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23 ways to save on remodeling

For starters, keep in mind that you likely won't recoup the costs of remodeling when you sell your house. Still want to proceed? Here's how to cut costs.

By Stacy Johnson May 17, 2012 2:45PM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.

 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyIn 2011, the average cost of adding a bathroom was about $40,000, while a major kitchen remodel was nearly $58,000, according to Remodeling Magazine. Considering U.S. workers earned an average of just more than $45,000 in 2011, remodeling a house can cost more than an entire year's salary.

 

But it doesn't have to. Stacy Johnson shares five money-saving tips for remodeling your house in the video below. Check it out and then read on for more ways to save.

1. Consider resale value. Once a year, Remodeling Magazine publishes a Cost vs. Value report, which shows the average job cost and resale value for typical remodeling projects. Few remodeling projects offer a 100% return on your investment, but some projects have a higher resale value than others. For example:

  • Cost for a home office remodel: $27,963
  • Resale value: $11,983 (43% of costs recouped)
  • Cost for a sunroom addition: $74,310
  • Resale value: $34,133 (46%)
  • Cost for a minor kitchen remodel: $19,588
  • Resale value: $14,120 (72%)

Check out "5 home improvements that won't sell your house" before you start remodeling. Unless you plan to live in your house for the rest of your life, you'll want to recoup some of your costs when you sell one day, so choose remodeling projects with higher resale values.

 

2. Plan around deals. Look for deals before you start remodeling. Say, for example, you know you want to update your kitchen. Keep an eye out for specials on countertops, kitchen island installation or new windows. Once you buy the deal, plan the rest of your remodel around it.

 

3. Plan for the unexpected. Leave some wiggle room in your remodeling budget for unexpected costs. If you don't have the cash on hand to pay for the overages, you might be tempted to borrow the money, which can result in hefty interest.

 

Remodel: Image: Woman Using a Spirit Level on a Sink in a Domestic Bathroom (© Alex Wilson/Digital Vision/Getty Images)4. Don't move plumbing or electric. Moving drain lines is costly. According to MSNBC, relocating the kitchen sink can cost up to $2,000. Plan your remodel around the current plumbing. Adding or moving electrical outlets is also expensive.

 
5. Stick to stock sizes. Look for standard sizes when you purchase materials. Custom pieces cost far more than the stock pieces sold at home improvement stores. For example, Rempros, a remodeling group, says that custom kitchen cabinets can cost 60% to 80% more than stock cabinets.

 

6. Buy imitations. If you're buying new materials, look for imitations or knockoffs. For example, solid oak hardwood flooring costs $14.26 per square foot at Lowe's. Engineered oak flooring costs $2.98 per square foot, and you won't notice much of a difference.

 

7. Buy cheap materials. Many contractors mark up materials, and some charge to pick them up. Also, big-box home improvement stores don't always have the best prices. Buy materials yourself at resale stores like the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. You can also find free or cheap materials online through sites like eBay, Craigslist and Freecycle.

 

8. Attend building supply auctions. Stacy once bought a new Miele oven worth $3,000 for $600 at an IRS auction. To find local building material auctions, search "building material auction [your state]." Other places to check:

Before attending any auction, do enough research so you know the value of the items for sale, then decide on the maximum price you'll pay. Auctions can be a great way to save, but getting caught up in a bidding war can be costly.

 

9. Ask for leftover materials. Contractors often have extra materials from past jobs. They may not be exactly what you want but you'll probably be able to negotiate a hefty discount.

 

10. Haul materials yourself. Having the store deliver your materials can be expensive. If you don't have a truck, rent one. Home Depot rents trucks by the hour. Prices vary but it costs about $20 per hour in my area.

 

11. Don't pay to haul debris away. Hauling away the old materials gets expensive, especially if you're undertaking a large job. In my area, it costs $22 to have one appliance picked up on trash day. If you're remodeling entire rooms, you might have to pay for a Dumpster to hold the trash in between trips to the dump. Also, call your local Habitat for Humanity. They'll pick up anything salvageable for free, and you'll get a tax write-off.

 

12. Don't go overboard with granite. Granite countertops are nice. They're also pricey. But if you're set on having them, compromise. Pair your granite countertops with a cheaper backsplash. For example:

  • Granite tile: $21.42 each at Lowe's
  • Ceramic tile: 21 cents each
  • Total savings: $21.21 per tile
13. Ignore trends. Much as you do with clothing fads, you'll probably get sick of housing fads in a few years. Stick to the basics instead and save. Take those popular vessel sinks, for example. Home Depot sells an American Standard model for $213.23, or you could buy a traditional drop-in sink for $97.

 

14. Add solar tubes instead of skylights. Solar tubes are metal tubes that funnel natural light to the room below. They're small, effective and cheaper than installing a window or skylight. HouseLogic says having a solar tube professionally installed will cost about $500 (compared with about $2,000 for a skylight) -- or you can install one yourself. The kits cost $150 to $250.

 

15. Limit recessed lighting. Recessed lighting looks nice, but costs more than other light fixtures. In my area, Homewyse estimates it costs $714 to $1,415 to have six recessed lighting units professionally installed. By comparison, the average cost to install a ceiling light fixture is $147.50.

 

16. Find the right contractor. Start by looking for a contractor in the off-season. Contractors charge less when they need the work -- like right after the new year. Then pit contractors against each other. Get at least three  bids to find the best price.

 

Remember that price shouldn't be the sole consideration. How well you relate to the contractor, the contractor's experience, references and other factors are just as important. The key is to get the best value, not the lowest price.

 

17. Do small jobs yourself. A remodeling bid typically includes everything from consultations to cleanup. If you're not skilled with your hands, you can still save money by doing some of the small jobs yourself. If you have the extra time, ask the contractor if you can do the cleaning, painting, and light demolition yourself.

Related reading from MSN Real Estate

18. Work alongside the contractor. If you're somewhat skilled as a handyman, do bigger jobs yourself and save even more. Many jobs -- like appliance installation, crown molding and flooring upgrades -- don't require a ton of experience. Check out any of dozens of do-it-yourself sites, including the Lowe's Video Center, for step-by-step instructions on dozens of home improvement projects.

 

If you want hands-on experience, spend a weekend volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. You'll work with experienced contractors, learn everything from roofing to flooring, and give back to your community.

 

19. Hire a coach. If you're still not sure about doing the work alone, hire a contractor to watch you work. Many contractors will do this for a reduced rate, so you'll still save on your construction costs. In "16 tips to save on home remodeling," Stacy talks about hiring an electrician to help him install recessed lighting in his house. He saved about 50% and learned a new skill.

 

20. Think revamp, not remodel. Your biggest savings opportunity may already be in your house. Instead of replacing everything with new materials, repurpose what you have. For example, my mother painted her brass chandelier instead of replacing it. A chandelier can cost anywhere from $50 to thousands. A can of spray paint costs about $2.50.

Consider what you already have -- from lighting to baseboards to cabinets -- and see what might look better with a little sanding and a coat of paint.

 

21. Save on appliances. If your remodel includes upgraded appliances, don't pay full price. There are several ways to get discounts on major appliances.

  • Buy at the right time. Appliance retailers have big sales around holidays, and once a year when the new models come out (usually between September and October).
  • Look for scratches and dents. Buy a scratched floor model and you could save 10% to 20%.
  • Buy used. Search sites like Craigslist for gently used appliances. Last year, I bought a $350 air-conditioning window unit for $150 that way.
  • Skip the extended warranty. Most extended warranties are never used. Stick with the basic free warranty.

22. Prioritize. First do the upgrades that will lower your monthly bills. Make a list of every upgrade you'll directly benefit from, such as energy-efficient appliances, ceiling fans or double-paned windows. These are improvements that will pay for themselves over time.

 

23. Remodel slowly. Save up enough cash to pay for one wish list item at a time.

 

Our goal was to create a top-to-bottom, blueprint-to-cleanup list of ways to save on a home remodeling project. How'd we do? Give us your tips for cutting remodeling costs below.

 

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

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