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How to save on remodeling costs when wood is expensive


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If you’re like many Americans, being stuck at home during the pandemic has given you some ideas on how to remodel your space.

Maybe you need a proper home office, or it’s finally time to give that 1970s kitchen a makeover. No matter what your project is or how you finance it, you could end up spending a lot more money than you budgeted for if you’re not careful. The price of building materials has skyrocketed during the pandemic, as a result of increased demand and tight supply. Lumber prices, even after a recent drop, are still about double what they were in April 2020, according to an analysis by the National Association of Home Builders.

“What we’re seeing right now is just a lot of supply chain havoc. That has created a lot of shortages,” says Elizabeth Gomez, owner of Bridge City Contracting in Portland, Oregon. From border closures to manufacturing plant closures, the disruptions caused by COVID-19 at the height of the pandemic had effects that are still being felt today.

But there are still a few ways you can save on remodeling costs, if you’re willing to get creative. Here’s what remodeling experts suggest you think about before you dive into your next project.

1. Start with the right design

The biggest opportunity to save is in the planning stage, Gomez says. Homeowners often make the mistake of planning a home improvement project without thinking about the materials involved.

“One of the biggest areas where people lose money on projects is that projects are poorly planned,” Gomez says. “It’s important to take a couple of steps back and really evaluate your project,” she adds.

Make sure the materials you need are readily available (and affordable) at your local supplier before you start demolition. Otherwise, you may be stuck fighting for materials or contractors that are more expensive due to expedited service fees.

You can also modify your design in advance to make it more cost effective. Choosing to preserve the original frame and structural components of a room, known as the footprint, can save a lot of money compared to dismantling built-ins and altering load-bearing walls.

“If you go out of your existing footprint and do an addition, you’re going to have all kinds of costs,” says Judy Transue, co-owner of CHC Design-Build in Kansas.

Also think about keeping your design simple. In a bathroom, for example, leaving the plumbing intact or reducing the amount of tile you use can lower the cost of the project.

2. Reuse and recycle

We have all grown up with the mantra: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. This can also apply to your home renovation.

Construction centers sell products and materials that are in their second life, at a deep discount. You can also check to see if there is a Habitat ReStore in your area; These stores also sell repurposed building materials, including full kitchens, at lower prices.

“You can find one-of-a-kind pieces that not everyone is going to have,” says Gomez. Of course, you may have to do a bit of digging.

Also consider keeping some of the materials that are already in your home, says Transue. Instead of replacing a hardwood floor, for example, you could restore or expand it by patching up the new floor.

“You’re going to save a lot of money instead of replacing it,” says Transue.

3. Look for Big Box Discounts

While they may not be a source of lumber per se, big box stores like Costco are increasing the quality and quantity of building materials they sell, Gomez says, and can be a great way to save on other aspects of your project. of renovation.

A Kohler-brand sink and faucet set, for example, might cost $300 at Costco, but it would be triple the price at a plumbing store. “There’s a lot of value there,” Gomez says.

This strategy can also be applied to household appliances. Consider floor models, scratch-and-dent deals or clearance sales to save money on those purchases, Transue suggests.

4. Sell what you no longer need

The temptation is real to start your home renovation with a sledgehammer: knock down walls, break out old cabinets, and throw it all away.

But before you do, ask yourself if any of the materials have resale value. Transue once saw a client carefully remove and resell an entire kitchen: cabinets, countertops, and everything.

Reselling old supplies could be a source of income to offset the higher cost of new supplies. Your contractor likely won’t resell any of your materials for you, Transue says, but you have a window of opportunity to sell materials before any actual demolition or construction work begins.

If you’re not sure what to do with old supplies or accessories, try listing them on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Worst case scenario: nobody buys it, and you can donate it or throw it away, but it’s worth a try.

5. Work with a professional remodeler

Designing and even executing a renovation yourself in an effort to save money can sometimes be a smart move, but experts warn that it can also come with hidden costs.

This is especially true with wood: professional remodelers and contractors have access to products that the average consumer doesn’t.

“Timber prices are what they are,” says Transue. “By working with a remodeler, they can get discounts at sawmills,” she adds.

Transue suggested starting with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) as a resource for finding and hiring a qualified professional. (Transue is a NARI-Certified Remodeler and serves as the Kansas City President for the organization.)

Gomez agrees that there are significant benefits to working with a professional. They can work with you to understand your project goals and suggest different types of materials that best fit your budget.

But keep in mind that no matter what you do, you may run into supply shortages, delays, or price increases; that’s the reality of renovating during the pandemic.

“It has created a challenging time for people looking to do it for themselves and for industry insiders,” says Gomez.

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