Remodeling Tips from A to Z


Ask the right questions: At a minimum, ask your contractor for timelines, plans for keeping the site tidy, experience, site supervision, a plan for unforeseen costs, and a contact person.



Back up. Ensure your contractors are backing up their word with written guarantees. Not only should the new materials and items come with warranties, but their installation should as well.



Cash: Contractors often give significant discounts for cash payments.



Dogs: Remember your pets might not enjoy the noise of construction. Make a plan for them to be in a safe, quiet area.



Enjoy: Bust out the speakers and blast some fun music or an interesting podcast while you work.



Food: If you can’t cook during your renovation, factor take-out and ready-made meal costs into your budget.



Get dirty: Tackle things like ripping up carpet yourself to cut down on costs.



HGTV: Overdose on home renovation shows. They offer plenty of functional and aesthetic suggestions you might want to use.



Inspection: Reduce hidden costs by having a certified home inspector conduct a pre-inspection before you begin. They can help you to anticipate whether your current electrical or plumbing systems can handle the renovations.



Justify: Change orders are expensive and should be avoided if at all possible. If you feel strongly that a renovation in progress needs an adjustment, justify your reasoning for doing so, and resist if you can.



Knobs: If you cannot afford to upgrade your cabinetry, cut your costs by replacing just the hardware instead.



Listen: When interviewing contractors, take note not only of costs, but also of how you get along and how they communicate with you. This may be a long process, and you will have many interactions together.



Move stuff: Before you get rid of a piece of furniture or extra countertop materials, look to see if you can repurpose it somewhere else.



Negotiate: You don’t have to accept anyone’s first offer. Get bids and keep your contractors in the loop. Combine projects and do multiple rooms with the same contactor for a repeat-customer discount. You can even ask for discounts at big box stores. If you are moving into a new home, many home improvement stores will send valuable coupons in the mail as part of a welcome package from the U.S. Postal Service.



Open shelving: These cost less than kitchen cabinets, can be installed anywhere in the home, and make smaller spaces seem larger. Just remember that not all items belong on open shelves. Limit the number of items and display only those that are visually appealing.



Put it in writing. Estimates, protocols for cleaning, and any other agreements should be kept in writing. Email summaries of conversations after you have them to keep track, and be specific. Make sure costs are spelled out per item, not per category, and include model numbers.



Quarter: The 25 cent piece is about 1-inch wide, which means you can use one to take rough measurements on the fly.



Resale: Your return on investment should be proportionate to what your home is worth. Don’t spend your home’s value all in one room.



Standards: Custom sizing comes with additional costs, so go with standardized sizes instead.



10: Set aside an extra 10 to 15 percent of your construction budget for hidden costs.



Utility sink: Have your contractor set one up for washing dishes while your kitchen is out of commission.



Vacate: Take a trip, or move out during the renovation, if you can.



Waste: Remember to ask about how waste is handled, and factor in costs and space for dumpster use.



X out: Make decisions using the process of elimination.



YouTube: Watch how-to videos for simple DIY projects.



Zap out trends: Skip the of the-hour finishes. Go with classics instead for timeless upgrades.