Where to Splurge, Where to Save

remodeling budget

Planning a remodel is always a financial balancing act, no matter the budget. Chances are, you’ll need to scrimp a little (or a lot) to make room in the budget for the things that are most important to you. But how do you make those decisions? While setting a remodeling budget is a very personal endeavor, it can help to get a big-picture view from someone who does this stuff for a living.

Spend on systems that are built to last. These homeowners splurged on radiant heat throughout their home, a system that saves energy and increases quality of life. Just imagine stepping onto warm floors in winter! Aside from the benefits, a system like this makes a lot of sense to do sooner rather than later — it would be a major hassle to install underfloor heating once you’ve settled into your home.

Save on features that can be easily replaced. Of course, what “easily replaced” means is a matter of perspective. For the homeowners splurging on radiant heat, it made sense to save on less expensive kitchen cabinets, knowing they could replace them down the road.

Spend on custom features that make your life easier. If you are going to splurge on cabinetry, make sure you get exactly the features you want. In this home the owners chose to splurge on custom cabinetry with shelving perfectly sized to fit favorite glass storage containers. If you have an awkward space to contend with or want to maximize function in a small space, it makes sense to indulge in custom work.

Spend on architecture. A well-designed home is a pleasure to live in, structurally sound and built to last. Whether you are remodeling an older home, adding on or building new, working with an experienced architect will help bring your vision to life.

But be realistic. “Architecture is worth the investment if you build,” says Fry. But, he warns, “we know too many people who spent money on beautiful plans but could not afford to build them as designed — or at all.” Keep that in mind when you are laying out your budget and be realistic about what you can afford to accomplish. Beautiful plans won’t do you any good if they’re just sitting in your drawer!

Save on materials by seeking out remnants. It’s always worth checking to see if the type of materials you are looking for are available as remnants — you won’t know unless you ask.This beautiful wet bar was created using remnants, saving the homeowners a significant amount. You can search for remnants on your own (try Craigslist or a local architectural salvage yard) or ask your contractor for a source.

Save by factoring landscaping into your plans from the get-go. When deciding on exterior finishes, think about what sort of landscaping you plan to add before making final decisions. “We’re building a house now, and the client decided to save by not putting in a brick wainscot, as there were going to be big bushes in front hiding it,” says Fry. “So keep in mind final landscaping as another item.”

Save (but don’t skimp) on insulation. “Insulation is cheap,” says Fry. “For a small extra cost, you get lots more R-value.“ Insulation helps keep your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter, so spending a bit extra to create a well-insulated home will save you money in the long run.  And don’t neglect the details. Insulated pipes will help prevent burst pipes in winter — and the floods that go along with them. Can lights are another notorious place for losing heat, says Fry, so be sure they are properly insulated.

The bottom line? Set priorities and budget for them. While certain areas (structural integrity, safety, insulation) are places where no one should scrimp, pretty much everything else is up for interpretation. So take your time, set your top priorities for your project and stick with decisions that make sense for you — both now and in the long term.