How to Keep Construction Projects on Budget

Articles & Interest

By Maria Donohue & Sean Donohue of The Finishers Toronto Renovations

As a RenoMark Renovator, we pride ourselves as professionals who always deliver on what we promise. Occasionally, renovation projects encounter problems that were not anticipated and may affect the overall budget of the project. A RenoMark Renovator will work with you in that situation to ensure your budget is respected.

When you are getting estimates for your work, it’s important to be aware of the differences in prices of materials, as these differences may get washed away when a problem arises. A professional renovator will account for these price differences and options in their estimate and carry contingency costs to properly address problems. Your worst case scenario is having someone take shortcuts and underestimate your project, this will result in extra work and extra costs down the road.

How do I keep my project on budget?

Many people believe that projects go over budget after the project is underway, but an over-budget renovation begins with your first estimate. There are four common situations that can affect the cost of your renovation if they are not properly addressed.

1. Low-cost Estimates & Inaccuracies

Part of establishing a renovation contract includes determining your finishes, a description of the project, and a list of materials and products to be used. The cost of these products will often differ depending on the brand, dimensions, colours, and materials used. The decisions made regarding the materials and products should be properly documented in the estimate and contract. Existing conditions and potential issues should also be clearly documented.
Some people choose their renovator based on the lowest price. This approach is not always the best because there may be items missed and potential problems that have not been identified and included. You may end up being charged the true cost of the project at the end. It is important to receive estimates from at least three renovators to compare estimates – if someone is offering a price too good to be true, it probably is. 

2. Missing Details in the Construction Contract

The estimate should contain a scope of work or a detailed description of the work that you’d like to have done. You need to know what you’re paying for and if the renovator has not provided a detailed description of what’s in the scope, then it may be forgotten during the project.
Your estimate and contract should also identify the cost of potential issues via ‘allowances’ or ‘contingency’ line items. These items identify the potential cost should a problem arise. If there aren’t any problems, then that’s even better! You get to keep your money. This high level of attention to detail is a key differentiator between an experienced renovator and one that is not.

3. Changes during Construction

Almost every project has a change. It may be the result of you wanting something different, finding a new product you didn’t see before, or dealing with existing conditions. If these changes are identified before any work is done, then the impact to the cost should be minimal however, if the change is identified after the renovation started there may be a cost implication or a delay to the project completion. 
This can be scary, but it shouldn’t be. As mentioned above, an experienced renovator will have included a contingency clause in the contract and explained how changes that impact the scope of work such as, materials chosen, labour, and associated costs are addressed.

4. Unforeseen Problems

Unfortunately, unforeseen problems are inevitable. The level of experience and professionalism of your renovator will be your strongest asset in reducing these costs. Working with a renovator who is familiar with your type of renovation project will identify potential issues ahead of time. They can also help you find cost-effective or creative solutions to fix these problems.

At the end of the day, you should compare your quotes not only based on price but also based on the detailed scope of work. By doing so, you’ll quickly see that the lowest priced quote has most likely left many costs unaccounted for. You’ll be able to make a better decision in choosing the right renovator for your project.

If this column has generated any thoughts or questions regarding a past or future renovation please send your questions to and look for our answers to your questions in the next Ask a RenoMark Renovator column. I look forward to hearing from you.

Maria and Sean are a husband and wife team with 15 years of experience in house and condominium renovations serving the GTA. They are proud RenoMark Renovators and they are known to finish on time and on budget. Follow them on Instagram @thefinishersTO or check out their work at