How Much Should You Budget for Your Home Improvement Design?

How Much Should You Budget for Your Home Improvement Design?

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When most homeowners think about a remodeling project, they imagine guys knocking down walls, setting tile, putting up new cabinets and basically all the building aspects of the project. While the remodeling phase usually gets the most attention (mainly through the dust, noise, and inconvenience it causes), the remodeling phase can only happen after a design has been completed and approved.

Even Small Projects Require Design Decisions

Even the smallest remodeling projects will require some design work. Whether it be picking out paint and tile colors to deciding on the style of cabinet doors you would like, each of these decisions falls within the realm of design. On a larger project, you’ll want to work directly with a professional remodel designer who is specifically trained to help flesh out your remodel vision into practical instructions for the build team.

Think Design/Build

Often your medium to larger sized remodel companies have trained designers and architects on staff or, at least may be able to make recommendations. If possible, look for one of these firms, which are called Design/Build Remodel contractors. Having the design and construction professionals working on the same page from the very beginning of the project results in a faster, more organized and streamline process.

If your chosen remodel contractor does not come with a designer, you’ll need to choose a freelance designer and budget appropriately. The best way to approach the task of budgeting for a designer is in terms of the overall remodel budget and what percentage of it should be allotted for design.

So, How Much?

The issue with designers (as well as remodel contractors, architects, bookkeepers, lawyers, mechanics and, heck, just about any small service-oriented business) is that the hourly rates and services offered are all as varied as the individuals offering them. If one considers that designers are very much on the artistic side of the spectrum when it comes to remodel planning and execution, they are, by definition, not very duplicable. Therefore, your first and most important consideration should be whether or not you are working with the right designer for your whole house, kitchen or bath renovation.

Exacerbating the issue is the fact that many designers are not great business people or time managers, which means that when they start charging by the hour, things can get very scary and very expensive in a hurry. It is often a good idea to interview designers with a budget in mind. I usually recommend setting the budget as a percentage of the overall construction budget for the remodel.

I would say that for a small remodel budget, allotting 3%-6% of the overall budget to design would be enough. On a $15,000 bathroom remodel, for instance, $400 – $900 should be sufficient to cover the cost of a designer for simple items like paint color, tile design and maybe even specifying a style of fixture.

On a mid to high-level remodeling project, 5%-10% of the overall construction budget would be a fair amount to allot to design, as the design needs would be greater and would likely encompass more duties for the designer, such as finish specifications, shopping trips, etc. So, on a $150,000 room addition, $7,500 to $15,000 would be a reasonable budget for design.

Don’t Pay Hourly!

While interviewing and deciding on a designer, work to eliminate the hourly rate if at all possible. Ask the designer if they would be willing to put together a “package” that would include most, if not all of the designs tasks needed to successfully build out the project. Often, this package will still be accompanied by an hourly rate that will kick in if the parameters of the “design package” are exceeded. But, this approach should help to keep the budget under control to a great extent.