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7 tips for renovating a house on a budget

There are many reasons to renovate a house. Perhaps there is a problem that needs to be fixed, or a particular feature you’d like to improve. Maybe you just want to create more space.

However, renovations can prove to be very expensive. Here are some tips to reduce the costs of home renovation when you are working on a tight budget.

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Understand the house 

Before you begin your renovation project, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about the house. Understanding all of its nitty-gritties will help you establish the specific structural and cosmetic changes that will need to be made, as well as areas where you might need to compromise. You can then budget accordingly, keeping in mind that the renovation will be less costly if your plans are compatible with the existing features of your house.

Identify goals and set a budget

Once you’ve built a clear picture of what needs to be done and what would be nice to do, consider creating a list of goals for the renovation, highlighting specific improvements you want to make. This could help you determine how much to spend on each improvement and on the project as a whole, ensuring that you don’t waste money on unnecessary work or features.

Add a contingency fund to your budget

Unexpected costs (which are sadly all too common during renovations) can be taken care of by including a contingency fund in your overall renovation budget. A buffer of 5-15% above the estimated renovation costs should be sufficient.

For complex renovations or those involving older properties that may throw up unexpected surprises, budget towards the higher end of the contingency.

Get multiple quotes

When the renovation work required clearly goes beyond your DIY skills, it could make sense to bring in a contractor. Speaking to several contractors and getting multiple quotes can help you not only find the right one for your budget but also one who gets your vision.

However, don’t always go for the cheapest quote, and if a quote seems too good to be true, it probably is. Before you hire, take time to research the contractor’s recent work and any reviews from previous customers. 


Renovating your entire house all at once can be quite costly and disruptive. Therefore, it’s best to work in planned stages, focusing on one room at a time wherever possible.

One rule you might follow is to identify the goal that is most urgent, time intensive or expensive and start with it. For example, you might start with the kitchen as a priority, as it’s a room that is essential to the daily life of the whole family. Once it’s finished, you could move on to another key room, such as the living room. 

Do some of the dirty work yourself

Instead of paying a contractor to do everything, it could help to take care of the smaller jobs or do the prep work needed before the big renovations commence. For example, if the renovation involves the replacement of kitchen cabinets, you could remove the old ones yourself.

Other cost-saving prep work includes stripping out old carpets and removing common obstructions such as internal plasterboard walls. This can save a significant amount of money as it reduces the time that contractors take to complete the job.

Keep in mind that the big stuff is best left to professionals. For example, it’s best not to take on any major electrical or plumbing work yourself. 

Be a savvy buyer

Being a savvy buyer involves planning well ahead when sourcing the materials and products needed for the renovation and coming up with inventive ways of keeping costs down. For example, instead of buying everything from one store, visit several, and compare prices. You can also shop around on the internet for good deals such as discounts for bulk orders.

It’s wise to think carefully about the balance of high-end and budget products. It makes sense to save money where you can to free up as much of the budget as possible for important stand-out pieces. When renovating a kitchen, you might buy standard units and put your money into handles, soft-close mechanisms and worktops to add that touch of luxury.

Another way to save is using a balance of new and second-hand products. Search the internet for used materials and equipment (that are still in good condition) or visit auctions, car boot sales and salvage yards where you might find some bargains.

Key takeaway

Although costing a renovation is an inexact science at best, it is still possible to renovate a house without breaking the bank. Reducing costs comes down to a few key principles, such as understanding your needs and goals, smart planning, proper budgeting, and doing some of the work yourself. By following these principles, you can ensure that the renovation stays within budget.

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