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10 Golden Rules for Saving Money on Construction

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Whether you’re doing a home renovation or building from scratch, it’s nice to be able to cut back on expenses in any construction project. Construction can get expensive, and since it’s not as easy to get a loan as it was before the housing bubble burst, chances are you’re working on a tight budget.

My husband and I added on to our house in the winter of 2011 and replaced the roof on the older part of the house in early 2012, so construction was a fact of life around here for about half a year. In the process of hiring contractors, working with an architect, and dealing with the day to day headaches of a large-scale renovation, I learned some of these money-saving tips the hard way, lucked out with others, and wish that I’d known a few more before we broke ground.

There are three ways to save money on construction projects: Cutting back on up-front costs, avoiding expensive mistakes, and making the finished structure less expensive to inhabit. From hiring workers and sourcing materials to doing some of the work yourself, there are lots of tricks to stay within your budget without cutting too much out of your project.

10. Go Over the Project Line by Line

Most contractors will meet with you to go over the construction schedule and break down all of the costs. This is a great opportunity to save! Sometimes, contractors will assume you want things you don’t, and you can often find elements of the project that you can do yourself or put off until later, when you have more money on hand.

When you go line by line through the budget, don’t be shy about questioning anything that you don’t understand. Your contractor may have assumed that you want crown molding in your renovated space, for example. If you don’t care about crown molding, you can save hundreds of dollars just by taking it off of the quote.

This is also your opportunity to decide which parts of the project, if any, you want to take on yourself and discuss anything you want to source for yourself. Going the do-it-yourself route means extra work for you, either on site or at the home improvement store, but it’s worth the extra effort if it means the difference between being able to afford your project or having to cut things out that you really wanted. When you’re taking on any part of a construction project, you need to communicate frequently with your contractors and make sure that you lay out your responsibilities clearly from the start. If the project ends up delayed because you didn’t know you needed that bathroom vanity on site by a certain date, it can cost you money.

9. Do it Yourself, Unless You Can’t!

Whether you’re a die-hard do-it-yourselfer or just handy with a paint brush, you can probably pick up a few of the tasks on the construction to do list. Contractors make an average of $18 to $25 per hour, so when you do some of the work yourself, you’re saving all of those labor costs [source: PayScale]. The trick is to be realistic about what you can do.

Only you know what your skills are. If you can do something yourself, it can save you a bundle, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, there’s a chance you’ll end up paying more to have a contractor fix your mistakes. Certain things, like installing a toilet properly, are more difficult than they may seem. Plumbing mistakes in particular can be very expensive to fix, since leaks can cause water damage that you’ll have to pay for on top the cost to have things plumbed properly.

It’s also important to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Some parts of a construction project have more to them than meets the eye. If you agree to paint, make sure to find out if you’re just painting the walls, or if you’ll have to paint the trim and the ceiling, too. My husband and I got burned a little on our home addition when we said we would paint. Let’s just say that the addition has been finished for almost a year, and I’m still staring at unpainted closet doors and trim and kicking myself!

8. Source Your Own Materials
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