Saving Money without Reducing Quality in Home Contruction

How can we save money, without reducing the quality of our home, is a question that confronts most individuals constructing a new home or renovating their older home. The need to save money is a universal issue with the majority of homeowners, and any creative techniques should be understood and applied to your construction project.

There are several ways to save money on your home, whether you are planning a new home or renovating an existing structure. Savings is always relative to the individual, however I will list a number of observations and recommendations, from a builder’s perspective, that I feel will save money, and not present any type of detriment to the finalization of the construction, whether new or a renovation.

1.) Stay away from inferred quality.   Do not allow inferred quality to cost you more than you want to spend. I have witnessed individuals who become seduced into spending considerably more than they should, due to a friend or family’s recommendation. Remember that any individual, other than a professional builder, will normally recommend a product, if they have made the same choice. There are very few that will admit to a bad or incorrect decision. There is a tendency, especially in the building environment, for individuals to have constructed one home, or performed one renovation, to have miraculously developed into the most experienced and knowledgeable expert on construction. Do not allow their opinions to influence your judgment. Analyze the material or the equipment yourself. Allow your ability to research and inform, via the computer, to educate yourself, to make a proper decision for your construction project. Do not be swayed by individuals who need to confirm their own decisions, by convincing others to make the same choices.

2.) Understand the difference between true quality and cosmetic quality, or even quality based upon societies desires. I will use one example of the difference between true quality and cosmetic quality. I work in some of the most prestigious and unaffordable areas of the country. These areas are inhabited with homeowners that can basically select whatever material or product they want, without any real concern for cost. I have personally witnessed individuals select a kitchen cabinet only based upon their desire to drop the name of the cabinet, at their neighborhood cocktail party. This is a perfect example of unnecessary assumed quality and unnecessary expense.

3.) Understand the difference in functional quality and longevity, compared to an alleged quality of non functional items, that will have no influence on the longevity of the product. Functional quality is spending additional money for a brass faucet over a light gage, white metal faucet. It is the difference between selecting a cabinet with a solid plywood box, as opposed to particle board or a synthetically reinforced box. Quality should add functionality and longevity, and not merely an incentive to brag about the specific quality of the product. If quality costs additional money, there must be a value to this additional cost, and not simply the ability to state that you purchased quality because everyone else has convinced you of the quality.

4.) Select products that can be either added to, or customized, in the future, to provide all of the bells and whistles that you may decide are necessary as your pocketbook becomes healthier.  The initial selection of mechanical systems, electrical systems, etc. should be made to ensure that the products are sustainable, and if necessary, upgradable to accommodate future needs. Expenses to upgrade, is easier to accept, in the future, than during the initial construction project when costs are rising.

5.) Do not make foolish decisions. This may sound like a generally accepted assumption, however, I have witnessed homeowners decide to reduce the amount of money spent on roofing and flashings, so they could afford Baldwin hardware on the front door. Understand that there are items easily replaced within the home, and items that are not as easily replaced. The front door hardware, can be swapped out at any time, the roof and its flashings cannot.

6.) Remember that the bones of the home are irreplaceable and the skin and exterior surface items are less formidable to replace.  What we mean by this statement, is that the foundation, framing, sheathing of the home, are all considered the bones of the home. It is difficult, if not impossible, to change or replace these items once they are installed. The replacement of the skin, or exterior surfaces, such as siding and roofing is not as difficult. If economy is required, try to save money on the products that are easiest to replace in the future.

7.) Spend money on square footage. Elsewhere within this website are several references to the acknowledgment that, if money is to be spent, it should be on increasing the square footage of the home. Resale, mortgage and basic home values, are all based upon square footage. It is recommended that the most square footage should be built by economizing elsewhere.

8.) Reduce the number of individual rooms within the home. The same square footage of home with less rooms, will eventually cost less to construct and to renovate. If you consider the work involved with the construction of several individual rooms, as opposed to two or three larger, more open rooms, and compare the amount of trim, the amount of sheetrock, insulation, doorways, etc. you will understand that the less rooms, in most cases, the more economical the structure. Of course this becomes the opposite, if excessively large spaces are created, demanding special structural accommodations and products.

9.) Interior doors and hardware. Money can be saved on the initial installation of inexpensive interior doors and hardware. There are several extremely economical door panels as well as moderate hardware sets, that can be initially purchased, for installation within the home. If money becomes more plentiful in the future, the replacement of interior doors and hardware is a very non obtrusive activity that can be accomplished, as the homeowner’s budget allows.

10.) Flooring in all parts of the home. Substantial money can be saved on adjusting the flooring options within the home. An inexpensive carpet, or even a vinyl floor can be initially installed, in anticipation of a nicer and more expensive future accommodation, such as wood or stone. Carpet can always be removed and replaced and the intrusion on the household is minimum. The key to a successful program involving replacement flooring is the sub-floor. The sub floor, in my estimation, is one of the most important structural aspects of a home. If the sub-floor is the proper material and installed correctly, the total overall feel of the home will exude professionalism and competence. Floors that do not squeak or bounce, make the inhabitants feel they are residing in a structurally secure home.

11.) Light fixtures. As with the flooring or the doors and hardware, the installation of inexpensive light fixtures throughout the home, and the eventual replacement with a higher end fixture, is both non obtrusive, as well as easily scheduled to comply with the individual’s budget. There are several different inexpensive light fixture selections that can be initially made and installed. Any future change out, can wait for as long as the homeowner feels it necessary. I have made this suggestion to a number of clients, and many of them still have the original light fixtures hanging in their homes. You will be amazed at the longevity of some very inexpensive light fixtures. This same accommodation can be made with the plumbing fixtures within the home. However, not quite as non obtrusive during the replacement, toilet fixtures can be easily changed as the pocketbook becomes healthier.

12.) Prime the walls and trim. Do not finish paint the interior of the home. Simply install a primer on all surfaces to prevent deterioration or wear. Prepare all surfaces for future finishes, and slowly but surely finish these areas as your financial ability allows.

13.) Leave areas unfinished. Remember, the entire goal is more and more square footage. When building a new home or renovating an old, the ability to obtain as much square footage under the roof, should be the ultimate goal. To extend the home at a later time, or to try and accommodate more square footage within a home, at a later date, is expensive and difficult. If you possibly can, build it now.   The area of unfinished square footage is a gem within the finished home. Anyone can trim and paint a room, but not everyone can add square footage.

14.) If there is a garage contemplated, plan for it, and don’t initially construct the garage, if cost and budget is an issue or concern. A garage can be added or constructed by small independent contractors at a later date, and if properly planned for , can be integrated with the remainder of the home without difficulty.

15.) Install a ducted hot air system without air conditioning for the initial construction. Accommodate the structure for future air conditioning, by installing the necessary ductwork, however do not install the actual air conditioning unit until the budget allows. This type of thought process can be extended to all mechanical and electrical aspects of the home. If an emergency generator system is anticipated, but not in the initial budget, the electrician can accommodate the wiring to anticipate the energizing of an emergency panel. There can be a substantial savings if proper planning and design takes place during the initial construction project.

16.) Plan for specialty items, such as corner built cabinets, wainscoting, raised panels, specialized ceiling panels, specialty millwork, etc. When initially constructing the home, or performing the renovation, install all the necessary blocking and carefully plan the layout of the rooms, to accommodate all of the future plans for any specialized items. Do not install these items when first building the home or performing the renovation. If the budget is limited, but the creative juices are boiling over, simply plan the structure to accommodate the future installation of all of the unique and clever millwork, or specialty items dreamed about. There is no harm preparing for a coffered ceiling, by installing plywood under the entire sheetrock ceiling. However, the assembly and installation of the coffered ceiling can be delayed, until the pocketbook catches up to the creativity of the homeowner.

17.) Plan for shelving, storage facilities, future special accommodations for mud rooms, video rooms, work out rooms, etc. Again, like the specialty millwork items, plan during your construction by installing the proper blocking and layout of the structure, to accommodate all of your anticipated functional items. Do not install them during the initial build. When the pocketbook catches up to the creativity of the homeowner, there will already be blocking in the walls, as well as the necessary room to accommodate any future installations. Prepare for what you want and you will be able to accommodate all of your wants and desires, once the financial means is available.

18.) Eliminate the exterior details from the initial build. If the home is designed for shutters, eliminate their installation during the initial build. If the home is designed for decks, patios, and even porches, plan for them, prepare for them, just don’t actually spend the money to build them. The installation of ledger boards as well as the proper blocking for shutter installation, porch construction, etc. can all be installed at the initial point of framing.   However the actual accessories to the home, can be delayed until that pocketbook catches up.

19.) Stabilize, and gravel the driveway. As long as the entry to the home is safe, and well compacted, there is no need for a formal driveway at the initial construction point. A well compacted and graveled driveway is, in many ways, a better initial drive into a new home. Allow the driveway to settle and compact with the environment. This compaction will provide a firm and competent base, for future driveway construction. Amenities such as granite curbing, stone and brick patios and walks can all be delayed for future installation.

20.) Rough grade the yard and plant a hardy rye grass to stabilize the yard. Always make sure there are no safety issues with the grading of the exterior of the home. Rough grade the site blending in all of the contours, and spread by hand, a healthy rye grass for stabilization of the surface. If the rye grass is mixed with a decent longer acting grass seed, the surface around the home will remain relatively dust free, and will allow movement around the home to be done in a safe and efficient manner.

21.) Hold off on the landscaping. The landscaping around a home can occur at any time. It is important to understand that landscaping is not a necessity, and has nothing to do with the square footage as well as the actual resale value of the home. Real Estate professionals will indicate that a well landscaped home will sell the home, but will not necessarily add financial value to the home.

Common sense will dictate what should be considered, when trying to save money during a new build or a renovation.

It is important to keep in mind the following bullet points.

1.) Money spent on quality must be related to functionality and longevity, not cosmetics.

2.) Square footage is vitally important to the value of the structure.

3.) It is OK to use less quality materials, if they are easily replaced in the future.

4.) The bones are important, the surface skin is not as important.

5.) You don’t have to finish everything, leave items safe, but unfinished for future completion.

6.) Select equipment that can either be modified or added to, for future accommodation.

7.) Use primer and sealers on interior finishes to ensure that there is no deterioration or degradation of the finishes, prior to final painting. Paint later on.

Good luck ! The construction of a new home or the renovation of an existing home is an exciting time. The cost and the ability to hold a budget will become a never ending dilemma as the work advances. There will be difficult decisions that must be made to accommodate your budget, however, this webpage should provide some of the basic parameters for saving money, without the need to reduce quality.



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