David Bakke writes about personal finance, budgeting, home improvement, and smart shopping on Money Crashers, a leading financial resource online.
Now is a great time to consider investing in home improvement and remodeling ideas. Contractors are starving for work, and the cost of materials is relatively low. If you are currently with an upside down mortgage and can’t sell your home, upgrading is a great way to increase the value of your house without spending a lot.
Diving into a remodeling project without proper preparation, however, is a risky prospect. You need to commit to planning and forethought to make sure that your modest remodeling idea doesn’t become costly. Below are some tips to get you started.
Tips to Keep Remodeling Costs Under Control
1. Do It Yourself
Not surprisingly, the best way to keep costs low is to take on the project yourself. You don’t want to start on a project you’re not trained for, but if you believe you’re not ready for DIY, think again.
I am not that mechanically inclined. Several years back, I barely knew how to use a screwdriver. However, once the DIY “bug” hit me, I was hooked. In just a few short years, I went from knowing nothing to learning how to successfully change out a kitchen faucet and installing laminate hardwood floors in a bedroom interior design project that I took on completely by myself.
Trust me, if you have the desire, you can learn to get a job done. Completing a remodeling project on your own rather than using a contractor will easily cut the overall cost of the project by at least 50%.
2. Plan and Price
Whether you decide to do it yourself or to hire a contractor, you should initially plan and price your project. It’s especially important to research prices if you hire a contractor. You don’t want to be taken advantage of because you don’t know your numbers. If you know the general process and cost of supplies, you can catch an inflated quote early in the game and avoid tricky home improvement and repair scams.
When you plan out your project, decide exactly what you want, as well as what you don’t want. Define the scope of your project and set limits. Setting boundaries will prevent upselling, and you’ll avoid falling into traps like hidden costs.
3. Don’t Go Cheap, but Don’t Go Crazy Either
Of course you’re trying to save money, but you don’t want to skimp. Merely acquiring the cheapest materials will only result in a finished product that won’t last or may be unsafe for you and your family.
You don’t necessarily need the most expensive materials either. The key to your budget is balance. Price everything out, and choose a brand name closer to the “middle of the road.” I usually go a few steps above the median price. This gives me confidence that my project will last, but doesn’t destroy my budget.
4. Resist the Urge to Expand the Project
I experience the urge to expand the scope of my project just about every time I tackle home improvement. Contractors always want to do more, since it means charging more.
It’s fine to dream about the additional improvements you would like to make, but keep yourself in check. Put your ideas on a schedule for upcoming work. That way, you can take them on with the proper planning and preparation. For now, stick to the project at hand.
5. Plan on Unplanned Costs
I’ve never gone from start to finish on a home remodeling project without running into hidden or surprise costs. Whether you’re on your own or bringing in a contractor, know that even the best budget or most detailed estimate won’t stop some of the extra costs that come up.
With my DIY projects, I usually plan out the budget for the project, and then add an extra 15% to get a better estimate of my total. If you’re working with a contractor, make sure you get a commitment on how far above the estimate the final cost may be.
6. Hold Your Contractor Accountable
Furthermore, contractors will often jack up their final price because of “price overruns.” If you are using a contractor, hold them accountable to their estimate. Review the line items with your contractor, and if you have questions about a particular cost, ask them. You don’t have to check every last penny, but inform them that you will not accept significant cost overruns.
From the start of your home improvement project, you’ll find ways to save on a daily basis – and just as many traps that can make your costs spiral out of control. Once you decide if you can take care of the project on your own, plan and budget the project, and resist the urge to splurge on additional improvements. Be confident in your plan and stick with it, and you’ll come out with a great result – and a fine bottom line.
What are your tips for saving on remodeling projects? Do you prefer to do it yourself, or do you hire a professional contractor?