Budgeting for your renovation project

Managing the budget of a project can be incredibly stressful, as anyone who’s ever watched more than a couple of episodes of Grand Designs, will know.  More often than not, it’s a question of when, rather than if, they run out of money.   So how can you reduce this stress and work within your budget?  The answer lies in the mindset: ‘if in doubt, add a figure into the budget’, rather than hoping that leaving it out will somehow spirit the cost away.

Your Budget – Core Costs

Building work is the big one, and the area many clients concentrate on most. That’s the bricks and mortar, the plumbing and pipe work, the wires, the carpentry, the bones and the stuffing.

But there are several other key costs which come with renovating a property, from professional fees and mobilisation costs, to landscaping and the all-important contingency.


Tanya Bentley Contemporary Interior Designer Cornwall

Professional Fees

Depending on the scale and complexity of your project, you might need have a fairly sizeable team of professionals to bring your vision to life. This could include an architect, planning consultant, lighting designer, landscape gardener and environmental consultant, not forgetting the interior designer of course!

It’s also wise to factor in the costs of applying for planning permission and building control, plus any surveys – think asbestos, bats and drains.  It all adds up, resulting in professional fees typically amounting to between 10-20% of the overall build cost.

Mobilisation Costs

Think of these as the items needed to help with the smooth-running of your site; they’re normally borne by the main contractor who will then kindly pass them onto you.

If there’ll be no working toilet at the property, then there’s the weekly rental of a Portaloo.  (Top tip – if you’re still living in the house, you might want the builders to use a Portaloo anyway….. ) . Scaffolding, skip hire, waste disposal and temporary fencing for large sites can total thousands of pounds, making them a real sting at the end of your project if they’ve not been factored in.

Tanya Bentley Contemporary Interior Designer Cornwall

Furniture & Fitting Out

Interior designers refer to this as FF&E, which stands for Furniture, Fittings & Equipment.

Are you planning to re-use all your old furniture? It seems unlikely.  At the very least, if you’ve moved to a bigger house, you probably don’t have enough and those pine beds and Ikea lamps you bought 20 years ago, risk a look more reminiscent of “student digs” than “luxury home”, once the renovation is complete.

Fully equipping a house with well-made furniture and good quality furnishings, from sofas to beds, duvets to door knobs, can easily cost in excess of £100k.  It’s a big one to plan out, but unless you have a bottomless pit, it’s time worth investing.

Tanya Bentley Contemporary Interior Designer Cornwall


Our garden designer friends won’t thank us if we don’t mention the costs of hard landscaping and planting. Budgets can only extend so far, but if you’re able to look after your outdoors at the same time as building and decorating your interior, then your home will be all the happier for it.

Remember too that if you’re planning major building work, your garden is going to have a hard time.  On a constrained site with limited outdoor space, it may well be completely destroyed.  Even if landscaping your dream garden isn’t doable in phase one, do allow some money for resurrecting a semblance of the garden or a terrace when the builders have packed up and gone.


One golden renovation rule: always add a contingency. Bumps in the road happen, especially when renovating older properties. As the layers are peeled back, the unexpected is often discovered – the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly too – derailing the most detailed budget.

Everything from a few rotten ceiling joists to discovering that the main sewer runs through your garden and is broken (as happened on our Fowey Townhouse project) are all possible scenarios requiring some reserve funds. And if you end up not needing them, then lucky you, and into the celebratory drink pot those pennies can go!

Budgets are one of the most important topics we discuss with our clients, right from our first meeting.  Ultimately, for a project to run smoothly from start to finish, the financial planning needs to be realistic and managed properly.