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Tips from a Residential Contractor - Save Money on your Home Remodeling Project - Advice to Help you Stick to a Budget

Updated on September 16, 2012

How to Plan a Home Renovation Budget

Are you thinking about doing some improvements to your home but know that you can't afford to do everything you'd like? Or do you just want to get the most for your money? Below are some tips to shave some of the cost from your renovation and help your project to fit within its budget.

  1. Prioritize - Make a list of the things you want to change and then rank them in priority order. As you start working with your contractor and your budget, begin with the most important item on the list and work your way down. When the estimate has hit the end of the budget, you will find it much easier to stop your list at priority #11 than if you ask for everything you want and then have to cut back on a general wish list.
  2. Shop - Style and quality of materials can vary greatly in price. Do your homework upfront to find out if you want (and can afford) to splurge on those commercial grade stainless steel appliances you love or if a mid-grade set will work just fine. Then you can leave money for an upgrade to the countertops you've had your eye on. Do you want travertine floors or will a basic ceramic work just fine? Do you really need new vanities or will a coat of paint and new hardware do the trick? Will used materials work as well as new for your remodel? You don't have to choose everything up front but gaining a basic understanding of the cost of items on your wish list can help you to narrow down what you really need to budget for and where a simple compromise on one item can save money for another.
  3. Master List - As you narrow down the work you want to have done and the materials you'd like to use, create a master list of everything you can think of that will need to be purchased or decided upon. Include all of the details you know - like size or color or quantity. Keep it with you and keep your eye out for sales and closeouts or model changeouts or remnants. Buy items as you see them on sale and can get a good deal. If you wait until your contractor tells you that you need to choose a sink or flooring or light fixtures by next week, the odds of you finding exactly what you want at a great price are diminished.
  4. Plumbing Access - If you're thinking about adding a bathroom, expanding your kitchen, or reconfiguring your master bath, pay attention to where the existing plumbing fixtures are. It can become expensive to tear up concrete or remove existing walls to run new piping. But if you can tap into existing plumbing, you can save a lot of money. Look for ways to add plumbing on the other side of the wall from existing plumbing or, adding above or below current fixtures.
  5. Keep your Cabinets - Unless you're completely changing the layout of a kitchen or bath, odds are that the basic structure of your cabinetry is just fine. Rather than opting to replace them all, think about replacing or refacing the doors with a different style - removing some doors - or changing the style with a new coat of paint and new hardware. A good carpenter can create cabinets that match if you just need to add a section for expansion or want to re-purpose part of the kitchen.
  6. Ask - As you're deciding what work to have done, don't hesitate to ask a contractor to give you an opinion (and/or estimate). Sometimes removing a wall to open up a space is a very simple process (not load bearing, no electrical work or plumbing to move) and sometimes it is very involved. Adding a window or putting in a larger one can oftentimes be simple and fairly inexpensive. Don't rule out options that can make a big impact just because they "seem" expensive. Ask first. Knowing the effort and cost involved early on can help you decide what to include or exclude to stay within your budget.
  7. DIY - Once you've decided specifically what you want to do and what type of materials you want to use, decide what work, if any, you want to do yourself. Thinks like prep work (covering floors before painting, clearing out a room, removing existing countertops) or clean up (removing unused pieces of wood and sawdust, tile remnants, or old carpet) are things that don't require much experience or skill but save time for the crew and reduces the amount of money you spend. If you don't feel comfortable doing the detailed painting, you could do the primer (be sure to tint the primer with the color you plan to use to reduce the amount of paint needed) and save time and money for the painter. If you have skills in laying tile or carpentry, maybe you choose to do those items yourself.

The key to saving money in your renovation lies in the planning. The more decisions you make up front and the more informed you are regarding pricing and effort involved, the fewer last minute purchases and compromises you'll need to make. The less distracted you are with the multitude of choices that exist, the more in control of your wallet you'll be. Happy remodeling!! Check out some ideas to get you thinking at


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