Last week, we started the discussion on home remodeling budgets and saving money on the remodel.

Like we said last week and many other times, the key to saving money on your remodeling project is planning ahead. The more you plan, the more you can save. Your contractor needs detailed design plans in order to give you a dependable bid. The more time you spend on the planning stage, the less likely you are to have expensive change orders and costly mistakes during construction. Plus, a well-planned project will result in a remodeling job that looks great and adds more value to your house than something just thrown together.

(before)this space needed a refresher, and planning an itemized budget ahead of time will allow you to see the big picture and give you time to determine where you can cut back and where you should buy the best.

(after)construction on this space benefited from having a master plan and determining all the materials needed, which helped determine where money could be saved. 


Planning your itemized budget ahead of time will allow you to see the big picture and give you time to determine where you can cut back and where you should buy the best. We recommend not cutting back on the permanent components of the project. Even though it may not be the most fun purchase, it is always a good idea to get quality doors, windows, roofing and insulation. These items will be well worth the money in the long run. Electrical, heating and hot water systems are also areas to buy quality.

There are many items you will be buying for a home remodel. Obviously, there are the construction materials that will most likely be ordered and purchased under the supervision of your general contractor. You will be responsible for selecting many other items such as appliances, flooring, countertops, cabinets, lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, etc. Human nature being what it is, we often have an item or area in which we feel particularly invested. You may dream of a high-end, restaurant-style range or a free-standing tub in which you can soak away your cares. While you cannot respect your budget and select everything from your high-end wish list, you can probably splurge on something if you carefully balance it with bargain shopping in other areas. Unless you know the bottom line and keep the big picture in mind, such splurges will generally lead you far afield from your budget.

One way to save money in a remodeling project is on labor costs. If you have a lot of free time and years of construction experience, you may be skilled enough to be your own general contractor. Though you can save thousands of dollars, you will earn every penny of it. There are also some ways to save on labor for the not-so-skilled homeowner by being responsible for the unskilled portion of the labor on your job. This would include demolition (remove old flooring, cabinets, wall coverings, etc., under the supervision of the contractor) and general routine job site cleanup. The next level would be to do your own painting, wallpapering, or install your own floor coverings. Even laying tile is a completely doable project if you are feeling handy, and it will save you hundreds on labor.

You can possibly save money throughout your remodeling project by repurposing, recycling or refashioning items. For example, if you are remodeling your kitchen, you might not need to buy new cabinets. If your cabinets are in good shape, you might be able to just refinish them and add new hardware. In older homes, you might find beautiful hardwood floors under the carpet that can be refinished rather than replaced. When you replace the countertop in the kitchen, you may be able to use the old countertop in the laundry room remodel.

There are times when recycling and reusing may not pay off. Doors from a home built in the 1930s or ’40s may be well built, but they are also covered with layers and layers of old paint that may well be lead paint. By the time they are removed, stripped and refinished, along with cleaning up the hinges and hardware, you can probably buy a new door with the same profile for a similar cost. Contractors often prefer to demolish a roof and replace it rather than trying to tie new features (such as dormers) in to existing framing. The trade-off is lower labor costs, which often offset the higher cost of replacement materials. A good residential remodeling contractor will be able to give you advice when it comes to the best and most economical approach to the construction of your project.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the principal architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at Send comments or questions to

Renovation Solutions: Budgeting, repurposing can create savings on remodeling