Last time, we talked about the worst places to save money when you’re remodeling. Windows, roofs, and exterior finishes came out on top as lousy places to cut corners. So how and where can you save some money without sabotaging your project for the long term?
The strategy is simple: Save money on items that can be easily removed and upgraded later on, not on items that have to last the life of the house. This may mean you won’t get some things on your wish list until later--but at least you’ll have made sure it’s possible to get them. Here are some good candidates for cost cutting that will still allow for relatively painless upgrades later on:
• Built-in appliances. Buying less costly kitchen appliances is one of the simplest yet least exercised ways to save money--probably because we’ve been conditioned to demand kitchens with huge built-in refrigerators, restaurant-style stoves, and all the other bells and whistles so beloved of appliance marketers. When you’re building on a tight budget, though, mid-grade appliances will serve perfectly well--in fact, they’re often just the same high-priced units with the extraneous gimmicks deleted. What’s more, since the dimensions of built-in appliances are standardized, the old units can be easily removed and replaced with fancier stuff when money becomes available.
• Kitchen and bath cabinets and countertops. Cabinets may seem very permanent, but they’re actually fairly simple to remove and replace. This makes using budget cabinetry for the short term a fairly open-ended way to save money. When it’s finally time to go for that fancier kitchen, the old cabinets needn’t go to waste--they can live out a second life in the garage.
As for countertops, pricey materials such as granite and its artificial knockoffs have insinuated themselves into even modest kitchens and baths of late, but there are some perfectly serviceable alternatives for the budget conscious. Ceramic tile and--dare I say it--plastic laminates are two time-honored standbys that can cost you thousands less than slabs. When it comes time to upgrade a kitchen or bath, the countertops and cabinets can be replaced together.
• Plumbing fixtures (except showers and tubs, which are more or less permanent) are also a good place to save a few bucks in the short term. While the price of items such as kitchen sinks, lavatories and toilets can vary by a factor of ten, for the most part they all do the job adequately. Later on, when you find that you absolutely must have that designer toilet with the hand-painted flowers on it, it’ll be no problem to swap out the old one.
• Floor finishes such as carpeting and sheet vinyl, and hardware such as interior door locksets and cabinet latches are all easily replaced, allowing you to buy less expensive products in the interim while still being able to upgrade when money becomes available.
As hard as it is to put off those goodies you’ve had your heart set on, it helps to know that, when the time is right, you can still get exactly what you want.