The basics of remodeling on a budget

The basics of remodeling on a budget aren’t difficult; they’re just not used enough. A little planning can go a long way, while still allowing you to achieve your remodeling goals.

Creating Your Budget

The first step is to research costs by making a list of prices of the products you plan to install and/or purchase. You can get the sample prices by looking on the Internet, or by contacting:

• kitchen and bathroom showrooms • home improvement retailers • appliance stores

If you’re unsure of which products you might ultimately choose, write down the range of prices for those items.

Ask contractors for bids on the project based on your selection of products and finishes. Examine the bids to ensure they include enough details on items that can affect the cost. There should be a list of all the functional components -- framing material, drywall, and plumbing and electrical systems, and details on what type of fixtures and appliances will be included.

Remodeling budgets fall into three general categories:

• mechanical (electrical, plumbing and heating) • labor • materials

Each category typically accounts for 25 to 35 percent of the total budget. You also should set aside 10 to 20 percent of the total budget to cover unexpected construction costs, price increases for materials and project changes.

Once the bids are in place, then review your financial picture. Look at your finances for the past year to see if you had enough cash flow to meet expenses. If you are considering taking out a loan, can you make the payments without cutting into your routine expenses?

Staying On Your Budget

Once the project begins, keep track of budget changes and decide whether you will increase the total cost of the project or scale back on another area to stay within the budget. Consumers often exceed their budgets because they ask the contractor to add little projects that are outside of the bid estimate. Avoid using the words, “While you are here, you may as well....”

What are other ways to stay within your budget?

• avoid the temptation to add “small” details to the project • do some of the work yourself, if you have the skills • divide the project into phases to spread out the cost over six months to a year.

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