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Renovation Solutions: Creating a plan leads to saving money on remodeling

Most of us are all too familiar with living on a budget. Successfully living on a budget is not blindly spending until the money is gone — it is planning where the money will go and sticking to the plan. Knowing how much things will cost and itemizing expenditures will help you know how far your money will stretch.

The concept of budgeting for a remodeling project is no different from budgeting for your monthly bills and living expenses. So why do so many people start a remodeling project with the mindset of seeing how far the money will take them without planning where the money will go? They are setting themselves up for failure. People who don’t plan accordingly end up either running out of money in the middle of a project or going way over budget.

This mistake can be avoided. It starts with properly planning and itemizing your project. One huge misconception about remodeling is to go to the contractor for a quote first. A contractor cannot give you an accurate quote without proper construction documents, meaning floor plans, exterior elevations, interior elevations, structural engineering, etc. He can only give you a rough estimate until he knows the true scope of the work. Before you ever approach a contractor, work with an architect to discuss the project plans and the budget.

Almost without exception, clients come to us with an inflated view of what their money will buy in the construction world. A good rule of thumb is to guess what you think something will cost and then double it. A good architect will help you determine a general project scope that will relate to your proposed budget.

Remember, the more you plan, the easier it will be for you to stay within your budget. In addition to the drawings, an architect can help you create a specifications manual. By choosing and documenting all the fixtures and finishes in your project in the planning stage, you will enable the contractor to give you the most accurate quote possible for your job. A thorough specification will substantially reduce the surprise costs that you might otherwise run into. If you wait until the last minute to choose the light fixture the contractors are ready to install, you will rarely find the perfect chandelier at just the right price.

The key to saving money on your remodeling project is planning ahead. The irony is that the tighter your budget, the better off you will be by spending more up front with an architect to thoroughly plan your project. A great set of construction documents will result in a dependable bid from your contractor. We contend that the amount you spend on an architect will be recouped somewhere within the project: You will avoid expensive changes or mistakes during construction, and because your project will function well and look great, it will result in a higher value for your property than a less successful remodeling job.

Next week we will discuss more ideas for saving money on a remodeling project.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com