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Beyond DIY: Tips from 'This Old House' to save on a home remodel
AFTER: Custom details take a surprising amount of coordination between lots of trades, so designing them in advance is the best way to ensure they out just the way you want them. - photo by Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson
In this crazy technological world, one of our favorite sources is "This Old House" the television show, its magazine and its website at They recently published an article titled "21 Ways to Save on Your Remodel" by James Glave.

We can't emphasize enough how critical a budget is to a successful remodeling project. Too many remodeling regrets are related to the budget. Some come in the form of "we should have gone ahead and done X at that time" as well as "we're halfway through the project, but we have used up the entire budget already. Getting budget and project aligned is a step that must be addressed in the planning stage to avoid those regrets.

With that said, we all want to save money anytime we can, so this article offered useful information for all of us. While much of it is directed at the do-it-yourself individual, there are tips that apply to any type of remodeler. Saving money with manual labor is a given. However, not everyone has the time or skill set to save money with manual labor, so we would like to point out a few of their more general tips.

The first way the article suggests to save money on a remodel is to increase efficiency not size. That saying is practically a mantra around our office. Less square footage will always save money on the overall budget. We always tell our clients that the basic remodeling formula is Size x Finish = Cost. If you can reconfigure existing space without building an addition, you can save a lot of money. Plus, using space differently within your home can change your life.

Moving walls within your home even structural bearing walls is more cost-effective than adding on. Just having more space is not the answer to a home that doesn't have a functional floor plan. When clients come to us asking for a new room out back or over the garage, we step back and discuss how they use their current space and how they intend to use the new space. Often their goals can be reached within the confines of their existing walls or with an addition that is considerably smaller than they originally imagined.

Another suggestion from "This Old House" is to consult an architect. We love it when an outside source sees value in what we do. We can endlessly preach that consulting an architect will save money in the long run, but it will always sound self-serving. Glave writes that while not every remodeling project requires the full participation of an architect, a homeowner can benefit by at least consulting with one at the beginning of the project. An architect can help them get on the right path, and he or she can consult with them throughout the project as needed.

Another great "This Old House" tip: Make decisions early. How often have we heard, "But we don't have to decide that (choose that) yet, do we? Can't we wait until we get closer to that?" One of the benefits of working with an architect is that we are great nags; we will always urge a homeowner to plan everything possible as soon as possible. This not only helps keep the budget in line, it will make for a smoother, more successful end result.

If a homeowner creates accurate and thorough specifications for the project, listing all finishes (such as flooring, countertops, etc.) and fixtures (such as appliances, plumbing fixtures, etc.), as well as selecting all building materials (windows, doors, siding, etc.) up front, then he or she will be able to balance the budget and schedule the project successfully. This is a great reality check that should not wait until the project is underway.

There are seemingly endless sources of information available these days, but the information is only as good as the source. We heartily endorse "This Old House" as a tried and true organization with great information to share with the do-it-yourselfer or any homeowner seeking to improve their property.
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