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The Commonwealth Blog

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

9 Ways to Save on Renovations

Home renovations are unquestionably expensive. When looking to cut corners on prices, it’s important for owners to be careful that they don’t cut the quality of work on their house. We’ve put together nine great tips to help you save money while truly enhancing and improving your home.

Seek Architect or Contractor Consultations

Before you’re ready to bring in a contractor, you need to have set ideas about what you want done in your home. Even if you’re going the DIY route, you’ll probably want (or need) advice from experts. While there’s plenty of resources to help you learn different techniques, sometimes it’s better to have in-person, hands-on advice. Either way, it can reduce a several-thousand-dollar fee to several hundred.

Architects are often willing to do a one-time consultation, usually based on a flat fee. It should include visiting your home to review a specific problem, some insights, and a sketch (or more) of possible solutions. These can then be brought to your contractor to clarify your needs.

Contractors may or may not offer consultations and/or mentorship, but when they do, it’s often for an hourly fee. This opens the door to professional insights and in-person training for handling the parts you want to change, all without needing to hire a contractor and their team for the full project.

Hire for Off-Season Work

Spring and summer – and in some cases, early fall – are the prime seasons for home improvement. The weather is often warm enough to keep the house open while working, and the daylight hours are longer than in winter. However, demand for contractors is much higher and so are their prices. If it’s feasible, wait until the off-season to work on your project. You can save thousands of dollars in the process.

Consider Sweat Equity

“Sweat equity” refers to sharing in some of the labor of your project, even though you’re hiring a contractor. You can do this in several areas, including early on (e.g., handling the demolition yourself) or daily (e.g., handling the cleanup yourself). Depending on the size of the project or how long it will take to complete, this can save you a thousand dollars or more.

Aim for Long-Term over Short-Term Goals

Given just how much money is involved in these projects, it’s no surprise that many home renovators want to skip the pre-primed, pre-painted materials in favor of unfinished ones. That lets them save now, but you need to think in terms of long-term maintenance. For instance, in terms of siding, pre-sale finishing is handled in a controlled place, with no elements like wind or moisture to interfere in its application. That makes it stronger, and it will last longer before you have to refresh that paint. Only needing to worry about one paint job in the next twenty years allows you to save one to three thousand dollars over that time.

Think Efficiency over Size

When you’re looking to add more space, the secret may not lie in knocking out a wall to extend a room. Instead, redesign the interior storage options. Cabinetry that takes up too much space can be changed out for more space-sensitive solutions, especially custom ones suited to the contents they’re going to contain. They can also be put in more optimal locations to help the room feel larger, all without actually having to change the size of the room itself. This will save tens of thousands of dollars, and may even cut the cost of the project in half.

Utilize Your Contractor’s Unused Materials

Contractors often end up with unused material from previous projects, and unlike the aversion to reusing materials pulled from a home, these fresh materials pose no liability and can be shaped to suit your needs. Depending on the size of the project and the materials in question, this can save around ten thousand dollars versus buying a new stock of material for your project.

Use Light Tubes instead of Adding Windows for Natural Light

If you have a room against an exterior wall but doesn’t have a window, adding a window to let in natural light is naturally tempting. However, that’s not the only way to enjoy sunshine. Light tubes, sometimes referred to as light pipes, are a type of optical wave transmitter that fit between roof rafters. As the name implies, it carries natural light to rooms that don’t receive any. It can save around a thousand dollars over the installation of double-paned, insulated windows.

Consider Posts and Beams over Additional Foundations

This tip requires you to look at local ordinances, so be sure you know what kind of construction is required for making additions to your home. Generally, when you’re making a small addition, it’s cheaper to do it without adding a foundation. Instead you use posts and beams, much like when you’re adding on a deck. If local code permits this kind of construction, it can save five thousand dollars.

Don’t Move Plumbing

When redesigning a kitchen or bathroom, you may imagine your sink, shower, tub, or toilet in a completely different place than where they are now. Unfortunately, that’s usually what stacks up the price because all the underlying plumbing has to change, too. If you need to, or decide that’s simply how you’ll be happiest, this is another point where you need to think of long-term savings – pay to upgrade the piping. If you’re having to change things up anyway, the new plumbing will be more efficient and durable.

Bonus Tip: Not Everything Is Trash

While it’s true that most contractors won’t reuse materials removed during demolition and renovation, that doesn’t make everything you’re getting rid of is trash. According to This Old House, roughly 85% of a house can be reusable. Depending on condition, you can donate just about anything that DIY enthusiasts might be looking for to Habitat for Humanity. They’ll resell it at one of their 400 ReStores nationwide, which helps fund their work. You can find their closest affiliate or ReStore program at Habitat’s website. There’s no cost to you, and you can deduct the value on your taxes.

Home renovations are already expensive enough. Trying to find ways to cut costs or make corrections mid-project can be even more expensive. Have a solid and realistic plan beforehand, including knowing how and when you want to save.  Be sure you take advantage of these tips to help mitigate some of those costs without compromising on the quality of your results.


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