How to renovate on a budget

Budget in a cushion

Follow every step correctly and you still may blow your budget.

That's because most renovation projects are bound to cost more than you think. Always pad your estimate.

"If you’re very good at specifying things — and not changing any decisions — 10% can work," says Dean Bennett, president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction Inc. in Castle Rock, Colo. “Otherwise, 25% is reasonable."

When setting a cushion, keep this in mind: "The older the home, the more surprises," Bennett says.

You might find water infiltration issues, electrical systems that aren’t up to code or structural problems.

If it looks like the home’s previous owners did some projects that are in questionable condition, or if there appears to be a lot of uninspected work, make a bigger cushion.