Friday, December 08, 2006

How to SAVE on your remodel/ restoration

Everyone's got a list these days. Here's mine:
Ways we found to save on some of our remodel projects so far:

1) Salvage, salvage, salvage. Got a yellow pages? Try dexonline.com for your area. Search for "architechtural salvage" or "building material" to find places near you that salvage. Or try the web- many salvage places have decent websites.
I could write a whole entry on how to salvage (and maybe I will), but here's a note for beginners: Be flexible in your plans. Sometimes you'll need to alter them, depending on what you find. Finding good value in salvage can take time and be hit-or-miss... be prepared to hunt, to find some items that are WAY over-priced, to bargain, and to come up empty sometimes. But the real bargains you find make it worth it. My favorite salvage places are here.

Biggest bargain so far: Solid 5-panel door with hardware: $17.77
Close second: Solid crystal door knob (and hardware) to match the others in the house: $10

2) Got an IKEA near you?Check out their "as-is" section for items 50% off or more. It changes all the time. Call ahead or ask the staff when they will be changing displays, especially for kitchens. Everything in their displays goes to their "as-is" section, as do many returns. They are a good source for materials, as their "odds and ends" go to the "handyman's corner" at rock-bottom prices. Wednesdays are good days to check.

Other places to check for bargains:
Room and Board weekend outlet- tabletops and countertops, hardwood to use for material
Menard's clearance section- every department has their own, and you have to look for it
A "Building Surplus" outlet- we have several in the Twin Cities- look in the yellow pages or ask
around to find one near you.

Biggest bargain so far: 8 ft. of countertop for $26.00
Close second: A hardwired four-light fixture: $1 (a return with no box).

3) Craigslist.com
If you haven't checked out craigslist.com yet, it's time. It's a free listing service for just about anything. I haven't hired anyone from craigslist, but I have found great bargains from real people who just need to get rid of stuff. The listings change daily (obviously) and you sometimes have to act fast, or the good stuff is gone- especially in the "free" section. People often list "free" odds and ends of building material, or list leftovers very cheaply. I have also found good listings for appliances and cabinets. It's also good for getting rid of YOUR stuff!

I got a 2-yr old Kenmore portable dishwasher that had barely been used for $150. We also are looking for gas stoves and have seen several newer models for $150 or less! That's 1/4 of the price for something new.

4) Trade skills.
What do you know how to do well? Find friends who have other skills and trade them. Don't think you have any valuable skills? Learn one! Take a community education class or attend aworkshops at Home Depot, then practice at home. But pick something you think you'll like- this is what you'll be doing for others. There are many skills that you can gain that will save you a bundle: Painting, wallpaper, drywall, basic plumbing... even demolition work, cleaning, organizing, and yard/garden work can be good trades!
NOTE: When you trade work, it's helpful to talk about exactly what each person will (and won't) do as a part of the bargain, and also what you will do if something goes wrong. You want to keep your friends, after all.

We rely on skills of family and friends, and they rely on us. We've established a good "bartering" network that has probably saved us thousands.

5) Do the work you know how to do yourself- and then hire out only the pieces you don't know how to do.
Things like demolition and finishing work are time consuming, and they take more elbow-grease than skill. If you can tackle a demo or do the final painting, you will save. You can also save by doing the shopping yourself and having all the materials on hand. Good contractors will work with you on this.

We helped our house painter paint the trim and siding that was within reach on a 6-ft. ladder. He did all the work up high (3-story house) and all the difficult scraping, but we saved a lot of time by helping with what we could reach on our own time.

6) Get at least 4 estimates on contracted work.
Yes, it takes time to get estimates. But it also can save you in the long run. Do your homework so you know exactly what needs to be done, and also what doesn't. Ask for an itemized bid with costs broken down, so you can compare apples to apples. Ask each person how they will do the work, and listen closely.

Bids for our new roof varied by as much as $8,000. Tree work bids varied by almost $500. Bids for new windows varied by $5000. We didn't necessarily take the lowest bid on every job, but we saved a ton by having several good choices.

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