How to Save Money on Home Improvement Projects

How to Save Money on Home Improvement Projects

Your home is one of the biggest investments that you’ll make in your entire life. Not only does owning a home increase your net worth, it also gives you something that you can call your very own. And owning a home also gives you the freedom and choice for remodeling and improvement – a very rewarding, yet oftentimes, expensive affair that you simply can’t do while living in a rental.

Despite the soaring cost of labor and materials, more and more people are getting into home improvement projects for one reason or another. At times, the total cost of the project can be more expensive than one’s annual salary. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost for a kitchen remodel could run from $12,764 to $31,664. People who are willing to dole out a lot of cash for a total kitchen makeover could expect to spend around $49,000 which includes new hardwood floors, custom-made cabinets, granite countertops, and new appliances. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to remodel your bathroom, you might spend at least $3,000 for minor updates like new tiles for the bathtub area and the installation of low-end granite countertop.

A home improvement project could easily drain your wallet, or worse, leave you deep in debt that you’ll have to pay for the years to come. It’s a given that updating your home will cost money, even a can of paint doesn’t come for free, but you can cut the cost down considerably by using your money wisely. You might go through your remodel if you have the time, tools, and skills, or get contractors to do the job. Either way, there are several ways you could stretch your dollar on home improvement while achieving the look and quality that you aspire for.

Reasons for Home Improvement Projects

Since home improvement projects are costly, they’re not a spur of the moment decision. A homeowner does not change their floors on impulse. It not only affects the look of your home, but also your schedule and budget. Home improvement projects require planning to make sure that you’re remodeling for the right reasons.

Increase Your Home’s Value

A good-looking home will sell faster than a drab-looking one. Though you might not have considered selling your home, but circumstances change and you may need to at some point. With that said, you’d want to sell your home for a higher value and the best way to get your money back is through remodeling. Stripping out old and damaged carpet, updating insulation, and putting new doors and windows will certainly give your home a more updated, and appealing, look.

Long-term Comfort and Enjoyment

There are people who end up not selling their home at all. Families settle in their “forever home” until their kids are out on their own. Yet, the same kids also go back home for visits and special occasions. With that said, it is important that your home remains comfortable and enjoyable over the years. Small home improvement undertakings like re-painting give your home with a new look instantly (relatively speaking), while major ones like kitchen renovations, are sometimes required to optimize both functionality and beauty. These projects are usually done for aesthetic preference rather than enhancing your return on investment.

Adapt to Lifestyle Changes

If you’re going to live in your home after retirement or you’re planning to have your parents live with you, certain changes must be made to accommodate their needs, such as installing safety bars and non-slip bathroom flooring. You also need to renovate a room on the ground floor for a disabled member of the family, convert a room to a nursery for a newborn baby, or a new office to accommodate a work-at-home set up. Major lifestyle changes that challenge your home’s accessibility and functionality may require a home improvement project to some extent.

Reduce Your Monthly Bills

Outdated appliances, leaky pipes, and drafty doors & windows can result to higher bills. Putting efficient items like a low flow shower head (which costs $20 in stores), can help you conserve up to half of your usual water consumption. Meanwhile, you can make your home even more energy-efficient by insulating the attic and leaky ducts as well as replacing old windows with ones rated for better energy-efficiency. Most of these are minor improvements, but the cost of these projects will pay for themselves as you enjoy lower utility bills in the long run.

Disclaimer: Depending on how your windows were initially installed, it may not be a simple project. You should 100% get in touch with a (trusted) contractor to get a good idea of whether the home improvement project is something you can do yourself or something you should offload to a pro.

Benefits of DIY Home Improvement Projects

A big chunk of the cost for home improvement goes towards labor. According to HouseLogic, the cost of labor surpasses the cost of materials in 9 out of 10 home improvement projects. For instance, re-aligning a door could cost you from $150 to $300 in labor, but if you can DIY the job, it would only cost you $5 in material and $0 for labor. Furthermore, the survey conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications reveals that around 70% of the home improvement projects are being DIY’ed or completed with the help of friends and family.

The proliferation of DIY on television shows and in the internet is giving homeowners more knowledge and confidence to perform home improvement tasks themselves. Step-by-step photo tutorials and Youtube videos of DIY home improvements have also become popular resource materials for people looking to pocket more savings in the remodeling process.

Doing your own home improvement projects has a number of benefits. Here are the top benefits of putting some elbow grease into improving the look and functionality of your home:


Of course, the most obvious reason why DIY has appealed to many homeowners is the fact they get to save significant amount of money from the total cost of home improvement. Apart from savings on labor, you could also save money on the materials. Buying the materials yourself will cut the costs from the potential contractor’s markup. Plus, if you negotiate at the store and ask for discount on bulk purchases, you get to pocket more money.

A lot of DIY home improvement skills are easy to learn. If you don’t know what to do or how to proceed, you can always search over Youtube for an instructional video. An alternative would be to get a contractor to tutor you. Some contractors offer this service at an hourly charge which is still definitely cheaper than hiring the contractor to do the job himself.


Seeing your own handiwork in and out of your home can give you a feeling of immense pride and fulfillment. It could feel great to be walking on floors you installed yourself and what a relief it would be to see your power bills go down after insulating your doors and windows. Plus, you get to learn new skills that you can use over and over again.

Dangers of DIY Home Improvement Projects

Having a tired and achy body at the end of the day is pretty much a guarantee, but there are other possible scenarios where DIY projects are not the best option.

Risks to personal safety

Even dedicated DIYers know where to draw the line between tackling the project themselves and hiring a professional. Keep your eyes open for red flags to determine if you can safely do the project on your own. Does it involve electrical work or going up the roof? If you’re putting yourself one mistake away from falling, getting electrocuted, or sustaining any other injury (and you aren’t comfortable with it), then you should probably call a pro.

You can make matters worse

The last thing you want is to make things worse by cutting in the wrong place or causing more damage because you aren’t sure what you’re doing. You probably have an idea of how to carry out the task, but if you miss an important detail, you could end up doing more damage.

Major renovations, ones that include plumbing, wiring, and gas don’t just put you and your property at great risk, you could also damage the pipes or wires. You might not notice it until some serious grounding is affecting your electrical activity or when leaky pipes finally threaten your basement. By then, the mistake could become so serious that you’ll need to pay more for another remodel.

Furthermore, certain projects require certain permits from a government entity. Different states and cities have their own regulations when it comes to building inside and around of your home. These permits have respective processing time and fees too. While other areas will permit you to perform home improvements on your own, there are also others that won’t allow it unless you’re working alongside a contractor. But the very fact that a permit is required should already signal that the job is most likely not a good fit for DIY.

Hiring a contractor is far more convenient and it frees up your time, but you end up paying a premium for it. That’s the unavoidable trade-off for hiring someone else to do the work.

When Should You Hire a Pro

Certain home improvement projects need to be carried out by professionals for the following reasons:

The project requires technical know-how.

This again emphasizes the importance of safety. While there are a number of how-to videos and tutorials to walk you through the entire process, home improvement contractors are likely to have dealt with similar situations as yours and they bank on experience and expertise to carry out their tasks safely and effectively.

A DIY-gone-wrong could reduce your home value.

Doing poor or improper installation and repairs could defeat the very purpose of bringing up your home’s value. Sloppy tile installation, no matter how pricey or beautiful those tiles are, could end up with poor results. With contractors taking over, you can at least relax a little knowing that they have the tools and experience to carry out an excellent job.

You don’t have the time for it.

Sure, serious DIYers are shelving significant savings by doing the labor themselves, but you have to balance doing / overseeing the project while still handling your day to day life. If it cuts into your normal work hours, you should hire a pro.

There will always be certain trade-offs when deciding between doing-it-yourself or hiring a contractor. While you can enjoy great savings in DIY, you are also exerting a lot of time and energy on the project and you put yourself at risk of injury and costly mistakes, but you can compromise. Hire contractors for major, technical, and complicated projects to ensure your own safety and quality of work while you perform tasks you can confidently do. You still save money while guaranteeing high quality work on the projects you aren’t confident doing.

Ways to Save Money on Home Remodeling Projects

Home remodeling is an exciting part of home ownership. You’re giving your home a new look by making it more beautiful and functional, but not without the costs. Spending money on the project is inevitable, but there are various ways where you can cut the potential cost and keep some savings for yourself.

Completely Plan Out Your Project

Carefully lay out the complete plan of the project before you and/or your contractor start working on it. Having a plan simply eliminates distractions and helps you come up with what you really want from the project in terms of budget, materials to be used, and quality of work.

Perhaps, the first thing you should do is to determine the extent of work that needs to be carried out. Are you planning a full-fledged bathroom remodel or will a revamp work? Some homeowners are tempted to remodel because the home feels sad, stale and boring. If a coat of paint and change of accessories will improve look of your home (and how you feel about it), then there’s no need to spend ridiculous amount of money for a remodel.

If you find that a good amount of remodeling is required, then careful planning must first take place.

Here are top most considerations:

  • Date/s of the remodel. Are you planning to take a leave at work in order to perform the remodel yourself or at least oversee the contractors? If you’re hiring contractors, it’s best to schedule the remodel during the off season. Contractors are willing to lower their prices when their services aren’t in demand.
  • Determine what you want to happen. Research your requirements for the remodel and consult a contractor / interior designer first in order to nail down the specifics. This is also a good time to get quotes from various contractors so you can decide early on who you want to work with.
  • Determine the materials. If you don’t have specific materials in mind, consider browsing through home improvement stores or searching the internet for inspiration. Along with the contractor’s quote, you can now reach an estimate of the cost of the project.
  • Prepare your finances. If you don’t have a specific fund for home improvement, you will need to determine early on where you’ll source the funds from. With at least several months in preparation, you can better prepare your financing options in anticipation with the cost of the project. However, you can still take out a small loan if you can’t cover the cost of the entire project.
  • Go over the contractor’s contract, secure the permits, and prepare the area. Arrange a temporary home for your family if required.

Having a complete plan will help you anticipate and prepare for contingencies like adjustments of schedule, availability of the contractor or materials, and other add-ons that could affect your budget and schedule. You’ll spend $0 for planning, but there’s price to pay if you change your mind in the middle of the project because you didn’t really know what you want in the first place.

Go with Energy Efficient Appliances

If your project includes replacing old appliances with new ones, go with energy-efficient appliances. Appliances rated as Energy Star typically costs 40% more than standard appliances, but they will also help you save up at least half of your utility bills. Appliances that are least 10 years old use more energy to run so they consume more power than the energy efficient models. As a result, you end up paying more in utility bills. Not only are energy efficient appliances cost-effective, they’re also the greener option since they burn less fuel and help reduce carbon footprint.

Downgrade Your Materials

Low-cost materials don’t always mean low-quality. If you know what to look for and where, you will realize that there’s a lot of saving potential by looking beyond brand-new and high end materials.

If you’re looking for great quality flooring at a reasonable to low price, consider getting engineered hardwood instead of solid hardwood. A square foot of oak flooring can cost as much as $14 in major home improvement stores, but its engineered counterpart costs less than $3. Furthermore, you can strike some savings by opting for carpet remnants instead of new brand carpet. Look for huge carpet remnants to cover all rooms of your home and keep the look uniform all throughout or pick a different design for each room.

You can further bring down the cost of your materials by looking at specific places like ReStore, Habitat for Humanity’s resale store and reuse centers. ReStore, specifically, is a great source for GOOD-quality, but used materials. These materials are ripped from homes by their owners and ReStore takes them and sells them for a bargain. You can score items ranging from cabinets, doors, and windows to different odds and ends. If you don’t like the current look of the material, repaint them for a new look. Even with the cost of paint, the total price will still be significantly lower than high end / new ones.

Ignore Design Trends

Keeping up with the trend can hurt your home improvement budget. Like fashion, trends in home improvement come and go. Right now, spacious bathrooms and kitchens are the trend. Since these two areas are the most expensive home improvement projects, you can do some cosmetic changes to make them appear huge without breaking the bank. Instead of expanding the bathroom through a remodel, install a window and use shower curtain to separate the toilet from the bath.

Granite countertops are all the rage these days, but they’re also incredibly expensive. If you’re really dying for a granite countertop, opt for a less expensive backsplash like ceramic tile in order to cut the cost down. The popular vessel sinks nowadays can cost around $220 but if you opt for a traditional sink, you’ll only have to pay for $97.

Go back to the reason of your remodel and see if it makes sense to spend that much to go along with the trend. If you’re looking for cosmetic updates, there are several cheaper options out there and you don’t even have to demolish your walls.

Do As Much As You Can Yourself

Even if you don’t have a DIY bone in your body, you can still save as much as $200 for doing certain things. Clean up after the contractors, sweep dust, and throw trash away to pocket your extra $200.

Now, it would certainly be an advantage if you know a thing or two about some home improvement tasks. If you can’t do the bathroom tiling, you can probably already start with the removal of old tiles. Perhaps you can sand and paint the new cabinets as well. This will not just help you save on labor; it also speeds up the completion of the project as well.

If you’d like to proceed with DIY or at least help the contractors, you can save on tools by borrowing or renting them instead of buying them outright. Check out the local garage or craigslist for cheap secondhand tools. If you need larger equipment like a floor sander, you can rent one from Home Depot and other similar stores.

Also, one good way to get rid of your “trash” before the remodeling begins is to inform your local Habitat for Humanity. They will help you remove all or certain items from your home for free. This way, you don’t have to exert as much effort and allow for those things to be useful again to other people. Also, these donations have tax credit, so you might as well take advantage of that.

Know When to Pass it Off to a Pro

As already mentioned, certain tasks are better left to the hands of professionals. If you know that you have limited tools, skills, and understanding for certain projects, hand the job over to qualified professionals and prop your feet up on the couch. Focus on tasks that you can tackle safely and confidently.

Complicated projects that involved electrical wiring and plumbing are the top areas that you need to hand over to the pros. You will have to pay more for their labor, but you also get to make sure that the project will completed correctly the first time around. With this in mind, make sure to establish clear communications with the contractor regarding the scope of the job and its cost. Determine the cost for each project to ensure that you’re both at the same page. Also, be wary of hidden fees and ask if the contractor is adequately insured.

Finally, compare quotes from contractors. You might get a cheaper price from a general contractor, but a specialist could complete the job quickly for a higher fee. Once again, consider the trade-offs between time and money before making a decision.

Repurpose Before you Remodel

With a little creativity and investment of time and money, you could find certain items in your home that you can use in a different way. This way, you wouldn’t have to purchase new items and be able to save the difference. For instance, your unused console table could act as a vanity once you’ve installed the faucet and sink. Research different ideas for repurposing household items or look at Pinterest for more inspiration.

Look at Appliance Outlets for Gently Used Appliances

Some remodels may not jive with your current appliances and you want to get new ones. You don’t always have to pay full price. When shopping for appliances, go to the Scratch and Dent Department first. These appliances may have sustained scratches and dents, but they’re fully functional and are available for at least 20% off the price of brand new ones. Furthermore, some damages are not that noticeable and can be hidden with appliance paint.

E-bay and Craigslist also offer a slew of gently used appliances sometimes half the price of brand new ones. Look for sellers in your area so you can personally check the item before purchasing. Lastly, make sure that your appliances carry at least the basic free warranty.

Pay Cash

Pay cash for all aspects of the project. This will remove high interest credit charges from the equation and keep you out of debt too.

Getting a new line of credit, second mortgage, or loan for your home improvement project is a good way to pile on the expenses in the form on interest rate. You might have the funds at your disposal, but you’ll also be paying up for your brand new bathroom for the next several years.

Before doing the remodel, you should do your financial brainstorming. Consider where the funds will be coming from, how much you need to save before the work starts, and how these expenses will impact your overall financial life. It’s also a good idea to have a steady “cushion” so you don’t have to ruin your budget and simply take money from that cushion for anything else that was not budgeted or accounted for.

Don’t Touch your Plumbing / Electrical

If you can help it, work with the existing locations of your electrical system and plumbing. Otherwise, expect a major price increase in your project. Moving electrical and plumbing could also mean relocating the entire system. Even if you intend to move the toilet three feet away, certain changes will also need to be done with the pipes and plumbing. This could lengthen the duration of the project as well as increase the cost by half.

If you do need to touch your wiring and plumbing, be sure to address all the other related issues too (leaky pipes and frayed wires for instance) to get the most out of your money.

Avoid Buying Materials from Big Box Stores

Big box stores do carry pretty lines of home improvement items like flooring, tiles, light fixtures, and appliances, but you’re also paying for the name brands. There are cheaper alternatives if you go to discount websites like where a slew of similar items are sold at a lower price.

You could also go to a local wholesale supplier where you can find overstock or remnant items being sold cheaply. If you’re buying in bulk, you could probably negotiate an even better price.

Also do ask your contractors if they have some supplies at hand. These are usually surplus from their past projects. If your need matches what they have in hand, you could buy the bulk and negotiate for a discount.

But if you have to go to home improvement stores, you could ask for discontinued items and clearance sales as you’ll usually get a hefty discount on them.

Do Your Own Demo

A professional demolition job could cost you $1,000, but if you DIY, you only need to pay $0 for yourself and $450 for a dumpster rental. That’s still half of the potential cost that you can save. If you’ve successfully done a demo in the past, you know what you’re doing and can proceed with care, you might not have to call the pros at all.

But remember that your walls conceal wirings, plumbing and load-bearing that when hit during the demolition, could result to costly consequences. Keep the costs down and stick with what you know.


Seeing your home transformed into a new shape, size, or design is a very pleasing and rewarding experience. Home improvement projects require you to cough up some money depending on the degree of the renovation, but you can keep the costs as low as possible through the smart money-saving tips mentioned above. This way, you can achieve the results that you want with the price that you can afford.

Disclaimer: Content found on, including: text, images, audio, or other media formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional financial advice. Always seek the advice of a professional accountant, CPA, or financial planner with any questions you may have regarding your finances. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this blog.