Your budget is a tool, not a law. It's there to guide you and to protect you from overspending and compromising your financial security.

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Q: How should we budget our remodel project?

A: Our family has been building and remodeling homes in the Seattle area for four generations, and I don’t think we’ve ever had a client say, “Just do whatever it takes. Money is no object!” And you know what? That’s not likely to change anytime in the future. Homeowners want to know what a home-remodeling project is going to cost. That’s just prudent.

When getting started, it’s important to set a realistic budget for your home-remodeling project. Take a good look at what you can afford to spend and what it will cost to achieve the goals you have. Then stick to it. Blowing your budget can make you miserable.

Now, I can’t recall anyone ever saying, “Boy, I wish I’d paid less for what I got!” But I sure have heard plenty of people bemoan the fact that they spent too little when — for not much more — they could have gotten what they wanted.

So which is it? Should you stick to your budget, or not?

Bear in mind that your budget is a tool, not a law. That doesn’t diminish its importance; your budget is there to guide you and to protect you from overspending and compromising your financial security. But there are times when spending more than your budget can be a smart financial move. Here are three areas where that can be the case.

Space. Increasing livable, usable space is almost always a good investment. Very rarely does anyone complain about having too much space in the kitchen or family room or dining room. But if you find after your remodel that you don’t have enough space, it can be far costlier to expand than if you had planned for a larger space up front.

Quality. When I talk about quality, what I’m really talking about is value. Certain materials simply hold up better under continued use. That’s true whether you’re talking about countertops, cabinets, doors, windows or flooring. Saving money on those items can actually cost you more in the long run. If you have to replace something because it didn’t hold up, you’ll often end up spending more than if you’d opted for better quality (at a somewhat higher price) in the first place.

Convenience. This is where good design comes into play. You can change the cabinets and flooring in your kitchen to give it a “facelift” — the kitchen will probably look nicer than it did before. But if you’re frustrated while cooking or entertaining in your kitchen because it’s not designed properly, you still won’t be happy. Homes aren’t built simply to look good. They are supposed to be designed to make you and your guests comfortable.

Does your budget matter? Of course it does. But sometimes making fairly minor changes that cost you a bit more will leave you with a home that’s comfortable, convenient and enjoyable to live in. And isn’t that why you choose to remodel in the first place?

Brooks Powell is the general manager of  Powell Homes and Renovations and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the MBA’s weekly column. If you have a home  improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBA’s more than 2,800 members, write to