Budgeting for even a basic repair project can feel overwhelming. How are you supposed to know exactly how much you’ll need to spend on materials? And what about tools you don’t have on hand? To complicate matters, sometimes you need to pay for a permit, or call in a pro.
One of the first steps to finding out how much your repair project is going to cost is determining if it’s something you can tackle on your own. You can use this flowchart to determine if you should go the DIY route or hire a professional. If you plan to go with a pro, you’ll want to note their services in column A and add their total estimate to column B. Hot tip: If they give you an hourly rate, ask them for a ballpark for how long they expect the project to take. This will give you a more realistic number for column B.
If you’re going to flex your DIY muscles, you can skip columns A and B and move on to column C. To figure out what you’ll need, Chelsea Johnson, a DIY and renovations blogger with Making Manzanita, says you’ll want to track down a credible online guide to whatever repair you’re planning. “The tutorial should include a list of tools and materials required.” Add any tools and materials (things like paint, caulk, or drywall) you don’t already own — plus how much they’ll cost, based on your favorite home improvement retailer’s website — to columns C through H. To get a really reliable idea of what these items will run you, Johnson suggests also adding everything to your online shopping cart. That way, you can also account for tax and, if necessary, shipping and handling. Add these costs to your spreadsheet too.
Even if you decide you’re going to outsource some (or all) of your repair project to a professional, you may discover that there are some things you’ll still want or need to buy for yourself. So don’t skip columns C through H if you’re going the pro route, and be sure to add anything you’ll be paying for out of pocket to your budget to keep track of what you’re spending — you’d be surprised how quickly it can add up.
But wait: There are likely more costs beyond just labor and tools/materials. (Sorry!) Bill Samuel, owner of real estate development company Blue Ladder Development, points out that you may also have to budget for things like permits (columns I and J) and even dumpster rentals (columns K and L). Does your project involve these costs? If you’re doing demolition, clearing out damage as part of a repair, or adding an addition onto your property as part of the process, the answer is likely yes. You’ll want to add these costs to their respective columns, as well.
At this point, you’ve probably quickly realized just how much home repairs can cost. Beyond using our Google Sheet for budgeting out each individual project as it comes up, you can also think about saving up for the ones that aren’t necessary — yet. When budgeting for home repairs, Scott Langmack, chief operating officer at the home data and analytics platform Kukun, says a good rule of thumb is to plan to spend 1 percent of the cost of your home on repairs for every 10 years the house has been standing.
“So a new house should have very few repairs, and the ones that are needed are often covered with warranties,” he says. Meanwhile, “a 30-year-old home will need a lot: a new roof, likely new heating, water heating, air conditioning, exterior painting, etc.” Rather than getting caught off guard by your next home improvement project, start saving now and create an emergency account for rainy day funds.
And speaking of not getting caught off guard, even the best laid-out budget can sometimes fall short, which is why you should expect to spend around 25 percent more than you might immediately think to plan for. “People typically go over budget by 20 to 30 percent, partly due to [the] cost of unexpected and unforeseen problems, and partly due to selecting more expensive items, like faucets, sinks, and appliances,” explains Langmack. In row 35, our spreadsheet accounts for that excess, and in row 36, it gives you a total estimated figure including that buffer.