How to save on home improvement projects
With the economy still struggling, money is tight for many homeowners. That reality can present a problem to those who want to improve their homes without spending too much money.
The cost of a home improvement project depends on a host of factors, including the scale of the project and the availability of materials. Upscale projects like a full roof replacement will set homeowners back a substantial amount of money. In its 2011-2012 "Cost vs. Value Report," Remodeling magazine revealed that the average cost of a such a project was nearly $38,000. However, a smaller project like a garage door replacement could be completed for fewer than $3,000.
When deciding if a home improvement project is within your budget, it's a good idea to consult such figures before choosing a project. For example, if your home is a fixer-upper, then one project may not be more urgent than another, something that may allow you to choose less expensive projects now while saving money for more expensive projects down the road.
It's also important for homeowners to know that figures such as those in the "Cost vs. Value Report" are just averages. Some projects might cost more than the average, while others might come in well under budget. To ensure your project is one of the latter and not the former, consider the following ways to trim costs off your next home improvement project.
* Avoid the DIY movement if you don't have adequate experience. Many homeowners fall into the DIY trap, feeling they can pull off a project without hiring a professional contractor. While this is an option for those homeowners with home improvement experience, it's an approach that's best avoided by those without such experience. Homeowners who decide to go it alone on a home improvement project should know that mistakes are costly. One mistake could have you paying for the same materials twice: once when you begin the project, and then again when you need to hire a contractor after your efforts didn't work out. A failed DIY project also costs you time, something homeowners hoping to sell their homes post-project cannot afford to waste.
* Hire the right contractor. The best contractor for the job won't necessarily be the one who comes in with the lowest estimate. The right contractor will know how long a project will take and what the materials will cost. The wrong contractor, who might lack the experience of his competitors, might make empty promises that ultimately cost you more money via overrun costs. Find a contractor who comes highly recommended and is willing to provide references and show you his or her past projects like the one you're hiring him or her undertake. If you hire the wrong contractor, the project may never be completed and you may find yourself in court, where the money you had budgeted for home improvements is being spent on lawyers instead.
* Consider supplying your own materials. If you diligently research your project, you should be able to buy the materials yourself, even if you plan on hiring a contractor to do the work. Some contractors mark up the materials as a means of padding the bill. If you research the project and learn about the materials you want to use, you can save a substantial amount of money buying those materials yourself and then hiring a contractor.
* Don't overlook recycled materials. Buying recycled materials is another way to reduce home improvement costs. Bathroom fixtures, doors, flooring, and lighting are just a few of the materials that are commonly recycled and resold at a fraction of the cost of new materials. Shop around for stores in your area or peruse the Internet for recycled materials. Homeowners undertaking a replacement project rather than a remodel might even be eligible for tax breaks if they donate their old materials.
* Choose projects that provide more bang for your buck. Another way to save is to choose projects that provide a strong return on your investment. The "Cost vs. Value Report" compares the cost of popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale. If money is a motivating factor behind your project, choose a project that will get you the most money back at resale.
While the economy has not necessarily been kind to the home improvement industry, there are still plenty of homeowners looking to improve their homes. Savvy homeowners can do just that and save some money along the way by putting a few strategies to work for them.