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Saving Money on Contractors during Home Renovations

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Since we all started staying home two years ago due to the pandemic, house prices are at an all time high and families are really reevaluating their home needs and functionality. It seems as though everyone is getting something updated or renovated in their home, including us. While our situation might be a bit more extreme on the remodeling front, I’ve found some ways to save money on contractor costs so I can splurge on the fun stuff!

Savings Tip 1: Be Your Own General Contractor

Being your own general contractor (GC) may seem overwhelming but it comes down to knowing your build schedule and what you have wiggle room for. Instead of hiring a GC who provides a turnkey product (and bill!) I have hired all of my subs independently and monitor the project schedule myself.

Typically your subs can do your work for less than the same work would cost on a general contractor line item. Which makes sense, time is money for everyone in the construction business. I’m doing the calling, scheduling, and invoicing. This has been the biggest cost savings for us but is also the most time consuming. I have to vet all of the independent trades and work within their schedules to make sure we’re on task for the next step in the process.

Savings Tip 2: Ready and Willing to Demo

Contrary to every HGTV show, most contractors don’t enjoy demo work. It’s messy, hard work, and you have to deal with the removal of whatever material you’re taking out. Typically contractors will charge more for that kind of work because no one actually wants to do it. 

Refinishing 105 year old floors helped us save thousands on contractor labor costs.

Take on Demo Day yourself and save some cash for the fun part of renovations!

DIY prep and demo work helps homeowners save money on contractors.

If you have the capacity, do your own demo work and you could save significantly on labor rates. We took out the lathe and plaster in our fireplace wall before it was insulated and drywalled. We also plan on demo-ing the kitchen cabinets ourselves. Not only will it save on labor costs, we anticipate being able to sell the cabinets.

Savings Tip 3: Be Willing to do the Finish Work

This goes hand in hand with DIY demo. Most builders don’t love to paint a room, install wallpaper or even replacing light fixtures. It’s boring, tedious work and they’re going to charge you for it. 

If you’re new to home improvement, take a look at YouTube videos and Pinterest and see what you can take on. You’d be surprised how easy it is to change out a light fixture!

Savings Tip 4: Price Out Your Product

There is two sides to this tip. My drywall sub is great and just charges us cost for drywall. He can typically load 12 foot sheets in his truck and we can barely fit 8 foot into the back our van if we empty out all of the car seats. I’m happy to source that out to him. For my bathroom though, I really wanted basketweave marble for the floors. It’s typically $12-14 a square foot but I managed to watch sales and was able buy the tiles for $3 a square foot. Contractors typically aren’t going to waste time looking for sales. They’ll quote you their price and that’s that. You do want to be sure your product is appropriate for your situation and that your sub can work with what you’ve purchased.

Saving money on a contractor means taking on your own demo and prep.

I did the same thing for our cabinet hardware and Shaw sink for the kitchen. I was able to score a huge deal on each by buying second hand, something commercial contractors don’t have time or capacity to do.

Savings Tip 1: Be Your Own General Contractor5: Be Flexible and Patient

With all this said about saving money on your end, know that construction is their livelihood and contractors are going to prioritize bigger ticket projects. We have a wonderful contractor and he fits us in when he can and we are able to save money by implementing most of these strategies.

A finished project is going to take longer when saving money on a contractor.

As they say, you can only pick two options out of fast, cheap, and good when dealing with construction. So we’ve mostly forgone fast with our updates. We know projects are going to take longer and we’re going to have to contribute some elbow grease. I’d prefer to do that and be able to purchase nicer finishes and products for our home.

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