I have a post like this in the works for almost… always. This is the most discussed question, both by those who already have a house, and especially by those who want to buy it. So today we will talk about:

The answer to the question

Let’s say it out now, and we’ll explain later. The question is perfectly correct, but it is impossible to answer it without a study. It is correct to ask the problem, but without a study behind it it is impossible to accurately predict what the final cost of your renovation will be. The most honest answer that you can dare at first glance is therefore a global spending range, or a spending range per square meter. In Milan, for example, we can hypothesize a 350 – 650 € per square meter, but even this estimate – albeit “large” – in my opinion is risky to communicate. You will understand this especially in the practical example at the bottom of the article.

People are often asked to visit the property and evaluate the cost to put it back in order / change it… But every figure given specifically, without a real study behind it, is actually a gamble, a hypothesis that can only lead you to a mistake. Even if you attach the planimetry and specify that you decided to demolish two walls.
Now we will see why, and how to proceed to avoid over-spending.

Why only a range of spending?

Each property and context, as well as each customer, is always different and unique, and the core of the answer lies precisely in this statement.

  1. each person has his own priorities, a certain way of spending, and a different idea of ​​comfort: there are those who prefer to invest only in some systems, those who require high-performance ones, those who give more importance to the structure, those to finishes, those to furnishings and so on; who wants to be followed in every step and who needs fewer services.
  2. each property is extremely different and has its own problems: beyond the spaces, always different, some have fixtures in good condition and others not, some have standard systems, others in poor condition, others have structural damage or parts completely from redo; in some cases it is possible to preserve original parts, in other cases the screeds need to be redone, etc.
  3. each company sets its own prices: based on its own personal management costs, the city/region in which it operates, the movements due, the construction sites currently active, the costs of supplies due to specific commercial agreements and so on.

There are too many variables involved, so the question would look a lot like that of a friend of yours asking you: how much could the purchase of a car cost? You may have known it for a lifetime, and also understand the use for which he would like to buy it, but you cannot define what its final price will be. There are different costs for body color, fuel type and engine characteristics, hi-tech control systems, options, interior finishes, design quality, brand reliability and so on.
How would you reply? You would obviously give a range of spending.

What happens by relying on an indicative cost?

Let’s say that you are satisfied with an economic hypothesis thrown there on the spot by someone (friend, company, inexperienced professional, etc.) and you have decided to start interventions.

This figure will prove to be aseptic and unrelated to your situation. It will not answer for changes you had in mind, the type of quality required, nor for technical problems that you did not know about. That economic data, hypothesized on the spot, will prove to be erroneous.

In the worst case, if you have started the intervention, this will obviously mean that you will have significant unattended costs. At best, you may have been unnecessarily scared and made unnecessary sacrifices, jobs that you are not fully satisfied with and that you will want to do again tomorrow.

How then to proceed?

You may be wondering: should I then try my luck and get into debt? No.

For the purchase of a new home – except by chance that they present evident structural problems and serious internal conditions – first evaluate the house in and of itself, do not be excessively influenced by future renovation costs. Let me explain: some people have shown the possible fluctuation of tot thousand euros for the renovation as a discriminating factor for the choice of a house. And, since there was no study behind it, you will have already understood that it is not a certain figure for which to make such a clear decision. Surely your spending skills or willingness are unquestionable, but on such an important expense, which will affect your lifestyle, it is not that uncertain figure that makes the difference. Choose the house you love, in the neighborhood you like, at the right price for you, with the square meters you need. You choose the dress first and not the shoes!

In outline, the important steps are:

  1. Budget: purchased the house, or decided to improve the house in your possession, I suggest you make personal budgets and understand what your reference budget is.
  2. Study of the works: to know the actual cost of restructuring, there is no escaping, you need to have a survey, a preliminary design, calculations and specifications and estimates from suppliers.
  3. Professional: the ideal for an optimal result is to hire a professional who does for you what is contained in point 2 and who can guide you in your interests towards the best solution for that available budget, with the maximum aesthetic result. How? As described in this article. Because otherwise you should be able to formulate technical solutions yourself and understand the specifications perfectly. And the unacknowledged surprise is around the corner.

The professional will be able to draw up and explain the items of the calculations, suggest which processes you were not taking into consideration, on which you can save, which solutions optimize space and economic resources, how to best enhance your property. and allow it to be valued more.

It is thanks to careful study that you can actually understand what you can improve, tailored to your needs.

A simulation

Let’s do a little experiment. Let’s assume the renovation of a small imaginary studio apartment of 30 square meters, and we follow two different logics, namely with a high budget and low budget (without exasperating).


Criteria for the simulation: identical property in fact for both cases. Old finishes not of value, dated but functioning systems. The estimates will be rough, without providing a real comparison with the dynamics of discounts, personal costs of companies, cost of living according to the regions and so on. No construction or demolition of partitions is involved, so let’s also dispel the myth that two walls knocked down make the difference.

We have already set up a more aseptic scenario than reality. According to the point of view of those who ask how much it costs to restructure, because they assume an almost absolute value, the two final costs should be really similar, right? Let’s see.

Low budget

The studio will be inhabited by a couple, who want to live there while waiting for the next investment for their dream home. They don’t think they will stay in this apartment for many years.

Architectural: both decide to leave the current layout unchanged, and to fix only what is really wrong. The entrance is left unchanged.

The electrical system is partially redone. Alarm and air conditioning are not important at the moment. The radiators remain those existing in cast iron, of the period. The water system is also partially redone; the sanitary fixtures are replaced by installing them in the same position; replacing the taps and the shower tray which remains contained.
tot: 2.000 €

Change the lock on the entrance door. The two internal doors replaced with basic hinged models. The windows are not very nice, but working all in all, they have double glazing. For a few years they are fine.
tot: about 900 €

Since the modifications to the systems are minimal, it is possible to replace only the flooring and cladding layer. The couple chooses a beautiful plain stoneware tile with a satin effect for the apartment, and for the bathroom colored tiles, which, well calibrated according to the design, create a beautiful contemporary design. In the kitchen, the current niche is exploited and we go against it with paneled furniture, without the need to replace the tiles (totally hidden by the furniture).
Finally a final whitening and any small touch-ups where necessary, without shaving.
tot: about 5.000 €

Demolition, Safety, site costs etc.: tot: about 4.000 €

TOTAL: about 12.000 euro

High budget

The landlady works out of town in a tourist resort, and needs a pied-à-terre in her hometown, which she returns to every few months. Want something nice and comfortable, even to rent.

Architectural: the bedroom is switched with the kitchen. At the entrance there is a false ceiling with led groove/mirrors.

Completely revised electrical system, including home automation. The alarm, even if basic, is necessary. Air conditioning is installed in the central point of the house. Heaters are being replaced with modern models. The bathroom and kitchen need to be redone, both for moving the kitchen and for a large shower tray in a more comfortable position.
tot: about 23.000 €

The entrance door is not secure enough, it replaces itself. One internal door will be flush with the wall, the other sliding glass. The fixtures have small defects and rather than constantly repairing them, they are replaced.
tot: about 13.000 €

Given the complete renovation of systems, it is necessary to proceed with the reconstruction of the screeds and wall supports (such as plaster) that underlie the coatings. The owner chooses hand-planed parquet flooring for the entire studio, including the kitchen area. The bathroom will have a few selected but precious coverings in local stone. A wallpaper will decorate the niche of the “sleeping area”. Much of the apartment will be whitewashed, and part will have decorative colored areas. We remind you, as per the architectural project, that there will be a false ceiling in the corridor.
tot: about 15.000 €

Demolition, Safety, site costs etc.: tot: about 12.000 €

TOTAL: about 65.000 euro


As you can see, the gap between the two hypotheses is not a small one! So as anticipated in the initial part, I feel distrust and I also consider the same range of spending “risky” to communicate. Both houses are functioning, habitable, neither is an exasperation. They simply respond differently to two different customers: the first will require higher maintenance and renewal costs in the following years (but the couple plans to leave anyway), the second already has a good result and great comfort, being a safe investment. However, this summary calculation took some time to hypothesize (I did not shoot in bursts) and represents a generalization, because the needs of each person and the needs of the context, as specified above, are always different.

For those who were thinking: ok, and planning the same processes? Even by providing the same processes, very different results can be achieved, because there are stoneware tiles from 10 €/sq.m and stoneware tiles from 230 €/sq.m; standard windows in white pvc from 200 euros, and windows from over 2000 euros; interior doors from € 100 and interior doors from € 1,500; basic systems and more complex systems (more light points, water points, etc.); split air conditioning and ducted air conditioning and so on.

I hope I have been helpful and clear. When I receive this question, it is really difficult for me to answer… I understand very well the needs of those in front of me, and it is not my intention neither to leave in trouble nor to make fun of. As you can see, the situation is very complex, and reductive answers can have unpleasant consequences 🙂

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