Lessons Learned: Your Frugal Renovation Playbook

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I recently finished a series of renovations and wanted to pass on my lessons learned from Multiple Renovation Projects:
Home renovations can test the mettle of even the more generous budget to say nothing of the sanity of those of us who undertake such projects.
Below are the lessons learned from doing renovations:
1. Break major projects up into manageable phases. Do this for financial reasons but also for your sanity. Renovations cause a lot of disruption and you may need to throw more cash at a certain project due to unforeseen circumstances.
2. Make sure your contractor knows your limits. Mine knows exactly how far he can push me financially and time wise. Make sure yours knows your limits. If this isn’t possible, you need a new contractor, period.
3. Look for frugal solutions to issues that crop up. I wanted a fairly pricy countertop material and so my contractor suggested we buy only two slabs and use the cuts leftover to cobble together the third bathroom counter. He went on to suggest a certain type of sink that would cover the seam. At first, I wasn’t sure but the solution saved me a whopping $550 and the sink I chose I ended up liking very much.
4. Be prepared to pivot. One of the sinks I adored was not available. It was backordered for months. Short of not using the bathroom for months, that delay was clearly not going to work for me. I finally chose the same model but in a different color. The color was a pale blue which was, of course, available immediately because who chooses a pale blue sink? Since the sink was installed in my downstairs half bath, it was not going to get a lot of traffic so blue was fine. The choice ended up looking fantastic so the moral of the story is to remain flexible.
5. Keep very close track of your materials and paint colors. By the time we installed countertops in my bathrooms, we needed to find the paint colors I had used in that bathroom for touch up work from 18 months’ prior. My contractor wanted to eyeball the color and get a quart of what turned out would have been the wrong color. Luckily I had both the color recorded and the paint chip sample, saving me both grief and money. Stick everything in a $1 binder so you know what you used.
6. Less is definitely more. I ended up getting rid of 35 percent of the ‘décor’ that had collected dust in all bathrooms and at least 60 percent of the stuff languishing in my guestroom. Clutter takes away from your investment so get rid of stuff and watch your rooms open up.
7. When you change paint schemes, you spend more money so be very sure you want to make a major color change. I never liked nor wanted the warm color scheme that I inherited when I bought my home so moving to a cool gray and blue color scheme and eradicating the peach carpet (yuck) and brown accents was a long time in coming. I knew I’d have to buy new curtains, towels, etc. but I also knew linens and other items could be recycled and that they would help offset the cost. I hit the home discount store and scoured Amazon for bargains and spread my expenses over each phase of the renovation.
8. Spray paint can offset a lot of unnecessary costs. It can change the color of bathroom hardware, the look of an old lamp, a waste paper basket, anything that can take paint, consider changing up the color and keeping it. I was able to update all the dated gold hardware in my master suite bathroom for the price of one can of silver spray paint so the towel hooks, toilet paper older, metal shelf — everything got a quick update. I was also able to repurpose a tall, expensive standing lamp for my guest room by using up a leftover can of shiny black spray paint to update the look and feel. The lamp went from 80s painful to modern and sleek with a couple of quick coats of black paint and all for the cost of an old can of spray paint.
9. Spend the bulk of your budget where the most wear and tear occurs. That means floors and work spaces (countertops for example) for the most part. I found gorgeous sinks that were frankly stunning in design but the cost was surprisingly reasonable. The faucets, however, cost twice as much as the sinks. They were made of brushed nickel and pricey from my frugal perspective but faucets get a lot of wear and tear and use so I didn’t mind allocating a good portion of my material’s budget for them. The design I chose was ultra-modern which I believe contributed positively to the value of the house. Do your research and make sure you save up to afford the best materials you can.
10. Know your own limits and not just financially. I am good with change, even big change but many people are not. My partner’s father was confounded by our new faucets and above ground sinks. I happen to like the change but if you prefer things to stay the same, factor that into your renovation efforts. This might mean sticking to a simple sink design or basic white walls, just be sure you know how much change you can tolerate. Renovations mean you are spending big bucks so be sure you know your limits.
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