Photo of two workers at home remodel site

Avoiding Runaway Budgets and Subpar Work

Photo by Annie Gray

You've heard stories of runaway budgets and subpar workmanship from friends and family. Maybe you've personally experienced an expensive and frustrating remodel.

It doesn't have to be that way. You can change the story. You can take control of your project and create a different ending. How? By consciously coordinating your team. 

There's the work, and then there's coordinating the work

When it comes to a renovation, there's the work to be completed - moving a doorway, installing new cabinets, painting the walls - and then there's coordinating the work. This blog is about the latter. 

Let's agree upfront that the goal is top-quality work completed on time and on budget. What do I mean?

  1. Top-quality - Tradespeople who share your vision and are performing at the top of their craft.
  2. On-time - A job that is completed on or before the date you have established with your general contractor.
  3. On-budget - Spending no more, and hopefully less, than you budgeted.

It sounds like common sense, doesn't it? You know, however, that it is incredibly rare. It's not impossible though. You can do it when you define success, establish roles, set expectations, and make communication easy. 

Defining Success - Your plan and your budget set the vision for your project. If you don't have a plan or budget yet, start here.

Establishing Roles - These three are essential. All questions should be directed to one of these three people who will coordinate with each other and then communicate with the rest of the team.

  • Who manages the build? The general contractor is usually the person who manages the build. She's the big picture thinker who sets the schedule and coordinates the trades like electrical, plumbing, and carpentry.
  • Who does the accounting? One person should track spending compared to the budget, review the bills, and cut checks. What if something costs more than budgeted? Is there enough money in your contingency fund? Will you have to cut somewhere else? The accountant answers those questions.
  • Who makes design decisions? Issues will come up. Say there's a structural post where the shower head was supposed to be installed. Should we move it to the right or left? One person should be responsible for making design decisions, coordinating with the accountant, and communicating design changes to the general contractor.
Setting Expectations - You have a plan, you have a budget, and you've established roles. Setting expectations is showing in words and actions that you expect the plan to be followed, the budget to be honored, and the roles to be respected. You'll need to remind, repeat, and redirect but the team will get on board when they see that you're consistent.

Making Communication Easy - Choose a communication hub and be consistent - text, email, Google Drive - you get the idea


She didn't know it, but Jackie Lopey's days as an advertising executive were numbered when she bought and renovated a 1950's bungalow. She soon went back to school and started her own design studio. Jackie is an award-winning, certified interior designer and the founder of Wide Canvas.

Connect with Jackie by emailing

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