11 ways to save big bucks on your next remodeling project


Cooking up a major kitchen remodeling, but hoping to get it for a price far below the project’s national average of $62,158? Or maybe a wood deck would do you, but the average price of $10,707 doesn’t square with your budget.

Over half (59%) of homeowners plan to spend money on home improvement projects this year, according to a new Harris poll conducted for LightStream. Most — 42% of them — expect to spend $5,000 or more, and around a quarter said they will spend at least $10,000.

1. Pause for a moment

Remodeling Magazine says the 2017 average home project will pay back just 64.4% of its cost if the home is sold within a year. You might want to consider whether going forward with a project is even worth it. (Here are some projects we think are probably not.)

If you do move ahead, read on for creative tips to bring that price down to earth.

2. Save on materials

  • Recycle and reuse building materials. Habitat for Humanity’s hundreds of ReStores sell new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances at a fraction of their retail prices. Donations to locally operated ReStores are sold to the public, and proceeds go toward building homes, rather than trying to fit donated items into homes that volunteers build. You can find anything from pre-hung doors to acrylic skylights to partial bundles of insulation.
  • Find free or cheap materials online through sites like eBay, Craigslist and Freecycle or in person at flea markets or building-supply auctions operated by state governments.
  • Look for ways to repurpose materials. Actress Amanda Pays (“The Flash”) tells Remodelista that she loves the look of old wood, but reclaimed timber has gotten expensive and overused. Her builder, though, was happy to sell her scaffolding boards for $10 a plank, she said. “They’re all over our house,” Pays said. “We even used them as stair treads.”
  • Ask your contractor for odds-and-ends left over from other jobs. “What we do is take 50% off the materials from the previous client, and we offer them to the next client,” says contractor Butch McKeon. “We always have extra materials left over.”

3. Look for deals on pivotal pieces

Keep an eye out for specials on big-ticket items that you need, things like countertops, kitchen island installation, or new windows. Once you buy the deal, plan the rest of your remodel around it.

4. Stick with standard sizes

Semi-custom pieces can cost twice the price of stock pieces, which already run $8,000 to $10,000 for a typical kitchen, says Houselogic.com. Custom is even more. You’ll sacrifice some options in size, color, finish and accents, such as crown molding, to get the less expensive stock cabinets.

5. Consider good imitations

Lowe’s recently advertised laminate wood planks that resemble hardwood floors at $1.89 per square foot, about half the price of real deal, pre-finished oak, at $3.19 and up.

Here’s a guide on how to get upgrade essentials for a fraction of the cost.

6. Maximize space before trying to enlarge it

For example, instead of a full-kitchen remodel, you may be able to replace kitchen cabinet shelves with pullout drawers and racks, and save thousands, says This Old House.


7. Don’t move plumbing

Relocating a toilet just three feet, for example, can cost you up to $1,000, says This Old House; relocating the kitchen sink, up to $2,000.

8. Plan what you’ll spend, and then some

Make a budget, but build in a 10 to 20% margin of error for whatever may go wrong.

9. Use elbow grease to save on labor costs

What can you do yourself?

Sometimes projects are best left to professionals. But paying someone to do interior painting and trim work can cost a small fortune. If you can handle basic tools such as a paint brush, ladder, miter saw and a coping saw, you can save a bundle on labor. If you can’t, consider volunteering at Habitat for Humanity or other groups that would give you free training while you help a good cause.

Read more: 12 DIY projects for every budget and skill level

If you do hire a contractor, ask about doing your own demolition or cleanup. Also ask if you can order supplies yourself. Contractors who order on their own often add markups for themselves on the materials they order for your job. You can also save if you can pick up materials and haul away job waste yourself.

Before you hire a contractor, here’s how to verify the person’s credentials and background.

10. Time your project

You’ll often pay a contractor more in summer, their busy season, than in winter months, when work usually slows and they may discount their services.

11. Save on stress and cost with a schedule

Sticking to a timetable may also help avoid cost overruns by eliminating inefficient use of any labor you may hire or having subcontractors show up to perform work that’s not ready for them to tackle.


For additional tips for stretching your remodeling dollars, such as remodeling slowly, using solar tubes instead of skylights and more, read on here.

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