Savings, quality and speed on a refurb? You’ll never get all three
Figure out which of the criteria you won’t compromise on, and then plan your project
You can’t expect to achieve a high standard of finish if you are not prepared to pay for it. Photograph: Getty
Most clients have three priorities when renovating or extending their home – savings, quality and speed. In other words, as low a spend as possible with a high-quality finish in the fastest time possible.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the reality is you can never achieve all three of these things. You can achieve only two and it will usually be at the expense of the third.
When planning the project you should figure out which of the criteria you are willing to sacrifice and, more importantly, which ones you won’t compromise on.
Quality + Speed
A high-quality finish is really worth the investment as this is what you will be looking at and living with every day. It is something I would encourage anyone taking on a home improvement to prioritise. But doing things well means spending time to focus on good workmanship and getting the details right.
It is possible, however, to speed up the process and still have a high-quality finish but it will mean a significant uplift in cost. The only way to achieve a high-quality finish within the constraints of a tight timeline is to substantially increase the number of skilled tradespeople working on the project.
The skilled part is the important element here, as it’s critical that those working on the project are used to working in an efficient manner while maintaining high standards if the quality of the workmanship is to be upheld.
Labour costs have been rising significantly in the past 18 months and skilled tradespeople are demanding a premium. When looking for quality you really do get what you pay for. Cutting corners will not be an option, which is why increased manpower is essential. You can absolutely achieve an excellent standard of finish in a fast turnaround time but you have to be prepared to pay for it.
Savings + Quality
Achieving a quality finish and making savings can be achieved only by sacrificing on speed. Unlike the scenario above where additional tradespeople are employed, the only way to get a high-quality finish for less money is to cut down on manpower, meaning everything is going to take a lot longer.
If you are really working to a budget, you might be able to agree on a couple of favours from some of the trades but you’ll find they will try to fit you in between higher paying jobs so a project that would normally take four weeks might end up taking eight or longer.
Bear in mind that tradespeople are very busy at the moment so they tend to pick and choose the projects they decide are the most appealing to them. Most trades like to get in and out of a job as quickly as possible to ensure the job is profitable. If the project is prolonged for any reason, trades will start to lose money and interest, jeopardising the end result and relationships all around.
So if you are looking to make savings while maintaining a high-quality finish, it is best to set out your expectations very clearly from the outset and agree a project cost and timeline in advance so everyone is clear and can plan accordingly.
Speed + Savings
Finally, if you are trying to make savings and work to a tight timeline, you are absolutely going to have to compromise on quality. It simply isn’t feasible to expect you can achieve a high standard of finish if you are not prepared to pay for it.
This is the least desirable of the three scenarios as you will be left with a finish that isn’t perfect. In my view this is the one compromise anyone should carefully reconsider. It might be tempting to rush things to get in quicker but in the long run an extra couple of weeks and even months will be forgotten about whereas the imperfections will be with you for many years.
This scenario really equates to a rush job and you actually risk wasting money because there may be things done to a standard that requires them to be fixed or replaced much sooner than they should be. If you fall into this scenario, I would urge you to postpone your project to either give yourself more time or save a bit more money so you can increase your budget and prioritise quality.