How to Remodel on a Budget

by James Florence


Most homeowners have heard the advice to budget for 20 percent over what they expect to spend or avoid making additions once the work is underway, but many experts recommend more specific ways to save money on a remodeling project. Consider the following tips:

Time your job right. Contractors often charge more during peak construction times (summer and fall) because labor and material costs are usually higher due to increased demand. Schedule your job during winter or downtime in your contractor’s schedule to knock hundreds of dollars off your remodeling bill. Ask your contractor about off-season discounts or other money-saving scheduling arrangements.

Combine jobs. If you’ve been considering getting new windows, adding a skylight or solar tube, or installing solar panels or a solar hot water system, merging these projects with your remodel might save you money in the long run. If your walls need to be opened up for a remodel, it may be a good time to re-pipe for solar hot water. In addition to the energy savings, you’ll save money on construction costs because you won’t have to re-open the walls later.

Maximize your space. Home additions are expensive, so staying within your existing footprint can save thousands of dollars. If you think you don’t have the room you need, you may be surprised to find that shelving, roll-out drawers, Lazy Susans and other inexpensive built-in items can give you extra storage space without requiring you to increase the size of your kitchen.

Pay attention to stock sizes. Determine the stock sizes for wood, sheetrock, doors, windows and other necessary building materials, and ask your contractor or designer to use those standard sizes whenever possible. You can save thousands of dollars over the course of a remodel by simply using off-the-shelf materials rather than ordering custom sizes.

Find less expensive alternatives. Decide what features you want and then look for less pricey ways to get the same effect. For example, if you have your heart set on lots of lighting, consider track lighting, a cluster of pendant lights or wall-mounted lights instead of more expensive recessed lighting. Instead of adding a window to lighten a dark space, consider installing a skylight or solar tube, which can cost half the price of a new window installation.

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