Interior designer Patricia Brown has counseled hundreds of clients through renovation projects large and small. She even offers an online workshop that helps homeowners sidestep the biggest pitfalls in renovation. Here are Brown’s tips for avoiding three common budget busters.
Budget Buster 1: Contracting for a design-build package
Some contractors regularly work with a specific designer, wile others keep one or more designers on staff. But Brown says it’s best to hire these parties separately. She recommends shelling out $2,000 to $5,000 for a full-fledged design plan, one that you can shop around to several competing contractors.
The design plan should be detailed and comprehensive. ”If you hand [contractors] a plan with all the specifications—from the quality of cabinetry to lighting—when you get back qualified bids, you’ll see where there’s a difference for the same work,” says Brown. “If it’s over budget, you can see where you can save on materials. Either way, you are setting the parameters and choosing. Without that design first, you are vulnerable to the unexpected.”
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Budget Buster 2: Choosing overrich materials
The next time you walk into your kitchen, what does your eye gravitate toward: the countertops or the backsplash? Brown would bet on the latter, since vertical surfaces tend to dominate the look of a room. She counsels clients to decide on the backsplash first, before choosing a counter material that is complementary.
High-impact, moderate-cost backsplashes include:
- White subway tile punctuated with the occasional colored art tile
- Glass tile for a modern look with low maintenance requirements
- Wood or bamboo; either can be finished so as to ensure easy care
Budget Buster 3: Procrastinating your way into expensive change orders
For incidental costs and overruns, wise remodelers pad their project budgets with an extra ten percent of the total amount allotted. Don’t waste that cricital cushion on change orders!
Brown attests that last-minute changes are the enemy of clients’ purse strings. Even a seemingly simple swap (e.g., substituting a different light fixture) can touch off a cascade of delays and adjustments.
Another downside of change orders, Brown cautions, is that they pave the way for contractors to use “equivalent materials.” If you allow a contractor that wiggle room, you will have to perform on-the-spot quality checks. After choosing materials with a designer’s aid, it is of course preferable to stick with the original plan.