Let’s face it, home remodeling projects rarely stay as small and easy as you think they’re going to be. More often than not the budget quickly increases once you start the project, and you’re faced with important decisions to make along the way. How you deal with these can determine how badly the job will impact your wallet. Here are seven time-tested and sure-fire methods to keep in mind when considering your next home improvement job:
Plan everything out. Then plan again – There’s an old carpenter’s saying, measure twice, cut once. By being meticulous in your planning, you can try to avoid a lot of headaches down the road. Make sure you completely review bids from contractors and don’t select one just because they are the cheapest or are available right away. Do your homework. Choose the design materials carefully to avoid costly changes later.
Consider Design and Contractor Costs – Many large scale remodeling projects will require the services of a professional interior designer, architect or contractor. Insist that each bid include a detailed proposal on the scope of the work. Do some homework to determine if the fees are comparable when you shop for rates. The cheapest bidder may leave you with the clean-up and finishing work. The most expensive bids may include oversight costs that you can do yourself.
Set Milestones – Develop cost and time line goals and adhere to them as much as possible. By making a list of several tasks out of the overall larger project makes it easier to estimate the costs and manage the time line later.
Hire Professional Contractors – Good architects, designers and contractors will add to the initial price of the project, but can save you a lot of money and frustration in the long run. Their experience will help you find pitfalls early that can cause budget and scope creep later. So how do you find a good architect or contractor? Ask around and be diligent. Word of mouth and referrals are a great way to find reliable, trustworthy professionals that have done good work in the past. Check out online sites which offer customer reviews, such as Service Magic and Angies List.
Stay Involved – Even if you hire a contractor be available to pitch in where you can. By doing some of the destruction or demo work yourself you can save on the bottom line cost. If you’re good enough, do some of the final finishing work yourself to help lower the costs. Painting, touch up or installing faucets or other fixtures yourself can keep you within budget and give you the satisfaction of knowing you did some of the work yourself.
Careful with Customizations – Using custom cabinetry, windows, doors or other products can quickly increase costs for any remodeling project. This is one area where you can exercise a great deal of control over the remodeling costs. A standard window at your local home improvement store may cost $250, but a custom-sized window will cost at least double. Some elements of the project may have to be custom made due to size requirements. But some product categories – such as windows, doors and cabinetry – offer a wide variety of standard or semi-custom choices. Adding your own trim or details later may make these standard choices look customized.
Stay On Target – Remain focused and don’t get sidetracked. For example, if you are painting your bedroom and you discover that the adjoining bathroom paint now looks dingy, don’t stop what you’re doing to go work on that. Schedule the bathroom paint upgrade for another weekend. The desire to add or change along the way will be tempting and may prove irresistible. If your remodeling projects stick to the original plan, most would finish on time and within budget.
The larger the size and scope of your remodeling project the better chance you will have of running over budget. So don’t only plan for the project, budget for at least 10% more than what you think the project will cost and make price consideration choices accordingly. If you make a plan and stick to it, you’ll find less surprises along the way. And you’ll also be a lot happier with the outcome.