Setting a renovation budget: where to start

Thinking about how much things cost is never on anyone’s list of fun activities – especially when you’re setting a renovation budget for a  kitchen, bedroom or bathroom refurbishment (trust me, I know).

But, it’s imperative that you do in fact sit down with any loved ones you live with and crunch some numbers before any works begin, so you don’t get into any difficulty, or have to halt building works half way through – a nightmare best avoided.

Before spending top whack, however, it’s worth considering how long you intend to stay put in your current property.

For example, if it’s your forever home and you have a one-off opportunity to design the kitchen of your dreams, you may want to invest in bespoke cabinetry with a high-level of craftsmanship to ensure its longevity. But if you know you’re likely to move out in five years, you’ll probably want to spend less on cabinetry, but perhaps more on items you can take with you such as a range cooker or fridge-freeze.

So, where do you start? How much do things actually cost? Well, if you’re just about to set out on your renovation journey one of our fab writers for Kitchens Bedrooms & Bathrooms magazine – Jill Morgan – has spoken to designers and industry experts to find out what to expect, and broken down how much of your budget to allocate on the essentials as a starting guide.

Of course, all projects are different, but we hope this gets you on your way to creating a solid renovation plan…

setting a renovation budget

This modular kitchen from Brayer Design uses Zoffany’s Double Silver units. Price on application

30% labour

If you’re doing a large project, it may seem obvious, but the largest proportion of your renovation budget is likely to be spent on employing builders and other skilled professionals to carry out the work.

But remember, while it’s understandable to want to go for the cheapest quote (be sure to get at least three) consider the overall project and results. It may sound clichéd, but it’s true – it’s always best to go for quality over quantity.

To make sure you’re not landed with a nasty surprise, before anything gets underway, it’s always worth ensuring that rates quoted are for a fixed amount and not on a day-rate basis as this can prove costly.

Also find out whether VAT is to be added to the price given and if so, make sure any quotation has a VAT registration number on it and a VAT receipt is provided when you make any payments.

A little tip for finding a builder – look at reviews, talk to neighbours who have recently had work down and be sure to visit previous work of any potential tradesmen before signing on the dotted line.

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15% building materials

Unsurprisingly, these can eat up a large amount of any project’s renovation budget, no matter the size.

Jill discovered that most construction companies or trades will source and provide suitable materials, which are usually itemised on a detailed quote, but it can pay to do your own research, just in case.

Reclaimed tiles, bricks, and beams can often be found in architectural salvage yards or listed online at reasonable rates – but double check suitability, quantity, and soundness with your contractor before buying.

setting a renovation budget

The Inspira range from Roca. Prices start from £471.95

13% sanitaryware

Choosing fittings can be baffling at first, who knew there were so many different finishes of taps to choose from these days?

With so much variety offered at affordable prices, deciding quickly is tempting. For a more tailored solution, research what’s on offer yourself and look for products which are stylish while offering the technical specification required.

Showrooms, online brochures, and retailer sites are all valuable sources of information.

10% doors and glazing

When I speak to homeowners for the magazine’s homes section – almost all of them have ‘lots of natural light’ as an item on their must-have list.

This means, a lot of their renovation budget is taken up with bi-fold or sliding doors, skylights or even glazed roofs.

If this sounds like you, expect to pay more for options with high-tech features such as triple glazing, self-cleaning glass, or tinted panes designed to trap solar energy.

renovation budget planning

Centre-pivot styles from Velux start from £285.60

10% plumbing and heating

For a lot of us adding an ensuite or wetroom or upgrading a spa bath or power shower is the ultimate dream, right?

However, doing this can impact existing plumbing and the efficiency of water heating, so take advice early on to establish whether the present arrangements are adequate, or if they need to be upgraded – which could greatly affect this percentage.

(Changing the layout of pipes will always add more on to your bill!)

If you’re extending, extra rooms will also require heat. With numerous designs available – such as underfloor heating, electric and water-heated radiators, and heat-source pumps – it is worth weighing up installation and running costs before works start.

A handy tool to get an idea of how much heat a system will need to generate is a BTU (British thermal units) calculator, such as the one on

7% flooring and wallcoverings

Choosing beautiful tiles, carpet, or wood flooring can prove a costly business, especially if you plan on having a marble-clad bathroom.

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So, really you can spend however much you want – be it little or large – but we think this is a realistic amount.

Of course, there is no point in spending on quality flooring or wall coverings if the sub surface is poor. Coverings are only as good as the surface on which they’re laid. Don’t cut corners – they may be cheap, but you’ll have to do it twice.

bathroom floor

Calcatta Strip and Timber Strip brown ceramic tiles, both around £31.30 per sq m, Wow Design

5% planning

Sadly, even before a single brick has been laid, you’ll most likely have to part ways with some cash.

For example, submitting a planning application to alter a single dwelling will cost £206 in England, £202 in Scotland, and £190 in Wales.

The amount is based on the value of the work being executed – for instance, on a project valued between £40,000 up to £50,000 the fee would be £719. The need for any project to meet building regulations will also need approval, for which you once again will have to pay a fee.

You might also be faced with fees for architects who have drawn up the plans, or if you’ve hired a private building control inspector.

5% electrics and lighting

Again, every project is different – if you’re completely rewiring your house, the cost will most likely be more than this.

However, for standard improvements, such as rewiring a kitchen or installing power into a new extension, expect to pay out around a twentieth of your renovation budget on electrical services.

(Bear in mind this figure will rise significantly if you choose high-end lighting and intelligent home systems that require more complex wiring.)

renovation budget plans

Priory Décor Cross Design tiles, £40 per sq m, The London Tile Company

5% fixtures and fittings

Although they may appear insignificant at first glance, your choice of door handles, sockets, and light fittings can really change your room’s look – and, collectively, make a sizeable difference to the budget.

If you favour adjustable mood lighting, for example, expect this percentage of the budget to double due to the various automation controls and light fittings needed.

+10% contingency

Now then, the contingency, the thing we mention in every advice article within KBB as it’s so important.

No matter if you want to spend most of your money on a freestanding copper bath, and only a tiny amount on the rest of the fittings, or want to have incredible appliances in your new kitchen, but aren’t too bothered about the cabinetry.

You will always need a contingency of 10% of whatever your final renovation budget is, as you’d be very lucky if any unexpected problems didn’t arise. (Not to scare you, or anything!)

Featured image: This modern kitchen-diner mixes Urbo and Metro matt lacquer cabinetry from Roundhouse. Prices start at £35,000.

Post updated on: 01/07/21

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