For the past year we’ve been slowly finishing the basement in our now three-year-old home.  At first we decided to take the pay-as-you-go approach and so we hired a contractor to frame the basement last July.

But six months later our project hadn’t progressed at all – it was difficult to line someone up to just do one stage at a time – so we decided to bite the bullet and get a quote from the same contractor to finish the basement in one shot.

Related: Our $35,000 basement renovation and why we paid someone else to do it

He quoted $35,000 to complete the basement – which he said would take roughly six weeks – and got started in late March.  We took out a home equity line of credit so that we could pay the initial and subsequent deposits as the project moved along.

Everything hummed along until Easter when one thing after another began to delay our renovation.  Flooring, cabinets, countertops – you name it, we had to wait for it.  We were already $25,000 in and I was starting to get concerned that the renovation would never be finished or that the final cost would come in at twice the original quote.

But after eight long months our project finally wrapped up on the weekend and now we have the basement we’ve been waiting for since we moved in.

Basement renovation

All that was left was the final bill and I was shocked when I was told it was only $7,500 – not the $10,000+ that I expected.  That’s right, our project actually came in under budget!

In The Wealthy Barber Returns, author David Chilton said the most expensive words in the English language are, “while we’re at it.”  He’s talking about home renovations and our tendency to take a simple project, like replacing the kitchen countertops, and add to it with new cabinets, appliances, and flooring “while we’re at it.”

Related: The Diderot Effect – The curse of upgrading your lifestyle

That’s how a $5,000 renovation can turn into a $25,000 renovation.  In our case, I was worried that our $35,000 renovation would turn into a $50,000 renovation as I hadn’t made a deposit since April and there was a lot more work to be done.

Fortunately, we got what we wanted and the contractor gave us a break because of how long the project took him to complete.

Final thoughts

Most experts say to take your renovation budget and add 10 percent for any extras or surprises that come along.  Lucky for us, the final bill came in nearly 10 percent less than the original quote – shocking, I know.

Related: Home renovations – do they pay off?

And since the project ended up taking so long we essentially ended up using the pay-as-you-go approach anyway and we’ll have the line of credit paid off sooner than expected.

So there you have it – a home renovation story that didn’t end up over budget or become an out of control nightmare.


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