You’re starting your renovation, and if you are like I was, you are probably really excited! If it’s your first one, you are heading to some expensive lessons. I’ve found that many people renovate, but not everyone shares the lessons they learned. That is the entire part of #RenovationWeek. To share and learn together and hopefully, make fewer mis-steps!
With that, here are 5 ways that I’ve learned to save money during your renovation:
1)Review the space / spaces you are renovating on 3 separate occasions.
Do this *before* you meet with a contractor and keep a detailed list of everything you want to do to the space (I like a small, moleskin notebook – they easily fit in your pocket, which is key when you are shopping in-store for materials). Reviewing it multiple times will help you flush out what you want to do, and get your mind thinking in the right direction. Ask yourself these types of questions: do I need to move electric? Will the ductwork get in the way of my shower? How big a vanity will fit in this space?
Contractors love change orders (when you make a switch mid-project) because it increases the budget. A change order will always be more expensive then if you planned that item from the start. If you’re organized, and can provide them a detailed structure of the renovation, you will ultimately save money.
2)Review everything in detail with your contractor.
Meet with them at least twice (you, or they, will inevitably forget things during the first visit). Ask many questions about the impact of certain decisions. For example, if you are adding an ejector pump in your basement, will it need a special outlet (the answer is probably yes), and is that cost included? If you are installing a shower drain, how much will that cost and will other plumbing need to be moved to accommodate it? If you are closing off your mechanical room, will it then need a light installed? Where will the door move and will the electric need to be moved as well, to accommodate this?
Do you see the thinking pattern here? It’s a lot of cause/effect relationship….if you want to have 1 finished project, then certain things need to happen to make that occur. Essentially you want to think 1-2 steps ahead.
3)Establish a budget and stick to it.
Sounds easy, right? Materials are the easiest way to go off budget. Why? Because we walk into the home improvement store, immediately see something pretty and decide “I want that!” The problem is, “that” is probably going to blow your budget. Instead, establish a budget, visit your local home improvement store, and ask an associate to show you the materials they have that fall in that price range. Tile is probably the biggest culprit of this. One way to ensure this is to ask your contractor what price per square foot they estimated for your renovation. If they have given you a $2.00/ft allowance, and you find a tile that is $10.00/ft, prepare to go over budget in a big way.
4)Don’t forget the details and extras.
In a kitchen, you will need cabinet pulls. In a bathroom, you’ll need towel bars & a toilet paper holder. These are little things that can add up and get expensive very quickly, sometimes adding hundreds of dollars to your budget. Plan for them up front.
5)Get everything in writing from your contractor.
This seems so simple, but you want a detailed bid, up front, that is signed by you and the contractor, before they start. Many contractors will keep bids vague, and that’s bad for you – it means they can change the game on you later. If the project calls for renovating a kitchen, make sure it covers all materials, all tile installation, accepting delivery of appliances & installing/connecting them, venting your range hood outside, all electrical and all finish work, including installing cabinet hardware.
If they offer to do something for you, confirm (in writing, ideally) that you won’t be charged for it. During my 1st renovation, my contractor asked me if I wanted him to do things while they were doing other projects – picking up materials, demolishing a ratty old storage shed in my backyard, etc. He wasn’t being altruistic – I got billed for them at the end of the project, but he never once said “Scott, that will be an extra cost for us to do that”. If they offer to do something, know that they will charge you for it – ask up front. Better yet, anticipate these things up front (picking up materials is a great example) and add that to your bid *up front*.
So there you have it, several tips to save $$ on your next renovation, based on lessons I learned the hard way!