Home prices are rising, which means homeowners have more equity they can tap to invest in home improvements. Of the 59 percent of homeowners who planned to renovate their homes in 2017, 23 percent planned to spend $10,000 or more, according to a survey conducted by LightStream, a division of SunTrust Banks. Outdoor projects made up the largest remodeling category, followed by repairs and technology, bathroom updates and kitchen remodels.
No matter what your home renovation budget, you can stretch it by making smart choices in how you approach projects.
Click through to discover how to upgrade your home without breaking your budget.
Do the Right Work Yourself
Home improvement labor isn’t cheap, so you can save a bundle doing some of the work yourself — tackling a two-hour painting job, for example, can save you a couple hundred dollars. But stick with jobs you won’t botch. “Homeowners can save money by doing the demo themselves and leaving the large projects to the contractors,” said Mary Riebert, a realtor based in Snow Hill, Md.
For those wishing to give DIY a try, find out which renovations you can tackle to increase your home’s value.
Buy Salvage Materials
Habitat for Humanity provides safe and affordable housing through a network of volunteers and with full participation from the homeowner. The organization sells leftover and donated supplies and materials at its ReStore salvage stores, where you can get below-retail pricing on appliances, building materials and used furnishings. Auctions are another source of good resale materials.
Choose a Steel Entry Door Over a Wood One
Replacing your old front entry door with a new steel door costs much less than replacing it with wood, and it returns 91.3 percent of your investment, according to Remodeling’s 2018 Cost vs. Value report. A high-end steel door with sidelights can cost between $1,000 and $3,000, but a high-end wood version can cost over $4,000.
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Opt for Vinyl Windows Over Wood
Unless you’re going for historical accuracy in an older home, consider vinyl windows over wood to save money and maintenance, and earn an almost 5 percent larger return on your investment. On average, vinyl windows cost $130 to $500 each, compared to $150 to $800 each for wood, according to Fixr. Insulated vinyl frames might be more expensive than non-insulated ones, but they’ll make your vinyl windows at least as energy efficient as wood to help you save on heating and cooling costs.
Use Bamboo Flooring Instead of Hardwood
There’s no substitute for a wood floor, but prices for the various options vary quite a bit. At $2 to $4 per square foot, material costs for bamboo can save you up to $4 per square foot compared to the cost of maple or red oak, and up to $7 per square foot over the cost of Brazilian walnut, according to HomeAdvisor. You can also save on labor costs because, unlike hardwood flooring, bamboo typically comes prefinished.
Choose Ceramic Tile Over Stone
Unlike artificial wood flooring, which lacks the warmth and texture of the real thing, ceramic tile can be a dead ringer for stone tile, but at a fraction of the cost. High-quality ceramic can cost up to $5.50 per square foot, but can be as low as less than $1 per square foot compared to natural stone flooring costing up to $10 per square foot, according to Home Flooring Pros. Ceramic is often less expensive to install, too.
Use Stock or Semi-Custom Kitchen Cabinets
Cabinets are one of the most expensive parts of a kitchen remodeling project, so you’ll want to consider saving on this upgrade by choosing good-quality stock or semi-custom cabinets over fully customized or refinished cabinetry. Stock cabinetry costs $80 to $400 each compared to $150 to $1,000 for semi-custom, $500 to $1,500 for custom and $1,400 and up for refinished, according to HomeAdvisor.
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Purchase Cabinets Directly From the Manufacturer
Homeowners who are able to install their own cabinets can save big by bypassing retail stores. “I save one-third on kitchen cabinets by purchasing them directly from the manufacturer,” Riebert said.
Pick Solid Surface Counters Over Granite or Marble
A midrange major kitchen renovation earns you a slightly better return on your investment than an upscale one does, at about half the cost, according to Remodeling’s 2018 Cost vs. Value report. A midrange overhaul includes laminate countertops, which cost an average of $52.50 per linear foot compared to $148 per linear foot for granite and $154 for marble, according to HomeAdvisor.
Retain Bathroom Plumbing Configurations
Replace fixtures, cabinetry and flooring when you redo your bathroom, but avoid changing the room’s layout. At an average hourly rate of $45 to $150, requiring your plumber to tear up flooring to reroute pipes can triple your plumbing costs, reports HomeAdvisor.
Use Shower Curtains Instead of Shower Doors
Shower curtains come in a nearly endless choice of styles, patterns and colors, and when paired with a liner, are a cinch to maintain. You can get a high-quality designer one from a pricey department store for under $150, whereas midrange frameless tub shower doors easily cost over $600.
Buy Landscaping Materials in Bulk
Even if you’re breaking your landscaping projects up into stages, thinking and shopping ahead can save you money because you can buy your materials in bulk. Buying mulch in bulk is far less expensive than buying it by the bag, and the quality is often better. “One yard of bagged mulch is about $54. A yard of good-quality bulk mulch [purchased] from its source is $23,” said Jen Uhlig, owner of Sharpest Tool Landscaping in Berlin, Md. And considering regular landscaping costs add on to the maintenance of your house, you’ll be happy to save where you can.
Use Your Renovation to Get a Cheaper Mortgage Loan
Homeowners paying mortgage insurance because of low equity can boost the value of their home remodeling projects by taking out a rehab loan and then using that money to pay their mortgage insurance. “Once the updates are complete, you will have more equity and can refinance with no mortgage insurance,” said Riebert.
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Consider All the Ways to Save
Reducing renovation costs isn’t the only way to save money on your projects. Projects that increase your home’s value also increase your equity and can return more than you spend on them in some cases, so don’t be opposed to all renovations even if they cost a little more. It might just be worth it.
About the Author
Daria Uhlig is a personal finance, real estate and travel writer and editor with over 25 years of editorial experience, including past positions with The New York Times Co. and Oxford University Press, where she was a long-time contributor to The Oxford English Dictionary. Her work has been featured on The Motley Fool, MSN Money, AOL, Yahoo! Finance, CNBC and USA Today.