How to: Prevent renovations going over budget

Renovations can be costly, with 41% of Aussie home owners admitting their DIY project exceeded the original renovation budget.

Most people struggle to stick to a budget during a renovation, according to realestate.com.au’s latest Consumer Intentions Study.

Almost half of 2,343 people surveyed exceeded their budget by more than 10%.

Christine Ghrayche, of One x One Interiors, says a lack of planning can often mean costs are higher than renovators anticipate.

“Renovating your home is an exciting experience, but this excitement can cause people to get ahead of themselves, leading to poor planning, bad decisions and ultimately a less than perfect finished product,” she says.

Here are just some of the expenses that renovators run into and Ghrayche’s tips on how to deal with these issues.

Keeping tradie costs down

The fees charged by tradespeople were higher than 39% of respondents expected.

Ghrayche says if a tradesperson is standing around your house while you’re trying to make a decision, that’s going to cost you money.

Similarly, if a tradesperson has to fix a mistake – like incorrect measurements for example – that will also blow out the budget.

“If you have better planning, you would pick up on mistakes that need to be fixed by tradespeople, therefore bringing your costs down.”


Renovation costs can blow out when tradespeople have to be called back to fix problems.

Materials, fittings & finishes can be costly

The cost of materials, fittings and finishes ended up higher than expected for 36% of the renovators surveyed.

Ghrayche says people often end up paying more for products as they need to replace initially cheaper materials later on.

“There’s an old saying that the poor man pays twice. If you went online and found a cheaper product, it may be cheaper and you may think you’re saving money but if it’s an inferior product, it may break or malfunction and you’ll end up paying more to replace it.”

Avoid falling into this trap by thoroughly researching different products on the market.


Skimping on renovation materials can cost more in the long run.

Ghrayche suggests talking to tradespeople, visiting different showrooms or engaging an interior designer if you can afford it.

“An interior designer is a specialist who will know the differences between different products on the market and can do all that leg work for you as to what the best product is going to be,” she says.

“Hiring an interior designer in some instances can actually save you money. In my business I have relationships with various tradesman and showrooms and have access to trade discounts which can offset the fees of an interior designer.

“If you walk into a showroom without a plan in place you’re going to get overexcited by all the choice, and not having that planning in place can blow out the budget.”

Budget for the unexpected

Unforeseen issues, such as the removal of asbestos, blew out 24% of respondents’ budgets.

Ghrayche says most pre-1970s houses will have asbestos, so many renovators will need to factor in the cost of removing this dangerous building material.

There are some tell-tale signs of asbestos fibres that any professional builder will pick up on, such as hairline cracks in the walls. DIY-ers may miss these clues.


Qualified builders will be able to warn renovators about asbestos.

Another common issue novice renovators run into is creating structural issues with the removal of load-bearing walls.

“People are wanting to remove walls to create open-plan living – at the moment that’s a big trend in homes, and sometimes they don’t factor in that the wall is load-bearing, which means that the wall supports the ceiling. If the wall is load-bearing and you want to remove it, you need to put reinforcements in the ceiling prior to removing so that the ceiling doesn’t fall down,” Ghrayche says.

Kitchen renovations costs can also exceed the budget when measurements are incorrect.

“Not having a comprehensive plan in place before you begin renovating can also cause issues in regards to various measurements. For example, kitchen cabinetry could be ordered incorrectly resulting in a kitchen that basically doesn’t fit the space,” she says.

“Measurements are also incredibly important when it comes to selecting furniture and decor – furniture that is oversized can make the space seem smaller than it is, and furniture that is too small can make the space look empty.

“It all comes back to planning.”

Floor plan changes

Off the plan

Floor plan changes can be costly. Picture: Getty Images

Changes to the overall specifications, for example, adding a room, caused 17% of renovators’ budgets to blow out.

Ghrayche says 90% of the time with proper planning you shouldn’t need to make drastic changes to a floor plan.

There is a small percentage of people – particularly those dealing with apartments – who will need to make changes to overall specifications.

“In an apartment recently, there was a bath and shower combo that we were wanting to convert to just a shower. So the bathroom was completely gutted, and it turned out that we couldn’t flatten the floor completely because the ceiling from the apartment below and the slabbed floor from the apartment we were working in had a slight step which was built under the bath,” she says.

“So that did cause some angst with my client, but there was nothing we could do. There was some wiring and plumbing in that small step, in that cavity, so the builders had obviously put that step in to hide that plumbing.”

The best thing renovators can do is allow a small buffer in their renovation budget to take care of any unforeseen issues.

If the money is not needed it can always go towards a nice new piece of furniture or artwork for the freshly renovated home.

Nectar Mortgages PTY LTD is a Corporate Credit Representative (Credit Representative 446035) of Custom Equity Group PTY LTD (Australian Credit Licence Number 383666).