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Top 10 Home Remodeling Tips

Busting the budget is everyone's biggest fear when it comes to renovation projects. And with good reason. With some strategic design thinking you can cut your home renovation costs without cutting corners. 

1. Don’t work without a design.

Whatever you do, don’t start a remodel without a detailed floor plan. I can't emphasize enough how an inch or even sometimes a half an inch can make a difference. And if your dimensions are off and it's not equal and symmetrical, you're not going to get the full impact and effect that you want. When you have accurate measurements you’ll catch problems before they are built. You may be able to build a functional space without a plan, but if you want a functional and beautiful space, hire a designer who gets your aesthetic and help you come up with a good plan.

Designing as you go with cause delays to your project and costly change orders.  A good designer will add value to your home by helping you make informed decisions.  There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to remodels - it takes experience to pull the right finishes all together. 

2. Make decisions early

Start prowling the aisles at the hardware store or home center way before the wrecking crew shows up. Get a good feeling for what you want in fixtures and appliances and what they cost. If you aren't absolutely specific up front about what you want, you'll have to rely on your contractor's estimate, called an allowance, and his notion of what is acceptable may be quite different from yours. "Ninety–eight percent of the time, allowances are too low." For instance, you may have had a glass–tile backsplash in mind, but your contractor's bid was for ceramic.

Cost to plan ahead: $0 Cost of change orders midstream: The difference in the item price, but also time lost to project delays and communications glitches SAVED: Up to thousands

3. Don't move the kitchen sink. Or the toilet, if you can avoid it. That often becomes the biggest part of the plumbing–price increase. If your new layout requires that you move the toilet, use the opportunity to upgrade the pipes at the same time. That will save you money in the long run. Cost to move toilet more than 3 feet: $500—$1,000 Cost to leave in existing location: $0 SAVED: Up to $1,000

4. Ignoring Lighting

Another mistake that homeowners will often make is not taking into consideration the lighting in their home. The lighting in your home can completely change the colors, the feeling, the ambiance. There are really three main types of lighting: general lighting, task lighting and drama or accent lighting. You need a combination to have a really good end design.

5. Plan with stock sizes in mind.

"Ask yourself, 'Why am I building something 10 feet wide if plywood comes in 4–foot–wide sheets. The same applies to stock windows and doors: Use manufacturers' off–the–shelf dimensions from the outset and you will save the premiums of custom fabrication. Cost of custom doors: $1,500—$2,500 Cost of standard doors: $500–$800 SAVED: Up to $2,000

6. Don’t put lipstick on a pig.

Though a builder will rarely come right out and say this, some houses should be knocked down rather than have money put into them to fix them up. Though this is a rare situation, it’s common for people to put money into fancy cabinets for a house with a sagging foundation, or into a high-efficiency furnace in a house with no insulation. Listen to the professionals who come to look at your job. Be open to their suggestions.

7. Going too trendy

People often make the mistake of wanting to be too hip and trendy in their new home by picking the latest, hottest, coolest things. What they don't take into consideration is that trendy means that it's short term. You want something that's going to stand the test of time, and you want something that's going to last for years and years.

8. Not Using Green Materials

People will often make the mistake of not going green with their home project for two reasons: 1. They don't know how to, and 2. They think that it costs more money. If you're doing your renovation green, you're really ahead of the market right now. So going green is a very smart investment. 

9. Forgetting to update the electrical system

I think people sometimes forget about electric when they've been renovating because it's costly and it's hidden. You want to walk through the house with the electrician before you start to talk about outlets, where they are, where you want new outlets, three-prong outlets. You want to make sure everything's up to code.

10. Avoiding Permits

You may think not applying for a building permit helps shave costs and sidesteps all the bureaucratic BS, and you'd be right—and wrong. If you don't comply with building codes, you may be on the hook for fines and an expensive tear-out and redo of your project. Another reason is if you do perform work without a permit and something serious happens, your homeowner's insurance will not cover it. Also, not conforming with codes could even cost you when you decide to sell your home—a sharp-eyed inspector undoubtedly will spot violations that shrink your asking price or tank a potential sale altogether. 

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