Home Upgrades on a Budget Waldorf MD
Designer / Architect, Remodeler
Better Business Bureau, National Association of Home Builders, National Association of the Remodeling Industry, National Kitchen and Bath Association, National Remodelors Council
2008 Guildmaster with Distinction, 2009 Guildmaster with Distinction, 2010 Guildmaster with Distinction
S & S Electric, LLC
Home Upgrades on a Budget
Don’t put off improvement projects, just look for savings
Americans spend billions of dollars every year on home improvements. While putting money into your home can reap a great return on investment, it is important to stay within a budget while creating the home of your dreams.
Spending less doesn’t mean giving up on your visions entirely; it may mean scaling back, rethinking your plans or looking for other avenues to accomplish more with less.
Here are some ideas:
1. Tax credits
Homeowners who purchase and install specific products, such as energy-efficient windows, insulation, doors, roofs, and heating and cooling equipment in existing homes can receive a tax credit for 30 percent of the cost, up to $1,500. To check out all of the credits available, visit EnergyStar.gov.
2. Plan, plan, plan
Think through the entire process of your renovations. The Internet makes it easier than ever to review products and manufacturers as well as check out feedback from other home remodelers.
“The information is all out there,” said Tom Kraeutler, co-host of “The Money Pit” nationally syndicated radio show. “Doing your homework is a great way to keep your costs in check.”
The same advice holds true whether you are doing the work yourself or hiring someone else. There are a number of Web sites that offer feedback about contractors and other service companies.
3. Be realistic
It is important for do-it-yourselfers to realize the limits of their expertise, Kraeutler said. The fastest way to rack up a large bill is bringing in a professional to undo and finish a job you attempted yourself without the proper expertise or equipment.
4. Best budget buys
Kraeutler is a stickler for buying the best paint you can afford. “Most of the cost of painting is in labor, and if you buy cheap paint, you will need more paint and it won’t last as long.”
Higher-quality paint tends to have more titanium dioxide, Kraeutler said, which allows for better coverage in fewer coats.
5. Don’t cut corners
With any home-improvement project, always complete all the steps from start to finish. When painting, be sure to clean your surface well and use a primer before applying color. Primer acts as the “glue” to help the paint adhere better for longer, with fewer coats and brush marks, Kraeutler said.
6. Do small projects
Even if your room or yard needs a major overhaul that’s out of your budget, there are smaller improvements that can have an effect. To maximize curb appeal, use low maintenance container plants near the front door for instant color.
In the kitchen or bath, change out the hardware -- what Kraeutler calls “bling for doors and drawers” in his book “My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure” -- for an immediate and inexpensive update.
7. Save energy
Use less energy and water for the entire time you own your products. Look for the Energy Star label issued by the Department of Energy and the newer WaterSense label, a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency. Using products bearing these labels can slash 30 percent off your energy and water costs annually without sacrificing quality.
Kraeutler said that the manufacturing of these products is better than ever, and some of the glitches of earlier generations have been resolved. For example, low-flow showerheads can now deliver a strong shower, and water-efficient toilets actually work with one flush.
8. Check your deck
Decks are a big focus this time of year, and it’s important to inspect yours before that big party. An easy and cheap way to save on replacing cracked or worn deck boards is to pull out the worn board with a nail puller, turn it over, and use the other side as the surface, Kraeutler said. That side of the board should be in great shape because it hasn’t had the wear and tear, plus, you don’t have to spend additional money.
9. Use remnants
Using scrap or remnant materials to complete other projects is a popular way to keep costs down, said Dave Brassard, CEO/owner of RE Marble & Granite in Temple, N.H.
“More and more clients are having us use pieces from home renovation projects, such as kitchen countertops and bathrooms, and turn them into key parts of landscaping projects in and outside the home,” he said. “For example, several customers recently had us do projects where they desired stepping stone pavers from various granite pieces.”
10. Splurge on the details
When using tile in a bathroom or kitchen, stick to simple and inexpensive tiles for the main field portion, but liven it up by mixing in more expensive decorative tiles sparingly, Kraeulter said in his book.
“Since you are using this decorative detail in small quantities, you can really splurge for something that is really special,” he said.