Home Renovation the Frugal Way

Posted by Mrs Money on July 22nd, 2010

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No matter how neutral your home, or how much time you spent searching for fixtures and fitting you just love, there will often come a time when you feel the need to renovate. Maybe you are selling, perhaps you have just bought a home which needs some worth – either way your budget is important and if you don’t have a lot of spare cash for a renovation, renovate the frugal way.

This doesn’t mean missing out on a great finish or good quality work, it simply means being smarter with your renovation budget, and planning your renovation carefully with these six comprehensive tips.

1) Look for recycled materials

Recycled doesn’t always mean rubbish because some good quality home renovation items can be found if you just know where to look:

* A salvage yard. Often a lot of the items at a salvage yard are from older homes which have been demolished and you can find some good quality fixtures, fitting and materials which will add character to your home renovation for a fraction of their original price.
* Newspapers and online. For an even cheaper option look at trading newspapers and websites as there are often people looking to give away items or sell them for a nominal fee if you go and pick up the item and take it off their hands.
* Left overs from the renovations of family and friends. If friends or family have recently completed a home renovation of their own, they may have a spare pot of paint which could be enough for a feature wall or to repaint your laundry. You could even pick up left over fabrics or furniture or appliances which have been upgraded to match their renovation, and will go perfectly with yours.

2) DIY

DIY makes financial sense only if you have the skills and the patience to complete the project properly, otherwise you can end up making a mess of your renovation and spending more to fix it that a contract would have cost in the first place.

For a successful DIY renovation:

* Allocate plenty of time for the projects. When you are rushed mistakes are made so take the time to consider exactly what needs to be done in your renovation and make sure you have all of the tools and materials for the job.
* DIY can make a big difference. Even if you think you don’t have any DIY skills to offer to a home renovation, things like cleaning and clearing the house, stripping wallpaper and removing debris and green waste from around the outside of the house can make a difference to the look of the home. It can also mean that the contractors you do bring in to help with the work you can’t do have an easier time of it because there are fewer obstacles in their way.
* DIY first and then wait. Do what you can on your own first and if you come across something you can’t do, move onto the next thing you can. You will find that solutions can appear if you don’t rush your renovation and you may meet someone through friends or work who has the DIY skills you don’t; or you may even find that waiting a few months the prices of contractors drop when there is less demand.

3) Avoid structural changes

Knocking through walls and adding new rooms are the renovations which are going to be the most costly – it is much cheaper to add a new vanity to the bathroom than to move the position of the sink all together.

Before you start hacking holes in your walls, consider making more frugal changes such as:

* Moving your furniture. You may have originally thought that you needed to add a dividing wall to your living area to create more usable space, but by moving the couch and a few bookcases you can create a room divider and a whole new look in your home.
* Renovate what’s on the walls. Repainting or wallpapering is an affordable renovation solution if you are after a new look, especially if you’re not too set on the colours you are after; many hardware stores will sell tins of paint called mis-tints where the colour didn’t come out exactly right to match the sample, but if you’re not matching to anything you have a tin of paint for a significant discount. Similarly, if you’re only wallpapering one wall as a feature, look for ends of rolls. Even changing the pictures and wall hangings can renovate a room by creating a new focal point, and detracting from a structural feature which will be expensive to change.
* Kitchens don’t always need a complete overhaul. If the structure of your kitchen cabinets is solid, then you can save on your renovation by just replacing the door handles or the doors, rather than the whole cabinet. Plus, updating your stove, your fridge or your microwave can give your kitchen a modern new look.
* Don’t throw money down the drain in the bathroom. You can save money on a typically expensive room to renovate by looking at what you already have – the cost to re-enamel an old bath is a lot less than a new bath will cost, and you can update your look with new taps instead of replacing the whole vanity.

4) Choose good quality contractors

In truth you won’t be able to do everything in your renovation project yourself, but the choice of contractors is not where you want to tighten your purse strings. Instead, make sure you take the time to research the work of the contractors you are considering, get references and ask to see the quality of the work to make sure you are choosing a good quality tradesperson.

While you may pay slightly more in the beginning, you will get a better job in the long run, the job will be done on time, the price quoted will be the price charged and you won’t have any hassles to worry about – after all a renovation can be stressful enough without adding unreliable contractors.

Plus, when you have high quality workmanship in your home, the quality of the work will add more value to your home.

5) Add money saving items

While you are in the process of renovating, look at things you can add which will save you money and make your home greener, and more appealing to future buyers. For example:

* A gas hot water system.
* Solar panels.
* A rain water tank.
* Water saving toilets or shower heads
* A dishwasher.
* Double glazed windows to keep the heat in in winter and out in summer.

These items may cost you more now, but can be a good investment in your power and water bills for the future; especially if you were going to replace these items anyway, spending a little more now can save you more later.

6) Don’t rush

It is important to have a plan and a time frame for your frugal renovation to make sure it doesn’t stretch out indeterminably, however when you rush a renovation it will cost you. Contractors will often charge a premium if you insist on a short turnaround time and you don’t want to rush them either, and risk compromising the quality of the work. Instead, have a plan, but keep it flexible.

Also take the time to shop around and if you can’t find the right price on your renovation item, leave it for a while and something may turn up down the track.
When you use your common sense and work on your patience you will find it is easy to renovate your home in a frugal way, without having to compromise on the quality or the overall effect of the finished product.

Alban is a personal finance writer at Home Loan Finder, where he offers tips to compare home loans and refinancing loans online.

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13 Responses to “Home Renovation the Frugal Way”


  1. Becky R says:

    Hi! I just spent a small amount to improve my front porch:
    $16 white rust paint (to do trim and gutter)
    $15 three cans spay paint (did bench, numbers, and flower pots on porch)
    $18 concert paint (I did the porch floor it was gross)
    $49 total
    It looks so nice. Plus I have been sweeping it since I did it so I am keeping it nice.

    [Reply]

  2. Judy says:

    That’s right! Keep your eyes open for possibilities. You might even watch around new home construction. Lots of times the leftover bricks (etc) just get tossed. Might be enough for a mailbox structure, or a bbq grill…..

    LOTS of fence posts and bricks got tossed here after tornado season….

    [Reply]

  3. Great advice! DIY is a big one as well as avoiding major structure changes…rearranging the furniture really does change the look of a room.

    We also bought discounted gift cards online for the store we were buying our supplies from, so that was an additional 10% off. I’d suggest using Discover Card cash back rewards, Ebay, or sites like The Plastic Jungle.

    [Reply]

  4. Len Penzo says:

    Great tips!

    I’d just like to add that it is also important to make sure those contractors have a contractors’ license! It makes it easier to get compensated when the contractor makes a costly mistake. And because they have to be bonded, you are protected if an injury to one of their workers occurs on your property. :-)

    Best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com

    [Reply]

  5. Little House says:

    DIY projects always take longer than you initially think. We’ve done a few things in our rental that took twice as long as we thought they would. Like paint and rearrange our closet to get more function out of it. We thought it would only take a couple of hours, it took two days! I now double the time on any DIY project to avoid disappointment.

    [Reply]

  6. Greg says:

    @ Budgeting in the Fun Stuff we usually rearrange our living room once every couple of months to keep it fresh. I’ve been teaching myself to be more of a DIYer so that I don’t have to pay outrageous prices for simple electrical work or clogged pipes. I just started a blog about living frugally and would appreciate it if you would check it out. My most recent post is about cutting the cable.

    Keep up the great work Mrs Money,
    Greg

    [Reply]

    Budgeting in the Fun Stuff Reply:

    Greg, if you live near Houston, we need a ceiling fan installed in the guest bedroom. ;-)

    [Reply]

  7. We couldn’t agree more with these ideas, and we love the positive impact that many of these moves will have on the environment. New construction or purchasing of materials doesn’t necessarily make the quality any better. We’d also recommend re-upholstering furniture. We see firsthand how practices like refinishing and re-upholstering can breathe new life into pieces that may have been forgotten.

    [Reply]


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