Budgeting the project

Project interior design by LDa Architecture & Interiors; Photos: Sean Litchfield Photography

Budgeting the costs of design and construction is an important first step to help you avoid surprises and frustration. Share with your architect your budgetary goals and constraints. Only with full knowledge of your budget can your architect design within your constraints and allocate your project money wisely.


Although much is done to research the site of your project or to predict conditions in an existing building before renovation, there are sometimes surprises that are not revealed until demolition or construction. Examples of these hidden conditions are poor soil, underground tanks or piping, plumbing leaks or inadequacies, asbestos, mold, structural deficiencies, and insect damage. Leave extra room in your budget (a “construction contingency”) to cover the cost of resolving these problems. Depending on the project’s size and complexity, a reasonable contingency is between five and 10 percent of the total cost of construction.

Another type of contingency you should budget for is called the “client contingency.” Reversing or remaking decisions about the design after construction begins is very costly because your builder must reschedule his or her subcontractors, remove and rebuild areas already completed, and quickly obtain materials or components not currently onsite.

On the other hand, the opportunity to do things right should include the occasional good idea or change of mind as an anticipated cost in the budget.