Managing The Construction Budget

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The construction budget is an extremely important topic to anyone building a home, renovating, living in a fixer upper… you name it! No matter the size and scope of your project, the budget will always be a big determining factor for what you can and cannot do! It’s imperative that you be flexible during the project because the budget will ebb and flow as time goes on. Being flexible to make changes and adjust were crucial during construction here at the farmhouse! So today I thought I’d share a bit more about this part of the re-build! I’ll share the details on how we adapted our plans and the design choices based on budgeting issues that came up.

tips and advice to help manage a construction budget

Budgeting Issues

TIME – Our construction phase drug out over 2 years. This ate away at our budget in part because of recurring costs to the builder. But it also meant more out of pocket costs to us as homeowners in the form of the interest payments we made on our construction loan.

PRICE INCREASES ON MATERIALS – We started construction in 2017, and did not move into the farmhouse until 2019. So when Hurricane Florence made landfall in September of 2018, we were still under construction. If you lived in NC during Florence, you remember very vividly the destruction it brought to this area. Many here are still recovering. Luckily, we avoided the flooding our neighbors faced, and we only had minor damages to the floors from a leak. But the price increase of lumber definitely affected our construction budget, and it added at least a month to our construction phase.

BUILDER RELATED – To put it nicely, we would not recommend the builder we chose. I blogged more about our experiences here in a post titled “Our Construction Horror Story”. If that title doesn’t tell ya how I feel about that time in our lives, I don’t know what else will! His communication was terrible, and his estimates were very loose estimates. And the actual bill was almost always significantly more than he estimated. Budgeting with him was a nightmare! My advice, really do you research when picking a builder!

Budget Cuts We Made During Construction

During construction, we made the following cuts to adjust to budgeting issues that came up.

1) The Road / Driveway – We eliminated cost of adding rock to our road electing to delay this cost until we were able to do it ourselves. Last year we put in three loads of crushed concrete, which helped but didn’t fix the road long term. So this year we added an additional 5 loads. It’s much improved, and we are hoping to add a layer of finish rock in the near future. We know this will be a recurring expense, but it won’t need anywhere near this much work every year. It was just in very bad shape when we moved in!

White farmhouse at the end of an old dirt road
renovated farmhouse at the end of an old dirt road

2) Beverage Cooler – We decided to hold off on purchasing the beverage cooler until this past year. It was definitely more of a want than a need! And I don’t regret holding off on this purchase to save a little on our appliance allowance. It wasn’t a huge expense, but everything adds up cutting this expense and this helped us balance our budget. Here’s a link to the one we ended up purchasing. We’ve had it for a few months now with no complaints. It’s quiet, keeps drinks chilled, doesn’t ice up, and was very affordable!

budget friendly beverage cooler in farmhouse coffee bar
budget friendly beverage cooler in farmhouse coffee bar

3) Professional Tub Refinishing – So I have to start off by saying that this one wasn’t our choice! I do not recommend skimping on refinishing an antique clawfoot tub. Our builder determined there wasn’t enough money in the budget to pay for the tub to be professionally refinished. And I found out about his decision when I visited the jobsite and saw his niece “DIY-ing” it. At the time I was so upset! You could see raised ridges in the finish and some of them were actually quite sharp. I sanded those down and did my best to fix these areas with a tub refinishing kit. Now a couple years later, you can see spots where the finish is chipped away. So eventually we will want to have this re-done. Sometimes you save money in the short term, but end up spending more to fix it in the long term.

cast iron tub with reclaimed wood surround

4) Gas Logs in the Master – The chimney and the fireplace in our master bedroom is completely original to the house. We planned to add gas logs to this room originally. And cutting that from our budget ended up being one of the easier decisions to make when it came to cuts. Our rationale was that we can always go back and add gas logs in the future. While it would have been nice to have, especially on cold days like today, the gas logs were definitely a want and not a need.

reclaimed wood fireplace mantel in historic nc farmhouse
brick fireplace hearth and reclaimed wood mantle
brick fireplace hearth and reclaimed wood mantle

5) Fireplace and Gas Logs in Living Room – When we decided to cut out the gas logs for the master bedroom, it just made sense to cut the entire fireplace in the living room as well. And honestly, I’m glad we did. I’ve been dreaming up a new fireplace project that is totally different from what I originally had in mind! I hope to be sharing more of this later in the year…

6) Built-in Cubbie Area – Our original vision for this area was to install built-ins in this space. Think cubbies for the kid’s book bags, coats, shoes, etc. We cut these from the budget because we knew it was a project we could go back and do later on when the budget allowed. Currently we’re using this area to house this pretty painted storage cabinet. I have enjoyed being displaying one of my favorite vintage glass bottle collections here!

cottage style white painted cabinet and vintage glass jar collection

7) Custom Closet System in Master Closet – The original plan for our master closet was to install built-ins from the Ikea Pax line. And it’s actually still the plan in the near future, fingers crossed! We decided to hold off on this project because it was a pretty big investment for us. And luckily our closet is actually a decent size. We were able to put our dresser and a few storage racks to use temporarily. I didn’t want to install anything permanent when I knew we eventually would re-do this space, and it’s working for us for the time being. When we do tackle the closet, I’ll be sure to share all the details here on the blog!!

8) Apron Front Farmhouse Sink – This one was a hard decision to make! But at the end of the day, I just couldn’t justify the cost of an apron front sink. Even though I love them so! We ended up selecting this single bowl Kohler drop in sink for a fraction of the cost of an apron front sink. I love the single bowl, because I can fit huge pots in here!

white cast iron farmhouse sink that won't break your construction budget

9) Garbage Disposal – I’m secretly glad this item was cut, shhhh! Don’t tell my husband! (He knows how I feel about these… btw, it’s not exactly a secret over here!) Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they have their perks! But just knowing my family, I think having a garbage disposal would have been an excuse to not scrape food into the trash. Anything and everything would have gone down that thing, which would have been terrible for the septic system! Garbage disposals and septic systems don’t really mix that well… And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Things we prioritized during construction!

Even though we made some cuts and sacrifices to balance out our construction budget, there were many must haves that we really prioritized! I’ll share a few of these now…

1) Custom Trim – Our trimwork was one of the things we prioritized in our construction budget. And it’s also one of my favorite design choices we from the re-build! We chose to use 8″ tall pine boards for the baseboards. And our windows and doors have matching millwork that really complements the look and style of the farmhouse. I am glad we made this a priority because it makes a big impact on the look of each room! Also, this isn’t a project we would have wanted to go back and do ourselves.

farmhouse trim and craftsman style door
pine wood floors to keep you within your construction budget

2) Wood Flooring Throughout – I love the look of wood floors and all the character and warmth they bring to a space. I also love that they clean up easy, speaking as a mom of two littles! So this was an important design choice for us!! To stay close to the budget, we chose to go with pine which was much more of a budget friendly material. Plus I love the knots and the character that comes from it being a softer wood. Major confession coming… and this is gonna be a pretty polarizing statement, so prepare yourself in advance of this next sentence! I want to paint our floors! There, I said it. I know some of you are gonna think that sounds crazy, but just go look at Liz Marie Galvan’s IG feed to see her painted floors before you make up your mind.

wide board white pine flooring
wide board white pine flooring
wide board white pine flooring

3) Tile – I really wanted tile in our master bathroom and in the kids’ bathroom! And I had my heart set on a subway tile backsplash in the kitchen. So to make this fit within our budget, I learned how to lay tile! I did have a little help from our builder to cut the tiles that needed cutting, but I laid all the tile myself. I love how the tile turned out, and I’m so glad I attempted this project!

white vintage looking bathroom floor tiles and subway tile in the shower
white vintage looking bathroom floor tiles with gray grout
white bathroom floor tiles with gray grout and antique clawfoot tub

4) Wood Closet Shelving – I wanted pine shelves in our kid’s closets, instead of the wire shelving that had been budgeted for. So we ended up cutting the shelving from the construction budget, and we installed these shelves ourselves paying out of pocket on materials. Saving on the labor costs alone was helpful, and the cost of materials was pretty comparable to what we originally budgeted. So happy with how they turned out!

wood closet shelving

5) Incorporating Reclaimed Wood – This was a huge priority to us! I wanted to add in as much reclaimed wood as I could, and I tried to incorporate it into as many rooms as possible. But because of the costs, we did have to pick and choose which spaces and what projects to include in the construction budget. Check out this post to see all the ways we’ve incorporated reclaimed wood here in the farmhouse!

Much of the cost associated with this was labor. There were loose nails in the boards that had to be removed. Each board needed to be sanded and cleaned, and sealed with polycrylic. It was a process, and if money hadn’t been a factor there would be old wood on every wall of this house! So to make adjustments for the budget, we actually did a lot of this work ourselves. My mom and I sanded and cleaned the majority of the wood before it was installed, and we sealed it all with the poly as well. We even installed some of the shiplap ourselves too. And it was so worth it! I’d like to add more of the wood back into the house in the future as time allows…

reclaimed wood feature wall

6) Kitchen Cabinets – Our kitchen cabinets aren’t fancy by any means, but they’re exactly what we wanted! They’re a white shaker style cabinet with soft close drawers and doors. And we opted for all drawers in the island. I’m glad we went with these cabinets, and don’t at all regret investing in our kitchen!

white shaker cabinets in farmhouse style kitchen

7) My Dream Countertops – I wanted pretty white countertops with a little gray mixed in. At first, I was really drawn to marble, but the thought of stains and etching scared me away from going that route. When I started looking more into quartz, I knew it would be the perfect choice for us! It’s a synthetic material so it’s non-porous. We will never need to seal it, and we don’t have to clean it with anything special. It’s the perfect low maintenance countertop for our family, and I love how it looks in the kitchen! Definitely an investment I’m happy with!!

lg viatera quartz cirrus in farmhouse kitchen
lg viatera quartz cirrus in farmhouse kitchen

8) A Pump House – The pump house was a major non-negotiable here on the farm! This structure houses our well pump, and the water softener equipment. We poured a concrete pad and had this structure built to protect the equipment from the elements, and to keep it from freezing in the cooler months. Thanks to my sweet Grandaddy, the building is fully insulated! And there are also heat lamps inside as an added precaution. Oh and yes, that’s King Neptune hanging on the front the building! A nod to the fact that this building is where all our water comes from… and we also thought it was fitting being that we live on a river and are very close to the NC coast.

white pump house with board and batten siding
green cast iron king neptune door knocker

I did not expect this post to be quite this long! But I hope it was helpful, and I hope it gave you a bit of insight into some of the decisions we made during the re-build of our farmhouse. When it comes to the construction budget, you really have to be flexible because things will inevitably come up. You have to adjust and bend and make changes where necessary. However, it’s equally important to have a handle on what exactly is a priority or a must have for you and your home!

And if this post appealed to you, you may want to check out another post I wrote recently! I shared a post about 10 unique ways we saved money during the construction here at the farmhouse. It was a pleasure to have you stop by the blog today! And as always, thanks so much for following along…

Love, Brittany
tips and advice to help manage a construction budget

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  1. Hey there. I’m another NC renovator of an old farmhouse in Sherrills Ford. 1876.. It’s a DIY love affair for sure. We are 3 yrs into it this Dec and a lot more to go… I’ve renovated our big barn to be my shop to sell items from.. also a work in progress & lots to improve on to get it moving…
    I Love what I am seeing in your home.. you are doing great! So awesome it’s been in your family for so long! Can I ask what color your quartz counters are? They are warm & inviting…I’m looking at quartz as an option.
    Thanks & have a great day!
    Ann 🙂

    1. Well hello neighbor! That’s amazing, and your barn sounds like one of my favorite kind of places. 🙂 I know exactly what you mean by “DIY love affair”!! Our counters are Viaterra Cirrus. They always show up really white in photos but they have some light veining and a little bit of gray mixed in. We love our counters! You can’t go wrong with quartz! Hope that’s helpful and hope you have a great day too! 🙂

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