By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

Last week, we discussed saving money on your renovation by being your own general contractor. Well, not everyone has the skill set, time or patience to do that. So this week, we have a few tips for saving money on your remodel that anyone can follow.

Tip 1: Smart phasing

Phasing a project can be a great way to stay within a budget. Phasing means separating your overall project into two or more smaller projects that will be done over a longer period of time than it would take to do the whole thing at once.

Break Remodeling into Phases

A master plan is critical in addressing a home remodel as one entity, rather than a series of smaller spaces, and the exterior and the interior should be considered together.

You should start out by sitting down with an architect to create a master plan. With his or her help, you can then determine the proper sequence of construction and separate the work into phases. Failure to plan carefully may result in your having to backtrack to undo some previous work as you continue on the next phase.

For instance, in creating a master plan, you may discover that finishing a family room in the basement this year is not wise if you are going to move a bathroom on the main floor next year. Moving or replacing that plumbing above may require that you will have to tear out the beautiful, new family-room ceiling you just finished paying for. Another example is that through master planning, you realize you will need to add on to create a master suite, so you will only replace windows now that will not be demolished during that master suite addition two years in the future.

Construction is sequential by nature, so the phases in a project should have some basis in logic. Responding to this may require discipline, however, since replacing the electrical panel and sewer connection is not actually as much fun as picking out cabinets and flooring for your new kitchen. However, it is not hard to see the value of updating and preparing the infrastructure prior to installing new decorative finishes in the area.

Although smart phasing may help you stay within your budget right now, it actually may be more expensive overall. Contractors and subcontractors have set-up charges each time they start a job. By separating a project into phases, you will have to pay a set-up fee multiple times. This means the smaller the job, the higher the cost per square foot becomes. Nevertheless, it still may work better for your budget to phase the project, even if the overall cost is slightly more.

Tip 2: Have a master plan

We mentioned a master plan will save you money when you are phasing a project, but it is critical to any project, no matter how you will approach the construction. In the design sense, you must look at your home as one entity, not a series of smaller spaces, and you must consider the exterior and the interior together.

Even if you think you know exactly what you want to do, it is worth consulting with an architect to explore all the possibilities together on paper before you commit to the actual building process. An architect cannot only help you “see” your project before it is built, he or she will also help you get the most for your money. A good architect will give you design options from a basic design to one with all the bells and whistles, with others in between. In addition, he or she should attach some kind of budget estimate to at least one of the preliminary design options, so you can tell if your project is even “in the ballpark” before you pay to execute a final set of construction documents.

Tip 3: Instead of an add-on, redefine existing space

The majority of our clients who are considering an addition can get the functionality that they want just by reconfiguring their existing space, opposed to adding on. The cost to add on to a house is twice that of using existing space. It makes sense when you think of the cost of adding concrete footings and foundations and extending the roof. Those are major cost factors.

When you choose to use existing space, not only do you save on construction costs, but you also save future property taxes. Remember, the bigger the house or the addition, the higher the taxes.

Don’t get us wrong: We are certainly not against additions, but we want you to carefully analyze your current space before you expand. It could mean thousands you didn’t have to spend! As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

Breaking remodeling job into phases helps budget