A Guide to Budget Remodeling

By Sam Ferris

Remodeling your home on a budget? Of course you are. The two are like hammer and nail. At the same time, there?s a myth that remodeling is always expensive. While it certainly can be, budget remodeling is totally possible. ?

Ironically, budgets are built like homes: they?re highly customized to a family?s needs, each with a different value. And most importantly, they?re built to last. Few homeowners develop a budget with the intention of seeing it crumble under buying pressure.

Another common misconception is that do-it-yourself (DIY) remodeling is the only way to budget effectively.

That?s not the case.

There are a myriad of ways you can save money when you use professional remodeling services ? and we?ll show you a few. Learn how to hit the nail on the head with our guide to budget remodeling, including these ten insider tips:

Tip #1: Buy flooring that?s in stock

It?s almost always less expensive. When flooring retailers keep flooring in stock that means they?ve already paid for it ? before selling it to you. As a retailer, we?re not going to spend an arm and a leg on a tile we haven?t even sold yet. We?re going to spend money on an affordable tile that we know we?ll sell because customers can afford it.

That?s not all, though.

In-stock flooring will also have universal appeal because, again, it has to sell. Chances are you?ll like it. And best of all, you won?t have to pay any freight costs. The little charges can add up quickly, so avoid them when you can.

Tip #2: Check out the granite lot

It?s one of our best kept secrets ? until now, at least. ?Redoing a small bathroom or kitchen? Take a trip to your local flooring retailer?s granite lot (if they have one). Flooring retailers usually have leftover pieces from other remodeling projects that they?ll offer at a slightly discounted rate. They may even have a full slab available, though that?s harder to find.

Most importantly, you won?t pay freight for leftover granite.

You?re saving about $100 when you don?t pay freight on granite slabs. For the penny pincher like you, that?s good savings.

Tip #3: Say no to hardwood floors

We love hardwood floors. You probably do too. They?re just not easy on your bank account. Most good hardwood floors are a minimum of $5 per square foot, not including labor costs. What?s the alternative?

Laminate and vinyl flooring are half the price of hardwood floors.

Laminate flooring has come a long way over the past 15 years with the help of advances in manufacturing technology, so much so that it?s hard to tell the difference between laminate and hardwood. You can find styles with hand-scraped and authentic hardwood finishes.

Tip #4: Don?t install unnecessary wall tile
Installing tile on the wall isn?t easy, so definitely expect to reimburse your contractor for it. You have to put tile on the wall for shower and backsplash remodels. What you don?t need is a 42-inch tile wainscot for your entire kitchen or bathroom (though it?s a fantastic choice).

The thrifty solution is to limit where you install wall tile.

If you?re remodeling your shower (like the one above), don?t install tile on any outside walls. Go with a fresh coat of paint instead.

Tip #5: Purchase pre-made cabinets
Photo courtesy of Pinnacle Mountain Homes
Everyone wants custom cabinets. We get it.

But they?re not always practical for homeowners on a tight budget.

Pre-made cabinets are generally less expensive than custom cabinets (less labor equals less cost). They?re also less headache because they?re relatively easy to install, meaning your home won?t look like a war zone. There?s also a third option: semi-custom, pre-made cabinets. ?They still cost less than custom cabinets, but there?s an element of customization, where consumers can choose species, glaze, door finish, and more.They?re an efficient way to balance your desire to customize with your budget.

Consider this: HGTV says cabinets are 35 percent of your kitchen remodeling costs.

You?re going to devote a significant portion of your budget to cabinets when they?re a part of your remodeling project. Buying pre-made or semi-custom cabinets will keep that budget in-tact.

Tip #6: Opt for granite instead of quartz

Quartz is pricey. According to quartzkitchencountertops.org, the average cost of installed quartz countertops is about $89 per square foot. The average cost of installed granite? $60 per square foot, per Udemy. Some granite styles even go as low as $45 per square foot.

Here?s the math:
If your kitchen countertops are 40 square feet (or about an average-sized kitchen), you?re saving more than $1,000 with granite on average. The cost difference between the two is significant enough to let it affect your buying decision.? ?

Tip #7: Don?t change the location of your plumbing
Thinking about moving your kitchen sink, dishwasher or toilet? Don?t. This Old House says it can cost anywhere from $500-$1,000 to move your toilet more than three feet. The cost to leave it where it is? Nothing. As you?ll see in Tip #8, any type of labor will build your bill up. ?

Moving your pipes around is a good way to send your budget down the drain.

Avoid major changes to your plumbing. Work around what you have instead. If you need to, consult with an experienced contractor and designer to figure out an efficient, cost-effective remodeling solution.

Tip #8: Minimize labor
The bulk of your remodeling cost isn?t flooring materials ? it?s labor. Hammer that into your head. HGTV estimates that labor accounts for 20 to 35 percent of the average kitchen remodel?s expenses, and it?s more than that at times. As we?ve said several times before, having a professional do technical installation work is your best bet because rookie mistakes can inadvertently cost you more money.

But if you can do non-technical labor yourself, do it yourself to save a few pennies.

What qualifies as non-technical labor? Preparation work, mainly. If you?re having new countertops removed and installed, removing old countertops yourself can knock several hundred dollars off your bill. Grab a hammer and pound away.

Tip #9: Allow for extra costs

It happens all the time. A pipe needs to be moved from here to there. A crooked wall needs to be readjusted. It?s hard for flooring contractors to foresee all future issues when they start a remodeling project for you.

Unexpected problems pop up after the work starts, so budget accordingly.

It?s best to set aside several hundred dollars in an emergency fund in case your contractor runs into unanticipated issues that cost more money. And remember: trust your contractor. There?s a reason you hired them in the first place.?

Tip #10: Think mid-range remodel

A major overhaul isn?t realistic for homeowners remodeling on a budget. That means no room additions or head-to-toe face lifts. Pick and choose certain areas of your home or within a room that need to be upgraded, whether it?s bedroom floors or a kitchen backsplash.

In fact, mid-range remodels can yield a high return on investment (ROI).

Minor kitchen remodels yield a 79 percent ROI, while minor bathroom remodels produce a 70 percent ROI, according to Remodeling magazine. That?s quality money management.

*Check out our blog post 7 Professional Remodeling Projects Under $5,000 for several cost-effective mid-range remodel ideas.?

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