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6 Tips for Saving Money During a Home Remodeling

6 Tips for Saving Money During a Home Remodeling

When Carolyn Leonhardt and her husband, Ted, sold their Seattle-based graphic design business more than a decade ago, she had no idea she would find herself in the home design/renovation business. After successfully remodeling three small cottages in the Napa Valley, word got out and she found herself with several clients looking for help with their renovations. Carolyn’s remodels are not lavish affairs, but they’re sensibly and tastefully refurbished and have taught her where to spend and where to save. How does she pull it off?  As she tells Remodelista, “I study the space to understand how it does and does not work and try to use what is there when possible. Sometimes cosmetic work is enough—new cabinets, new appliances, etc. Other times, major surgery is required, but careful planning and smart choices can keep costs down.” Read on to learn several of Carolyn’s secrets:

1. Pay attention to the foundation. If you are buying a house, ask the agent about setbacks and lot coverage. Not every house is expandable. Always examine the foundation before you buy, as replacement is costly and disruptive. Usually it’s the most cost-effective to maintain the footprint and envelope of the existing building.

Above: The doors in this small three-bedroom cottage are the standard 7 feet but the ceiling was opened up to 15 feet at the highest point to provide a greater sense of space.

2. If possible, use existing plumbing locations. In the UK and Canada, plumbing is on the outside of the building, but in the US it is in the walls, so changing it requires much more work. (Many houses have a crawl space, or a basement, which makes plumbing and wiring more accessible.)

3. Insulate all exterior walls and ceilings. If you open up any internal walls, put in insulation, particularly around bedrooms and bathrooms. It’s cheap and it helps reduce sound. (For an eco-friendly and affordable insulation idea, see Rehab Diaries: An Unexpected Insulation Solution.)

4. Unless you are a serious cook, or money is no object, don’t buy an expensive commercial-style range and fridge. There are many mid-priced, great-looking appliances out there. Appliances are standard sizes, so start with what you can afford because you can always move up later.

5. Spend money on door hardware, light fixtures, and faucets. Think of it as jewelry for the home.

Above: A small pass-through leading to the kitchen was turned into a study painted a dark color to make it feel bigger.

6. Last, but not least, never underestimate color. Paint has the power to transform. It is fast (immediate gratification), and even the good stuff is relatively inexpensive, and a careful amateur can do a good job. Hate your house? Try paint first.

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Read more: Crafts & Design, Feng Shui & Organizing, Home, Materials & Architecture, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, Remodelista, , , , , ,

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Remodelista is a one-stop sourcebook for the considered home, guiding readers through the design and renovation process. Founded by four friends with a shared design DNA and appreciation for intelligent design, Remodelista counts architects, design professionals, and style-conscious consumers among its daily audience. The Remodelista aesthetic favors classic and livable over trendy and transient, well-edited interiors over cluttered environments, and thoughtfully designed products over mass-market, disposable goods.


+ add your own
2:34PM PDT on May 26, 2013

Thank you for the excellent tips! (n, p, t)

8:39PM PDT on May 19, 2013

Thank You! Good tips here!

5:03PM PDT on May 18, 2013


4:39AM PDT on May 18, 2013


4:07AM PDT on May 17, 2013

Recycle as much as we can

1:20AM PDT on May 17, 2013


3:35PM PDT on May 14, 2013

Thanks. I thought everyone put plumbing in walls too.

5:39AM PDT on May 13, 2013

Thanks, andrew H. Simplicity is the fruit of wisdom.

10:21PM PDT on May 12, 2013

Thank you!

3:19PM PDT on May 12, 2013

Wow.... what a great article, it had so many good ideas for touching up the home, and making it freah and new again. Most of them are in the beginners area. I won't feel like I am taking on too much at once. keep the ideas coming.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Mine does that to her 'olderbrother' but it is usually followed by a bite.😊



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