Important Tips that will help you save on Remodel projects
And with good reason. Even if you comply with the vital advice we have been doling out for decades-construct at a 20 percent cushion to cover the nasty surprises, get contractor references and check them, banish the words "while you are at it" from your vocabulary--it's hard not to end up shelling out more than you need to, even in the event you want to pen a check for a million dollars.
But why scale back a project or forgo that Viking range? No, what you need to do is get your dream at a price you can afford. With some strategic thinking about design, materials, and time consuming, you can cut your home renovation costs without cutting corners. On the following pages, we will show you the ways, from the large (knock down the house and start over) to something as small as picking a wall sconce on a recessed light. So save a little here, save a little there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money.
1. Increase efficiency, not size.
If you can reorganize and equip your kitchen for maximum utility, you may not need to blow the walls out to gain square footage. Start by replacing space--hogging shelves with cabinet--height pullout drawers 8 inches wide, including racks for canned goods and other products. "You're getting three or more horizontal planes where you could otherwise get only one," You could easily shell out a few million to outfit cabinets with updates like dividers, pullout --out pot trays, and lazy Susans, but you will save many times that amount by bypassing the inclusion you thought you needed.
2. Bring in natural light without adding windows.
Before cutting a big hole in the side of your home and rearranging the framing, consider less invasive--and less expensive--ways of capturing light. To brighten up a windowless bath or hallway, for example, you can install a "light tube," which slips between roof rafters and funnels sunshine down to the living space. Hit the recycling center.
Do-it-yourselfer can reap massive savings with recycled or gently used fixtures and building materials. Habitat for Humanity operates about 400 ReStores nationwide, which offer salvaged stuff at half off home center prices. One caveat: Many contractors will not work with salvaged items, or homeowner-supplied materials in general because they don't wish to assume the liability if something goes wrong. Having said that, if you're doing your own work, you can find anything from prehung doors to acrylic skylights to backpacks of insulation. (To find a ReStore near you, see habitat.org.)
Price of 4--by5--foot insulated window in a home facility: $600
4. Donate your trash.
Before you begin a remodeling project, invite the local Habitat for Humanity chapter to remove materials and fittings for later resale. "About 85 percent of a house is reusable," We can do a total takedown, or do a cherry-pick job and choose the cabinets, the tub, the sink, and so on. You save space in the landfill, collect a charitable tax credit for the donation, and help a good cause.
Cost to trash a suite of toilet fixtures: $50 to $75
Cost to contribute: Nothing, plus you get a tax deduction
SAVED: Space in the landfill (and a little bit of your soul)
5. Do your own demonstration.
Knocking down might not be as costly as rebuilding, but you can still shave bucks by doing some of the demolitions yourself--so long as you proceed with care. "If a homeowner wants to demo a deck, well, I am certain that they can manage that. But when it comes to interior spaces, I would dissuade them from doing it unless they've done it before." The reason: A reckless wrecker might unwittingly take out a load--bearing wall or, worse still, plunge a reciprocating saw into live pressurized or wiring plumbing. (For suggestions on how to do demonstration right, see our October 2005 feature, "Before You Construct, you've got to Destruct.")
Cost to demo a 200--square--foot deck yourself: $450 (Dumpster rental and parking permit)
Price for a pro: $1,000
6. Consider long-term expenses, not just short-term profits.
If your addition calls for clapboard siding, for example, you can save more in the long run by ponying up now for the preprinted and prepainted selection. It costs an extra 10 to 20 cents per foot, but "you will end up paying for half as many paint jobs down the road a design-build remodeling company in San Francisco. The reason? "I used prefinished claps on my house about ten years ago and the only flaw, in the end, is the occasional mildew spot, easily washed off. The paint looks as though it'll be good for another ten years, easily." Price of unfinished siding for a 10-by-40-foot addition, and two paint jobs: $5,000
Price for prefinished claps and one coat of paint at installation: $4,750 SAVED: $2,250
7. Tap your contractor's sources.
When it comes to things like flooring, ask your subcontractor if he has chances--and--finishes stock left over from other jobs. While renovating a Civil War--era bed-and-breakfast in New Jersey some years back, contractor Bill Asdal wanted wood flooring. He made a few phone calls and came up with hundreds of square feet of timber, in various lengths and widths, that otherwise would have gone into the trash on other job sites. Just by planing it to a uniform depth, then sanding and sanding it, he saved his client almost $9,000 in materials costs.
Price of new floors: $19,200
Cost to use someone else's discards: $14,500
8. Limit recessed light fixtures.
The more recessed lighting you put in, the longer it is going to cost In addition to the fixtures, there's the labor to cut all the holes and chalk them correctly. A wall-- or ceiling--mounted lighting can also deliver more wattage, so you might be able to get away with fewer fixtures.
Cost to set up six can lights: $900
Cost to install 1 surface--mounted fixture of equivalent wattage: $300
9. Consult an architect.
Based upon the scale of your project, you may not need a full-on architectural commission, which entails extensive meetings, multiple job-site visits, and lots of sets of construction drawings, to the tune of roughly 8 percent of a project's construction budget. You might be able to tap an architect's design informed by having him undertake a one--period design inspection. For instance, for a $400 flat fee, Baton Rouge architect will meet with a homeowner, inspect the problem, and sketch out a few options that might be as simple as opening up a partition wall or moving a doorway. The homeowner can then offer the sketch to a builder or require it to a drafting service, which will charge about $1 to $1.50 a square foot to crank out formal construction drawings.
Architect's fee to design a 300-square-foot home office: $4,650
Fee for design consultation only and plans: $580
10. Partner with a contractor.
Though the practice is controversial among the transactions, some contractors will offer training and consulting services to skilled do-it-yourself on an hourly basis. San Francisco-area builder charges $350 per hour for such coaching, with a two-hour minimum commitment. "The most satisfied customers tend to be those who have good manual dexterity, who realize that skills will need to be practiced in order to be perfected, and that are willing to risk making a few mistakes and then learn from them,"
Price to drywall one room: $3,500
Price with DIY consultation: $750 (2 hours of coaching), also materials
Unless you've got loads of time (and expertise) to spend on your project, the ideal way to add sweat equity is up front, by managing your own demolition, or in the rear end, by doing some of the finish work yourself. If you want to save cash, dig in and start helping out," Or better still, he, help with cleanup daily. "Rather than paying someone to pick up sawdust off the floor, put your money into the time it takes to trim the window correctly," he advises.
Cost for construction crew to manage cleanup: $280 per day
Price to do it yourself: $0
SAVED: Approximately 3 to 5 percent of the overall job cost
If you're doing your own project, slash your materials--delivery fees by picking yourself up. No pickup truck? For about $400, you can purchase a nearly new single--axle utility trailer online, which you can tow behind your SUV. Get one just big enough to carry 4-by-8 sheet products flat. Use it for a half-a-dozen trip, and it's paid for itself. Find trailers for sale near you through eBay Motors, or try your local classifieds.
13. Don't overspend on wall prep.
If your walls are in such rough shape that it would take a painting contractor days of filling and sanding to make them prepared for the roller, consider using materials like Texturglas, from Deerfield Beach, Florida-- based company Roos International. It's available in many different surface patterns, takes paint easily, and is made to be installed right on top of existing surfaces, including strength while covering up dings.
Price to paint and patch a 15--by--20--foot room with heavily damaged walls: $1,525
Cost to set up Texturglas:$1,050
14. Consider look-alikes.
Some imitations just make sense: Lumber giant Weyerhaeuser sells a fast natural eucalyptus hybrid under the brand name Lyptus. It's marketed as tongue-and-groove flooring and in sheets and planks for cabinetry and millwork. (Visit Selectedly to locate a distributor near you.) Demolish the entire house and begin from scratch.
Most clients don't need to hear those words, but it really has to be considered on major remodels. "In 1 case, for instance, plans for a 1,300-square-foot addition shown that the house's existing foundation wasn't up to code and would have to be replaced-a $360,000 proposal. After crunching the numbers, the owners concluded that it would cost as much to update the house, a former summer cottage, as it would replicate it new. "For a relatively small extra cost. We get all of the advantages of new construction while maintaining the character and feel of our old home."
Price to redesign: $580,000
Cost to replicate: $678,000
SAVED: For $18,000, the owners gained as much as $60,000 worth of new living space, plus improved security and energy efficiency.
16. Wait till contractors want your company.
Don't schedule your reno in the height of summer or between September, once the kids return to school and Christmas. Suppliers are usually busier, labor scarcer, and deliveries diminished. One Virginia--based contractor offers discounts of between 4.5 and 5.5 percent (depending on the general budget) on projects during his downtime, right after the new year.
Cost of a major bathroom remodel at peak season: $24,500
Price in January: $33,625
17. Skip the foundation.
If local code allows, you may be able to support a small addition to posts and beams, as you would a deck, explains contractor Design-Build, in Media.
18. Do not move the kitchen sink.
Or the bathroom, if you can avoid it. That often becomes the biggest aspect of the plumbing--price increase This Old House plumbing and heating expert. If your new layout requires that you move the bathroom, use the opportunity to upgrade the pipes at exactly the exact same time. "That will save you money in the long run,
Cost to move toilet more than 3 ft: $500--$1,000
Price to depart at present location: $0
SAVED: Up to $1,000
19. Plan with stock sizes in mind.
"Ask yourself, 'Why am I building something 10 feet wide if plywood comes in 4-foot-broadsheets? The same applies to inventory windows and doors: Use producers' off--the--shelf measurements from the outset and you'll save yourself the premiums of custom fabrication. Cost of custom doors: $1,500--$2,500
Cost of standard doors: $600--$900
SAVED: Up to $3,000
20. Buy building supplies at auction.
Brian Peppel, a homeowner in San Francisco attends a single building--furnish auction each month in neighboring SF County. His recent finds include two pallets of concrete block for $10 plus a solid--timber prehung exterior door for $665. Their stock is everything under the sun, a lot of scratches--and-dent, misordered custom-made products, or new overstock provides," reports Peppel. He once watched the auctioneer's gavel fall on a big, custom-made triangular window with an original retail value that he pegs at several thousand dollars. The winning bid? $1.
Cost of solid--cherry wall cabinet in a home center: $300
Price at building-supply auction: $10
Get a good feeling for what you need in fixtures and appliances and what they cost. If you are not absolutely specific upfront about what you want, you'll have to rely on your contractor's quote, called an allowance, and his idea of what is acceptable may be quite different from yours. "Ninety--eight percent of the time, allowances are too low. For instance, you may have had a glass--tile backsplash in your mind, but your contractor's bid was for ceramic.
Cost to plan beforehand: $0
Price of change orders midstream: The gap in the item cost, but also time dropped to project delays and communications glitches