Spring is a popular time to start planning your home improvement projects for the year. Winter is finally retreating, and you can examine both the damage the cold weather did to your home as well as decide which areas you’d like to see updated.
Whether you’re planning to gut your entire house or simply give a couple of rooms a fresh coat of paint, you’re one of many homeowners with reno plans in mind. LightStream, a division of SunTrust Bank, conducted a survey through Harris Poll of 2,055 adults released in February, and found 58 percent of homeowners plan to spend money on renovations this year. And for many, that means more than one project.
An outdoor deck, patio or landscaping was cited by 43 percent of respondents as a project for the year, while a bathroom remodel is on the list for 31 percent of homeowners, general home repair is planned for 28 percent and a kitchen remodel is in the cards for 26 percent of respondents.
As evidenced by the share of respondents planning each project, many homeowners are preparing to tackle more than one home improvement project this year. For many, the first question that comes up is how to pay to cover all improvements. You can use a home equity line of credit, home improvement loan or even tap into your investments, but the majority of homeowners polled – 62 percent – intend to use their savings.
Especially if you’re basing your budget on what you’ve got saved up, it’s imperative that you spend wisely. When you’ve got more than one project on your to-do list for the year, plan ahead to determine where the bulk of your budget will be most effective.
Here are four things you should do to effectively spread your home improvement budget across more than one project.
Figure out the to-do list. It’s one thing to know you want to update your kitchen and living room this year; it’s another to establish the specific renovations you’re planning to gain a better understanding of the scope of the project. Are you looking to reface the cabinets and paint the walls, or do you plan to knock out a wall, add an island and install new lighting?
Your budget can certainly limit the changes you have planned for your house, but appropriately spreading out your funds can help create a fresher look throughout the house. A kitchen or bathroom may command a larger share of your budget, but don’t neglect adjacent rooms, recommends Dan Tarantin, president and CEO of Harris Research Inc.
“The one area is going to stand out so much that then, by comparison, other rooms might look tired,” he says.
Harris Research Inc. is the parent company of several home improvement companies including Chem-Dry and N-Hance Wood Refinishing, which focus on cleaning and refreshing carpet and wood furnishings, respectively. Tarantin points to those processes, such as refinishing cabinets or a deep clean of carpet as an effective way to provide a new, fresh look to a room without using up the whole budget on new materials.
Give priority to the necessary. One part of any renovation you shouldn’t skimp on is the necessary details to make sure your home is safe and functioning properly, whether that’s structural, electrical or related to plumbing.
Sean LaPointe, franchise owner of Mr. Electric, an electrical service company part of the Neighborly family of companies, in Phoenix, says cutting the budget on needed electrical work isn’t typically an option.
In many cases, electrical wiring, outlets or the main panel need work to ensure the house complies with legal safety requirements. “That particular piece of equipment can be outdated or obsolete, in some cases, and need to be brought up to code,” LaPointe says.
Following your local code requirements for any construction, including electrical or plumbing work, is imperative to be able to sell your house. Even if you’re not planning to sell your house for another 10 years, a home inspector will catch your do-it-yourself mistakes, and that could kill a deal or force you to drop the sale price for what it costs the buyer to fix it.
If you’re working on updating an old house, you’ll likely see the majority of your budget go to work on major safety issues like correcting a cracked foundation, replacing the furnace or updating old wiring. A house that needs completely new wiring and electrical throughout, depending on where you live, is likely somewhere in the five-digit price range, LaPointe says.
“Depending on the size of the house, that could be anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000,” he says. “You’re not only replacing the wiring, but you may need to cut holes in the plaster or dry wall to facilitate the installation.”
Consider where you can save. You may not be able to skimp on wires or pipes, but you can opt for budget-friendly materials and renovation choices outside the walls.
One option to save a lot of money is to avoid changing the layout of a room that requires significant work, especially the kitchen or bathroom. LaPointe says costly electric work is needed if you’re relocating the location of major appliances. Adding an island where you want an electrical hookup, for example, requires wiring under the flooring, he says.
When it comes to surfaces, keep an eye on the price point. For example, a granite countertop is attractive and popular and costs significantly less than marble.
Or if a special, high-end cabinet look is what you’re looking for, see if it’s possible to only replace part of the cabinets. As Tarantin suggests, “you can select new doors” and change the look of the kitchen for a smaller price.
Bring in someone who knows. Where you can save most on tackling more than one project at once is by hiring a general contractor or superintendent for the work. While paying for an additional person on the job may seem counterintuitive, LaPointe says it reduces the chances that you’ll have to pay for the same work more than once.
“We’ve seen this a lot where a homeowner could take this upon themselves, not knowing the proper order of which contractor [should go first] in the grand scheme of the job,” LaPointe says. “And you could get one contractor in too early, and the next contractor ruins the jobs [the first] did to do what they needed to do.”
With a professional on your team who knows how to manage the order of work, you’ll likely also be able to gain expert insight into how your budget choices will affect the outcome for each space. Rather than installing new, cheaper cabinets in the kitchen, refinishing the existing ones may be a more cost-effective option, while still freeing up money to purchase a new vanity for the bathroom.