Smart Spending Tips for Home Projects

Unfortunately, when it comes to homebuilding/remodeling/renovating projects, there is no secret bargain hotspot we can let you in on. And if there were, it might not be your best bet anyway—it’s no fun living with leaky faucets and a toilet that doesn’t flush because you cheaped out on plumbing costs. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to stay on budget, and even trim the cost of your home project. We asked local pros for their tips on how to spend smart in order to get the best bang for your buck:

Hillary Messer, Sunrise Building & Remodeling, Briarcliff Manor

1. Don’t be fooled by someone else’s cost

“Just because your neighbor remodeled his bathroom for $5,000 doesn’t necessarily mean your bathroom will cost the same. There are so many variables—the age of the house, the size of the space, how many and what type of sinks are being installed, is the plumbing staying in the same location or moving, et cetera. You need to meet with a contractor in your home so that they can review all these items and come up with a realistic cost for the job.”

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2. Simple design changes can reduce costs

“Architects and homeowners don’t always realize the cost implications of their design choices. For instance, stone tile installation costs much more than ceramic tile. High-hat lights are also expensive and usually plans have many more than necessary. Same goes for switches—if you’re willing to walk across the room to turn off the lights, it can result in large savings. Molding can cost from 65 cents to $3 per lineal foot—simply switching to a less-expensive molding can make a big difference.”

3. Touch as few rooms as possible

“Remodeling ‘creep,’ as we refer to it, can add thousands of dollars to a project: a homeowner decides to redo the master bath, and then thinks, ‘As long as we are doing work, we might as well put in that extra closet and add crown molding to the hall bedroom…’ Try to stay focused on the original project. If it comes in under budget, then you can move into other spaces that need work.”

4. Watch out for ‘bargains’ that may cost you more in the end

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“If a faucet is $29 at Home Depot and the one you really like at a plumbing-supply store is $129, there is a big quality difference between the two products. If you plan to stay in your home, and don’t want to pay a plumber to come back and repair or replace that $29 faucet in a year, it’s wise to choose the higher-quality product.”

 5. Avoid the most expensive mistake

“The most expensive mistake a homeowner can make is hiring any contractor who does not have worker’s compensation and liability insurance. If you do that, and any of their employees are hurt on your job, you will be sued.”

Jim Avery, Precision Painting of Westchester, White Plains

1. Shop around for your own materials

“We always use top-of-the-line products like Benjamin Moore paint for our quality work. But if a customer can obtain these products at a lower price, I encourage them to do so. In addition, customers may be able to save money on their project by purchasing their sundries (drop cloths, paint brushes, caulking materials, sandpaper, roller covers, patching materials, certain primers etc.) at stores such as Lowes and Home Depot. Also, a customer should always check their local paint suppliers to inquire about any sales or discounts they may be running.”

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Michael Murphy, Murphy Brothers Contracting, Mamaroneck

1. Don’t fixate on the lowest number

“When comparing bids, once a homeowner sees the lowest number, that becomes the right number and everyone else has to justify their price. But remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. If one bid is drastically lower than the others, that is a red flag. Investigate why the bid is so low—and never trust a contractor that comes in with just a number and a place to sign; you need detailed information on how they got to that number.”

2. Keep overall home value in mind

“If you’re doing a renovation and someone suggests, for instance, that you install vinyl windows to save money, check with your local realtor to see if a decision like that can diminish the value of your home.”

Rick Yestadt, Gordon + Yestadt Architects, Larchmont

1. Get multiple, specific bids and develop a realistic budget

“I suggest a minimum of three bids. If you’re going it alone without a design professional, create a list of categories of the work the contractor is providing (electrical, plumbing, mechanical systems, framing, tile work, et cetera), then stand your ground and don’t accept any bids that don’t provide a breakout of the costs according to your categories.”

 2. Keep timing in mind for lower costs

“The most cost-effective time of year for a renovation that is all interior work is late September into October/November, after contractors have finished their spring/summer projects and are interested in keeping their crews busy during the winter months. For a project with new foundations, walls, and roof structure with or without interior renovation, the best timing is December to January, when contractors are interested in locking in projects for the spring.” 

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