks. It looked really good.

    We also trade labor with friends. Hubs can do plumbing and electric and I can do tile work. We both can install drywall and I can do mudding (Hubs isn’t as good at that). So we ask friends for help when we need it…like asking for help in manual labor such as lifting stuff or helping to install large bulky things (like our cabinets when they come in) and then in return, we are available to them when they need something done.


  2. Karen @ Abundance on a Dime


    Andrea, we bought an old fixer upper like you guys did (ours was build in 1925 and is in the middle of the city though!) We would never have taken it on if we weren’t prepared do do most of the work ourselves. I’d say don’t be afraid to learn some new skills. With the internet and the library, plus the classes that are available at building centres, you can learn to do the majority of home projects yourself. Just pick a smaller project when you’re trying something new to build your confidence. My dh recently taped and plastered some corners, which he’d never done before. It was in the side-door entrance area (which isn’t a high traffic area in our house), so if it didn’t come out perfect, we’d be able to live with it. It took some time and patience, but it ended up coming out great. There is a lot more plaster work to be done and he now has the confidence to take on bigger projects. There are certainly times when you do need to get professional help, but so far the only thing we’ve paid someone else to do is the roof.

    It may take some time to learn a new skill, but once you learn it it’s a resource you will have for the rest of your life and one less thing you’ll have to pay a “pro” for!


    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for the advice Karen…it sounds like you REALLY know what you’re talking about 🙂

    Dave and I have already learned a few new skills — some on purpose, others by accident! However, I look forward to learning lots more skills over the next several years. I don’t think you can ever be too “handy” when it comes to household projects!