You've probably spent the past two months (or more!) thumbing through all the design magazines, carefully clipping photos. This fixture here and that color there. Maybe you've already started daydreaming about the first party you're going to throw after the work is done right down to the food and drink pairings.
Before you clip one more photo or pick up one more paint chip or tile sample, there's one step that you absolutely should not overlook.
Sure, it's not as fun as picking out cabinetry and countertops, but carefully considering a budget will keep your dream project from turning into the stuff of nightmares. With the national average cost of an upscale kitchen remodel just north of $53,000, according to Remodeling Magazine's 2013 Cost vs. Value Report, it's important to set the rails on your project before a single design and installation professional walks in.
It usually starts with a single question: How long do I plan on staying in my current home? If you're planning on a stay of five years or less, all remodeling work is really an improvement on investment to increase the resale value of your home down the line. If you're looking to stay longer, all home improvements are about comfort and lifestyle.
Do your research.
Visiting showrooms and searching online is valuable, but only if you frame it within your current needs and financial readiness. The good news is that you probably already have a pretty good idea of your personal taste and style, so the goal here is to educate yourself about options and costs. If you know what your lifestyle needs are vs. what financial reources will allow, you'll save time, money -- and heartache. Determine the objectives behind your remodel before you start choosing design elements.
Figuring out what to spend, where.
Design elements like interior fixtures fittings on cabinets and that elaborate crown molding that caught your eye can get expensive quickly. As you're developing your budget, think carefully about each design element will contribute to the overall functionality of the space. Beware of fads and trends. The average kitchen renovation should be forward-thinking and everything should still be functional and stylish for the next 12 - 15 years. The colors and textures of today probably have a short shelf life. The last thing you want is for your renovation to feel dated before it's fully paid for, so think about how each piece fits into your lifestyle. You can keep the aesthetics high and the prices low.
Budget for the unexpected.
Last minute changes cost time and can bust budgets. The same goes for those surprises hiding beneath the paint and under the floors, especially if you have an older home. Prepare financially by building in a cushion for labor costs and incidentals. A rule of thumb is 20% of whatever you have budgeted for labor costs.
Track, track, track
Once the project begins, track costs and fees closely and compare them against your budgeted amounts. Your contractor will let you know as you're approaching the limits you've set for each portion of the project so you can adjust as necessary. When you're seeking out design and remodeling professionals, provide them with a detailed list of work that you'd like to have performed.
A budget doesn't need to be ironclad, but stick to the rails that you've set. You'll keep everything on track and your stress levels low by asking the right questions and knowing exactly what you can (and can't) afford.