By David Wulff, AIA

I have written on various design subjects in the past. I thought it might be a good idea to give some ideas on ways you can save on your remodeling project. There are a number of ideas, so I will do this over a couple of issues.

Once you set a budget for your project, the biggest fear is that you might go over the budget during construction. Even if you follow the advice I have mentioned in the past and build in a 20 percent cushion to cover the nasty surprises, banish the words “while you’re at it” from your vocabulary—it’s hard not to end up shelling out more than you want to.

But why scale back a project or forgo those essentials that you absolutely want? No, what you need to do is get your dream at a price you can afford. With some strategic thinking about design, materials, and timing, you can cut costs without cutting corners. Some of the following ideas will show you the ways, from the big (knock down the house and start over) to something as small as choosing a wall sconce over a recessed light. But another universal truth about renovations is that every little thing adds up. So save a little here, save a little there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

Increase Efficiency, Not Size

If you can reorganize and equip your kitchen for maximum utility, you may not need to blow out the walls to gain square footage. Start by replacing space-hogging shelves with cabinet-height pullout drawers 8 inches wide, containing racks for canned goods and other items. You could easily shell out a few thousand to outfit cabinets with upgrades like dividers, pull-out pot trays, and Lazy Susans, but you’ll save many times that amount by skipping the addition you thought you needed.

Hit the Recycling Center

Do-it-yourselfers can reap big savings with recycled or lightly used fixtures and building materials. Habitat for Humanity operates about 400 ReStores nationwide, which offer salvaged materials at half off home-center prices. Keep in mind thought that many contractors won’t work with salvaged items or homeowner-supplied materials in general, because they don’t want to assume the liability if something goes wrong. That said, if you’re doing your own work, you can find anything from pre-hung doors to acrylic skylights to partial bundles of insulation.


Do Your Own Demo

Knocking down may not be as costly as rebuilding, but you can still shave dollars by doing some of the demolition yourself—as long as you proceed with care. If you are doing an exterior deck rebuild, you can probably handle that demo. When it comes to interior spaces, it would be wise to consult the architect or contractor first to insure that you are not taking down a load bearing wall.

Consult an Architect

Ok, you just knew that would be one of the items.

Depending on the scale of your project, you might not need a full-on architectural commission, which involves extensive meetings, multiple job-site visits, and several sets of construction drawings. You might be able to tap an architect’s design savvy by having him undertake a one-time design consultation. Something like you might see on HGTV. The architect could meet with a homeowner, examine the problem, and sketch out a few solutions that could be as simple as opening up a partition wall or moving a door. The homeowner can then give the sketch to a builder to get an idea of the cost of construction and, if the project does not need signed and sealed construction drawings; you just saved yourself a lot of money.

Next issue we will tackle some more cost saving ideas.

David H. Wulff, AIA is an architect in Lake Lure.