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How to Create A Home Renovation Budget (FREE spreadsheet) - ORC Week 4

by - Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Week 4 of the One Room Challenge is here... and nothing much has changed since last week. The room has been painted, all construction has been done, and we're just waiting on furniture, lighting, and a rug before we can put this room back together. So for this week, I thought I would dive instead into a discussion on how to create and plan a home renovation budget.

Welcome and thanks for stopping by! If you're new here, I'm a Toronto-based blogger and plaid enthusiast who mixes DIY with traditional design. Catch up on Week 1Week 2, and Week 3 of this guest bedroom remodel.

Home Renovation Budget

How much should you spend on a renovation or remodel? How can you renovate cheaply? Where should you save and where should you splurge? I'm talking about all those questions today and sharing a FREE home renovation budget template that you can use to budget your kitchen renovation, bathroom renovation and more.

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When most people think "renovation", the first question is "how much is this going to cost me?". The home renovation budget is one of the first things that comes to mind - but I like to think of it as one of the last.

Top-Down vs Bottom Up Budgeting

Let me explain my thinking: let's say you want to renovate your bathroom for $8000. You've come up with that number based on some estimates you found online. You've price shopped some of the bigger items ($2500 for a vanity, $1500 for faucets and plumbing, $1500 for tile and flooring), have blindly guessed at labour and other costs, and have determined a number you can afford. 

Top-Down Budgeting

That top-down approach means that budget is the main driver of your project. That you'll be counting your pennies the entire way and you'll likely have to cut out items that fall out of budget, or increase your budget altogether if you really want to make them fit.

My view on things? What good is a room that is delivered on budget, but all you can think about is how you 'settled' for the less-comfy but budget-friendly sofa, or that you didn't get the wallpaper you really wanted?

There needs to be a balance between the quantitative and the qualitative, between the hard dollars of the budget right now and the intangible enjoyment of the room in the future.

Bottom-Up Budgeting

I do a bottom-up approach when it comes to budgeting.

  • I start with a Project Assessment to see if this project is even a priority and if I want to devote my time, energy, and money to doing it.
  • I evaluate the Current State of the room to determine what needs to be done and who will do it (DIY or hire professionals)
  • I create the Design Plan and identify how I want the room to look and outline all the parts and items that go into making that vision a reality
  • Then I create a full budget that shows me a line-by-line itemization of expenses. Because this budget is based on all the steps preceding it, it's based on my real and specific situation and allows for design to be a priority.

Taking a bottom-up approach means you've done a lot of the hard work and decision making before you even talk about numbers. Your home renovation budget isn't based on a random spreadsheet you've found on the internet - it's based on the particulars of your house, your desires, and your financial situation. Because of that, it makes it easier for you to see and decide where to spend and where to save on your budget.

FREE Home Renovation Budget Template

Figuring out exactly what the expenses will be can be difficult. Renovations are complex, the steps and costs change depending on the type of room and scope of the project. It helps to have a starting point.

I've created this FREE home renovation budget spreadsheet to help with that task. This home renovation cost calculator contains worksheets for bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, and bedroom renovations and identifies the typical expense items associated with each kind of renovation. You can copy and edit the sheet for any type of room renovation.

The spreadsheet also includes an Area Estimator and a Materials Estimator. You can use these sheets to determine things like how much 3"x6" subway tile you need to cover your shower walls.

Where to Splurge vs Save

With your budget in hand, you can now move on to more challenging decisions like where to splurge and where to save. There are a few ways to save on a renovation or remodel and it comes down to prioritizing and comparing costs. Here's generally how we allocate the budget and prioritize expenses:


  • Hire the experts for things that go behind the walls. For example, this means hiring a qualified and skilled electrician to do the wiring, a plumber to do the plumbing, and an HVAC expert where needed. While Sean can do simple tasks like installing the faucets or changing out the light fixtures, when it comes to moving or repairing the actual systems themselves, we hire professionals. These systems are behind walls or beneath floors and you don't want them to fail so ensure they're built correctly from the start.
  • Spend on the most important fixtures or furniture. In each room, there's typically a piece of furniture or fixture that is critical. If it goes wrong or fails, the whole function of the room fails. In the bedroom, that's the bed. In the kitchen, that would be your appliances. And in the bathroom, I'd say the shower and faucet fixtures, toilet, and tub would be most important. For these items, don't be cheap! Select quality products that will stand up to constant use and perform to a high standard.
  • Lighting. While lighting is one of the last things I suggest adding to your design plan, I think it is one of the most important in terms of how you experience a room. Your room could be gorgeous and have the most luxurious furnishings, but if it isn't lit properly, it will fall flat. Have a variety of adequate light sources (general, task, and accent) and use your lighting to add character. Your eye is naturally drawn to a light fixture in the centre of the room. Make it a standout.


  • Demolition or site prep costs. This is a great way to save on your home renovation project. Doing the hard labour of demolition and removal of the debris can result in cost savings.
  • Beginner DIY projects. There are some tasks that even the most novice of DIYers can do. These would include painting, assembling furniture, hanging curtain rods, and even laying tile. The more you can take on yourself, the more you will save.
  • Design alternatives. Here's where a bottom-up approach to budgeting really proves its worth. Creating your design plan and outlining a full budget based on that ideal end point gives you room to manoeuvre and revise your budget downwards. You know what you want the room to look like but now you can find lower-cost alternatives that fit with your budget. Have you put the double sink custom vanity with marble top and soft-close drawers into your plan? Consider a similar looking off-the-shelf vanity with laminate top and doors instead of drawers. Swap out the Restoration Hardware sconces for dupes from Amazon at 1/3 of the cost. Even better, now that you have actual products identified, wait for sales and get exactly what you want at less cost.
Ultimately, my philosophy is not to sacrifice style because of budget. 

By starting from the bottom-up and making conscious decisions that suit your home and the way you live, making design a priority and finding a way to achieve that look in a budget you can live with, you end up with a room that is beautiful and cost effective.

But wait - there's more!

S P E C I A L   O F F E R

Do you need more than just a budget to manage your renovation project? Do you want to keep track of your space plans, contractor bids, and scope of work? Our 30+ page printable Home Improvement Planner can help you manage your project like a pro.

As a reader of our blog, enjoy 10% off with code TAKE10

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With your renovation budget and plans clearly laid out, you can minimize the surprises and keep your project under control.

Next week, I hope to show you progress on our room. For now, hop over to the One Room Challenge blog and see what the rest of the Guest Participants are up to.

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