Avoiding Project Creep and Budget Overuns

By Todd Fratzel on Design, Home Improvement Cost Savings

Project Creep Equals Busted Budgets

Kitchen RenovationEver heard the term Project Creep before? Project Creep is defined as a break down in the management of a construction project that loses sight of the original goals. Typically it puts a project in jeopardy by slowly growing the scope with small changes. The small changes may seem insignificant individually but they can eventually add significant costs and delays to a project.

I’ve seen Project Creep happen on many projects including some of my own. It can happen so quickly without anyone really knowing until the busted budget and schedule finally rear their ugly heads.

How To Avoid Project Creep

Avoiding project creep (or the dreaded results of it) is fairly easy to do if you realize that it happens to most jobs and prepare for it. The first place to begin defending against project creep is by developing realistic expectations for budget and schedule. Anyone that starts a project (small or large) without a contingency for the budget and schedule are totally kidding themselves and risking stressful decisions after the project is completed.


I suggest you plan a contingency in your budget and schedule of 5% to 10% of the total project. All too often I see folks say they can’t afford the contingency. If you can’t afford the contingency you have no business starting the project. You need to reduce the scope of the project in order to create a safe budget and schedule. No project is every perfect and contingencies are almost always necessary and used.

Stay Focused

Staying focused on the goals of any project can be a challenge. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the following statements:

It’s only $500 which is nothing compared to the total project cost.

While we have the mess we might as well do that too.

Those two statements typify how easy it is to lose focus on the project goals and get into trouble with the budget or schedule. If you start making lots of $500 changes the next thing you know it’s $5,000 or even $30,000. Trust me I know this because I’ve fallen victim to this loss of focus on my own projects. However, those changes never really put our projects in jeopardy because we had a realistic contingency in place.

Successful Projects Manage Project Creep

Successful projects always seem to properly manage project creep and keep things in line with the project goals. If you take your time and evaluate each change in scope you should be able to keep project creep under control. I recommend you keep a running list of all changes and the associated costs and impacts to the schedule. If you keep track of each small change you’ll be able to keep within your budgeted contingency and finish the project successfully.

Photo Credit: Kroo2u

DIY Tip – If you’re planning a home improvement DIY project check fliers for sales and coupons like the Lowes Coupon.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Kevin Girard says:

    I would appreciate it if you are going to use my photos for your website that you include a photo credit or link.

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