Most home improvement projects - whether they're an extension, a new kitchen or structural works - hold nasty surprises or the temptation to upscale at every point.. Take these five steps to ensure you set a realistic budget and to make sure you stick to it when doing your next home improvement project. After all, knowing what you want is the easy part. The tougher part is figuring out how much you can afford.

  1. Do your research - Before embarking on your home improvement project, make sure you do your research so you know what to expect. Research online, speak to several builders and speak to friends and neighbours who have done similar projects to get an idea of what the building work will cost.

  2. Create a breakdown of costs - List each element of your project and give it a ball park figure. People often forget to add enough spare in the budget for new furnishings and appliances, once the building work is complete. If you’re planning an extension, have you included spare cash for the legal costs of planning permission for example? There are useful calculators online that help ensure you haven’t forgotten any small but expensive tasks.

  3. Get a 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.

  4. Have an emergency budget - Even perfect planners cannot always foresee nasty surprises in a construction project. We recommend having a contingency budget in case a nasty surprise happens. If you keep an additional 10% of the total cost in the budget, you should be prepared for even the worst eventuality.

  5. 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 motivation 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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