Renovating the 100 year old farm house my mom grew up in – making it a place for us to grow old in.

I’ve received several of these questions via email because I guess I’ve given the impression of having this renovation under control… Here are my tips for budgeting a renovation, though there really is only so much you can do. My number one tip is the most obvious, know all of your costs before you start and then there really shouldn’t be any surprises – this is where anyone who has any experience with a renovation laughs because we all know that that really isn’t technically possible…


  • Expect the worst, hope for the best. There is no more clear and cut advice I can give. I expected the worst and hope for the best when we went to the bank for our construction loan and we’re gonna end up between those two numbers. Not as low as I’d hoped for but we probably won’t have to go back for more money so I’m calling it a win.
  • Get bids. How did I figure out how much we would spend? Part of it was experience (this was not my first rodeo), part of it was getting bids – seriously, call sub contractors even if you plan on doing the work yourself, get those quotes so you have a base to start from then, if you do the work yourself, you also know exactly how much you’re saving/paying yourself. Part of it was also keeping very specific material lists utilizing the Home Depot website and the Menards website.
  • Utilize online resources. I was able to plan my budget down to the nail using the List on, it was (and is) rather awesome. Lowes and Menards both have similar parts of their websites and then you can compare them spot on to see which one gives you a better deal. I’ve done this with each individual project as well as the house as a whole. I’m in north country and Menards blows everybody out of the water when it comes to cost, however Home Depot beats Menards every time when it comes to lighting or electrical (don’t ask me why, its just the way it is) the point is I was able to get the best deals and know exactly where I was going to buy each thing and how much it was going to cost before I ever started.
  • Utilize sales. It just so happened that the tub I was planning on buying from Menards for $899 came on sale for $699 not long after we started this project. What were the chances of that! I found out about it because I was religiously watching the Menards website for sales and ta dah! I bought all of the ressessed lights for our entire house on the Menards website on sale for a total of $45 for ALL of them, crazy. I also got the majority of my plumbing on sale and, when I picked my siding, I also got that on sale too. It pays to keep an eye on all of the sales.
  • Plan, Plan, Plan. I can’t urge this enough the better you plan the better you will know exactly how much you’re going to spend. For instance, the faucets I’m buying for two of my bathrooms are only $39 a piece – really good actually, however because they’re wall mount the hardware that goes in the wall for plumbing is nearly $70 a piece, OUCH. I hadn’t planned that, hadn’t realized it actually, my bad and suddenly the budget just had to get bigger. Enough of those things happen and this is how budgets run out of control.
  • Plan, Plan, Plan. Yup I’m gonna say that again and make another note here. We’re a good hour drive from a Home Depot or a Menards and I love to support my home town but it is REALLY hard on my budget. I averaged three trips a day into town (that’s ten miles total) to our local hardware store that week I ran the drains for the whole house. Better planning and I would have purchased everything I should have needed for that week at Menards when they had plumbing on sale. But plumbing is not my thing and my brain just didn’t work any farther then a few elbows down the line, I really tried to get everything I could possibly need but, in the end, my poor planning probably cost us over $500 that week.
  • Time Costs Money. I’ve chosen to spend money a couple of times now because we’re already behind schedule. We could have easily done the shingles ourselves but we just DID NOT have the time. So I hired the roof done, I also had to hire some work on the garage to get done too, I wasn’t confident putting up trusses and we needed to get it done. Hello workers, goodbye budget. So, there it is, my stubborn panic about being behind schedule has cost us. I know, however, that I will never regret hiring those jobs out and I am crossing my fingers that I will be able to afford hiring out the taping and mudding of the sheet rock when that time comes. Of course, we shall see!
  • Take Your Time. Yeah, lol, sure, right, take your time, as if that’s even possible, but I have to say it here. If you take your time then you don’t make poor rash decisions that ALWAYS seem to blow your budget. Here’s a good example where the window cost in our house nearly tripled in a matter of twenty seconds. Standing there in Menards, picking out all of my beautiful single hung windows when there is suddenly the mention of egress and how none of my single hung windows probably qualify and how I should probably (according to code etc) buy egress windows for all of my bedrooms. Sighs. So, I went ahead and purchased five egress windows at triple the cost of the single hung windows. How do I feel about this decision now? Shitty, I wish I had just stuck with my plan. Was it the right thing to do? Technically it probably was the right thing to do as code dictates say that you need a solid plane of glass in each bedroom that measures a certain square footage… Still, this is gonna be our house until I die, that’s a good fifty years from now, we don’t live in a city, there are no codes I actually HAVE to go by. I wish I had just stuck to plan then all my windows would have matched and the budget wouldn’t have been blown and I wouldn’t be feeling pissy about the whole situation.
  • When in doubt DIY. Bathroom vanities are expensive, I already had all of mine in the form of three dressers that no one else wanted that needed some elbow grease and TLC (that I refinished last summer). The basement kitchen cabinets were given to me as someone pulled them out of their house and didn’t want them. I got two of my sinks for a deal that included one of my main load panels and all of my heaters. One of the sinks I’m using was already in the house so I’m only going to have to buy two of my five sinks new. I got two of our showers at a major, major, major discount because Joe used to work at the factory that makes them so I only had to go and buy one other shower. I found gorgeous chrome cabinet hardware for a TREMENDOUS deal on (who knew?!). I’m refinishing just about all of the salvageable floors in the house that aren’t particle board- my dad gave me a pile of unfinished maple hardwood (lucky girl, I know) for the places I have to cover up. I got lucky and found two outdoor lights that were on the telephone poles in the yard that I’m re-purposing above my kitchen sink and above my master bathroom sink. Phew! And a lot more! lol I’m keeping the lighting simple, using ressessed cans wherever I can, I only have two “chandeliers” to buy and I hate ceiling fans so lighting fixtures are going to cost me very little compared to most home renovations.

My Budget. The good, the bad and the ugly. It’s really hard to know everything and that’s really when things get out of control. After nearly a year of planning I still ended up shooting too low in a couple of areas. The worst hit was the garage, I had expected to spend around 5 thousand (maybe 8 at the most) and all in our garage cost us nearly 13 thousand. The building from Menards was 8 and the slab was 3, after that the renting of the telehandler and the hiring of the muscle and misc put it at over 13 thousand. Ugh.

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