Most home improvement projects, be it an extension, a new kitchen or structural works, come with one or two surprises when it comes to cost. Every time you make a decision, there’s the temptation to go for the more upmarket option or worse still, let the project creep into other areas that weren’t previously part of the plan.

Follow these five steps to ensure you set a realistic budget and better still, that you actually stick to it. After all, knowing what you want is the easy part. The tougher part is figuring out how much you can afford.

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Most home improvement projects, be it an extension, a new kitchen or structural works, come with one or two surprises when it comes to cost. Every time you make a decision, there’s the temptation to go for the more upmarket option or worse still, let the project creep into other areas that weren’t previously part of the plan.

Follow these five steps to ensure you set a realistic budget and better still, that you actually stick to it. After all, knowing what you want is the easy part. The tougher part is figuring out how much you can afford.

  1. Create a breakdown of costs - List each element of your project and give it a ball-park figure. People often forget to add enough slack in the budget for new furnishings and appliances once the building work is complete. Also, if you’re planning an extension, have you included spare cash for the legal costs of planning permission? There are useful calculators online that help ensure you haven’t forgotten any small but expensive elements.
  2. Use a written contract - Once you have worked out your brief with your builder, it is time to draw up your contract. Make sure you have included everything you want to spend on and put it in the contract and there will be no mistakes made by either party. Include in the contract a sensible payment schedule and never pay for the entire project up front.
  3. Have an emergency budget - Even perfect planners cannot always foresee unexpected costs in a construction project. We recommend having a contingency budget in case of a nasty surprise. If you keep an additional 10% of the total cost in the budget, you should be prepared for even the worst eventuality.
  4. Stick to the plan - It is normal for your home improvement project’s budget to be challenged by the temptation to do more. It is easy to think that when the builders are in, they may as well knock through a wall or re-do a bathroom or build a summer house in the garden. Have the discipline to stick to the original plan and not to fall victim to temptation! If you must go off plan, review your original cost breakdown and see where you can save elsewhere.

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