By: Daniel Bortz
Is your kitchen hopelessly outdated, and your bathroom a blast from the past? Then it sounds like you're overdue for some home improvements. There's just one problem: Remodeling can be a huge undertaking-and a costly one at that. The average kitchen remodel will set you back $60,000; a bathroom overhaul, $17,908. Ouch! But hey, that's just the average price homeowners pay. Plenty of home renovations can fall way under that wire if you know some tricks to keep your home improvement budget in check. Check out these smart ways to save on home renovation costs to achieve the home of your dreams without blowing wads of cash.
1. Don't do a complete remodel
Unless the room needs to be completely gutted, you can cut costs by refurbishing existing fixtures. When renovating the kitchen, staining the current cabinetry, replacing old drawer handles and knobs, and refacing moldings can save you thousands of dollars.
In fact, refinishing existing cabinets can save you up to 50% compared with the cost of buying new cabinetry, according to Angie's List. You can also cut costs by purchasing materials (e.g., granite, flooring, or lighting) yourself, says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis.
2. Pick decent, midgrade materials
Picking premium options or materials can raise the cost of your remodeling project substantially. One area where you'll find a major price difference? Carpeting.
While basic olefin and polyester carpeting costs around $1 to $2 per square foot, wool can cost upward of $9 to $11 per square foot, according to Angie's List. Those costs add up if you're recarpeting a large room or an entire floor.
Another biggie? Countertops: Granite costs $60 to $100 per square foot; laminate (i.e., Formica) looks like granite for $10 to $40 per square foot.
3. Do prep work yourself
To reduce the hours your contractors will need to put in-and save money on labor-do light prep work yourself, says Dossman. By removing and discarding old carpeting on your own, for example, you'll shave time off the installer's bill, which can lead to substantial savings when you consider that many companies charge an additional $4 per yard to remove old carpet.
4. Go DIY, but know your limits
Another way to cut remodeling costs is, of course, to do the work yourself. That's a good move for small projects, like painting a bedroom, where the work is fairly simple. Also, the materials you'll need, including paint, brushes, sandpaper, and tape, cost only $100 to $200. (Professional painters, meanwhile, charge $25 to $100 an hour.)
With larger projects, however, rolling up your sleeves probably isn't the best decision-especially if you lack handy skills. For major home improvement projects, you'll most likely want to hire a professional to do the work-it'll cost more, but it's worth it. Let's face it: The last thing you want to do is cheap out and need to pay a second contractor to redo the work.
Here are six home improvement projects you should never do yourself.
5. Shop around for the best (and budget-friendly) contractor
Last but not least, a home remodeling project is only as good as whom you hire. It's crucial to find a reliable contractor who will quote you a fair price and deliver high-quality work. To find this special someone, you'll want to meet with at least three contractors and get in-person bids. Doing so will give you a good idea of the price range; it'll also give you a sense of whether you'd be comfortable working with the person.
When vetting contractors, pay attention to small details, like whether they show up on time for the appointment.
Punctuality indicates whether the person is well-organized, which can affect how much you'll have to pay, says Matt Parker, a real estate agent in Seattle and author of "Real Estate Smart: The New Home Buying Guide."
If a contractor has a habit of running behind schedule, that might affect how long the project will take to complete-and how many hours of labor you'll need to pay for. The adage -time is money- can be painfully true when contractors are involved, so you want someone who takes your time seriously.
Another money-saving safety measure: Insist on seeing all renovation estimates in writing, and get a cap on the hours if possible. Meanwhile, a punch list can ensure that the renovation isn't officially done until you're satisfied. Any contractor who isn't willing to provide this par-for-the-course paperwork may not be worth the trouble, because it protects you both in case any part of your renovation goes off the rails.