Essential Tips to Keep Home Improvement Costs Down

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Before you hammer the first nail, your home remodeling and improvement projects will face critical make or break points along the way. The choices you make at these points can be critical to the success of the project. To get the most of your remodeling dollar, be sure to follow the steps below to keep your home improvement projects on track and within budget.

Hire a professional - Good architects, designers and contractors will add to the initial cost of the project, but can save you money and aggravation in the long run. Their experience will help you find design pitfalls early that can cause budget and timeline problems later. So how do you find a good architect, interior designer, remodeler or contractor? The best way is through word of mouth and referrals. Talk to your friends to see if they recently completed a remodeling project. They may be able to recommend a good architect, interior designer, remodeler or contractor. Also determine if they were satisfied with the quality of the work they received. Another great source can be your local parade of homes or home builders association.

Design Fees and Contractor Costs - Most complex remodeling projects will require the services of a professional interior designer, architect or contractor. Insist that each provides a bid that includes a detailed bid covering the scope of the work, any subcontractors they intend to hire and the timeframe for completion of the work. Do some analysis to determine if the costs are comparative when you shop for rates. The bargain rate firm may leave you with more clean-up and finishing work. The pricier bid may include oversight fees or project management charges that you can do yourself.

Don't skimp on planning- Like any major project, proper planning is the key to success. Take the time early in the project to spend the quality time needed to make informed decisions ahead of time. Be sure to adequately review bids from contractors and don't select a contractor just because they are the lowest cost provider or are available immediately. Do your homework. Choose the design materials carefully to avoid costly changes later.

Develop goals- Develop cost and timeline goals and stick to them as much as possible. Breaking the remodeling project down into smaller elements makes it easier to estimate the costs and manage the timeline later.

Ongoing personal involvement- Stay involved and pitch in where you can. By removing old fixtures, cabinets or doing other clean-up work you can save on the overall remodeling project. If capable, do some of the final finishing work yourself to also drive down the costs. Painting, touch up or installing faucets or other fixtures yourself can keep you within budget and give you the satisfaction of knowing you did some of the work yourself.

Design Choices and Customizations- Using custom cabinetry, windows, doors or other products can quickly drive the costs up for any home improvement project. This is one of the area where you can exercise a great deal of control over the costs. A standard window at your local home improvement store costs approximately $300, but a custom-sized window will cost more than double. Some elements of the project will need to be site specific and possibly customized. But some product categories - such as windows, doors and cabinetry - offer a wide variety of standard or semi-custom choices. Adding your own trim or embellishments later may make these standard choices look customized.

Deviations cause delays- Don't let yourself get side tracked. For example, if you are painting your bedroom and you discover that the adjoining bathroom paint now looks dingy, don't get side tracked. Schedule the other room for another weekend. The desire to add or change along the way will be temptingand inevitable. If your remodeling projects stick to the original plan, most will finish on time and within budget.

To reduce scope and avoid escalating costs during your remodeling projects, be sure to properly manage the variables along the way. Estimating costs for home improvement projects is both an art and a science. The better you plan, manage those variables and stick to the original plan the more likely you are to be satisfied with the project and complete it within your cost and timeline budgets.