Lessons in Renovation – ​Always start with the second cheapest option, make design decisions from there

The most important decision you’ll ever make about your home, after you actually decide to own it, is how, when and if you renovate. As a self made pro at ‘flipping’ a house into my home, I’ve learned a thing or two in my almost dozen projects. These are the steadfast rules that have always held true for me and I hope you can find value also.

When you dream of that new bathroom, kitchen or mudroom you think if the most beautiful room you saw in the magazines, and that thinking can cost you big time. Your contractor (if you chose carefully) has created a budget for everything; EVERYTHING. Think: tile, grout, countertops, paint, baseboards, mirrors, lighting and carpet – the list goes on and on. And unless you’ve warned your contractor that you have champagne taste, I promise you he’s created a beer budget. This means that when they budget for $3/sqft of tile and you choose the $10 glitter with gold and diamonds, it’s going to add up quickly.

So how do you avoid pitfalls? Well, the first and easiest thing you can do is pick your materials before you begin. This way you can show your design choices to your contractor and they can work it into the budget from the beginning. If you’re unsure of your tastes, at least take a tour of the store your contractor will be buying your supplies from so you can get an idea of their prices.

When all else fails, follow my golden rule – ask for the three cheapest options, in order. From there you’ll never want to choose the cheapest one but, you’ll likely find something that’s ok that starts in the ‘affordable’ range. If you don’t ask for the least expensive option, most salespersons or contractors will show you high end options that will increase the budget. If you don’t find something you like, that’s ok! But at least you’ll feel like you tried to stay on budget. This simple step avoids feelings of ‘buyers remorse’ when you foot the bill for more than you had planned!

This tip helped me big time when I remodeled my first kitchen. I was purchasing all new solid wood cabinets and I was more than intimidated by the price. There were so many options and so many finishes and so many edges – and this is all before we talked about pulls and hardware. So I simply said, “ok, where do we start with pricing? What are the mist affordable options?”. Of course I hated the cheap ones – you could certainly tell they were the cheapest cabinets ever made. But, with one simple step up – which was a minimal price step – I could barely tell the difference between this option that was within my budget and the top of the line options. Decision made!

Stay tuned for the last tip, coming soon!

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