Friday, January 4, 2013

Dwell's Six Ways to Keep Costs Down

I always tell my renovating clients "the best way to stay on budget is to resist the urge to change the plan."

Change orders often involve returning items, paying restocking fees, paying contractors to take out what's there and then put in something new, new architectural or engineering drawings (because the change is not as straightforward as you think, and unless you make it clear that you're concerned about the all-in costs, no one is particularly anxious to let you know that),  added permit costs or even new requirements for design review or public hearings.  It all requires more time, which means more personal disruption, and of course more money.

And "money" includes labor, materials and carrying costs (your mortgage (PITI) for those extra couple of months you're unexpectedly not getting full use of the house).  In fact, I had a brief chat with a plumber recently and he threw out an nice example--snazzy wall-hung toilets (vs. the usual kind that sit on the floor)--"yeah, the price for the toilet is not much more than the usual, but they'll pay me three times as much to install it, with all the added wall bracing and repatching it requires."

Dwell's February issue focuses on budget renovations, but in a very thoughtful way--not just "buy Ikea," but rather "be smart from the get-go."  Their six meta-suggestions:

"--Haste makes waste--Getting your design just right isn't a race against the clock, and taking your time just might save you a few bucks along the way.

--Rein it in--Building small means building less.  And building less means saving more.

--Expert moves--Whether designing affordability into the structure or driving a hard bargain for those countertops, budget-conscious architects and builders know what it takes to minimize costs.

--High-impact splurge--Inexpensive needn't mean uninspiring:  These are the bold, big-ticket flourishes that really make the space.

--Sweat equity--A little DIY ingenuity and some deftly applied elbow grease keep costs low.

--Material intelligence--From a well-placed pop of color to a cleverly installed wall of curtains, these moves make the most of the materials at hand."

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