Renovation series: How to blast the budget

The planning is done, you know what you want – now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get it done! We’ve consulted expert designer Lizzi Hines of Spaceworks and Room By Room to learn how to blast that budget when renovating.


Be clear on the costs before you begin

It can be awkward talking about money, so it’s no wonder many of us shy away from doing it. Be upfront about pricing at the beginning – you have a budget to target.

Always get two or three quotes

“If there is a wild variance between quotes, take this as an alarm bell – the cheapest person may have missed some details,” says Lizzi. “Don’t be afraid to tell tradies you are comparing quotes. Let them explain their calculations. Sometimes they may have included extra value such as skip removal.”

Get it in writing and be thorough

Lizzi says drawings from a designer or architect are critical for tradie pricing and become a binding document. Have the tradesperson list the works they have included in their quote. If you request things over and above the drawings, document this in writing and have both parties sign it.

Be upfront

Ask your tradies to let you know if any changes you request will impact on cost or what they have quoted. “People often wrongly think changing the location of, say, a power point won’t cost because they already had one – it’s just now in a different position. Wrong,” says Lizzi. “Treat talking to your tradies like talking to your lawyer – it will almost always cost you money to change something from the plans.”

Record all budget changes

If the tradie says something will cost more, get the price variation from them within 24 hours and record it. “Residential budget blowouts happen when variations are not costed and approved before being actioned.”

Get systematic

Hello, spreadsheet. There are good apps available and many banks have renovation spreadsheet templates for download, but Excel will do the job too. Have two columns: one for budgeted expenses and one for actual, so you can keep track of any variations. Be diligent with adding expenses as they come up. You should know at any stage where your budget is at – not just at invoice time.

Be a responsible bill-payer

Be across your tradies’ payment terms and their anticipated payment claim dates so you have the money when it’s needed. If you’re borrowing money, give this info to the bank so you can draw down at the right times. Unpaid or delayed payments for tradies can slow your project down. Lots of tradies have small businesses and each day you’re late in paying can be critical to their business. (It also doesn’t do well for on-site relations!) Ask for more frequent invoices if you want to ensure costs are kept on track.
Get the true cost. Record everything that costs you money as a result of your renovation, such as eating out or staying elsewhere. Make sure your spreadsheet includes your contingency fund too.


✔ Determine your budget
✔ Start a renovation budget spreadsheet
✔ Get a quote from each subtrade

Words by: Debbie Harrison and Lizzi Hines of Spaceworks and Room by Room. Photography by: Tony Amos & Maree Homer/

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