Ways to Save on Your Home Improvement Project

Cheap renovations

A home owner getting quotes on a major home improvement project like adding an addition will often shudder when the estimates come in. Most contractors work on a square footage basis and so the quotes will come in pretty close together except for the guy who wants to undercut everyone. And with this contractor you'll want to follow up on the references very closely.

Be the General Contractor

The best way to save money on a major home improvement is to be your own contractor and your savings could be as much as 5%-10%. However, someone who attempts this should have some experience in construction or have been through a few remodels because this means hiring the subcontractors. There are also a lot of other responsibilities that goes along with the job like getting permits. However, if you follow a few guidelines you can save thousands of dollars.


A homeowner with some construction skills may be able to do a lot of the renovation before specialized skills such as electricians or plumbers have to be called in. In a room addition the foundation can be a simple piling approach whereby the homeowner just has to dig holes below the frost line or a crawl-space where a small footing is poured. With a crawl space or a basement foundation these projects can be contracted out and then a person with carpentry skills can build the structure.

Be the Helper

Most contractors like to bring in their own labour even if the helper is inexperienced. By convincing the contractor that you can be this person you can save a lot of money. For example, some contractors figure out an estimate by billing out the labour needed. He or she might charge $50 an hour for the tradesperson and $20 an hour for the helper. However, in reality the labourer might only be making $12 an hour. If you become the labourer then, in fact, you are saving $20 an hour.

Building Recyclers

Recent changes landfill requirements in many areas means that building products that can be recycled are not allowed to be dumped. This means that there is a new industry of recycled materials that is springing up allover the country. The materials can be everything from lumber to paving stones that would sell for a pittance of the new variety. When the blueprints have been finalized this is a good time to begin checking around.

The other great thing about building recycle places is that there are gems for sale that would cost a fortune to have made. Items like old fireplace mantels, mahogany stair railings and stained-glass French doors are just a few of the items that could add an ageless elegance to your home. And this is not to mention claw-foot tubs and many brass fixtures. So, by buying recycled products you can get a piece of the past for less money than springing for the new products and know that you are helping out the environment.

Recycle Your Own Building Products

Many contractors will throw away crooked studs or dump good building materials that may not be reused for your project but can be used for some project down the road in a different capacity. For example windows might make a great greenhouse for the backyard or the doors can be reused on a  new garage you intend to build. And when the contractor is finished see if you can take back the uncut lumber or bags of insulation to the building store.

Discount Lumber Stores

On top of adding a commission on top of labour the other way contractors make money is to charge the customer full price for the materials when he or she is getting a contractors' price for them of about 10%-15% below retail. In addition you can buy factory seconds, remnants and slightly damaged products like cabinets for a good deal less than the showroom models. For example, a cracked fiberglass show stall, that retails for $1000 in new condition, can be purchased for $300 and fixed by a fiberglass shop for $250. So every time you buy a product like this you are saving 45%.

Lumber that can be hidden like studs do not have to be #1 grade. A little bit of bark on them wont affect their performance in the structure and they will be covered will drywall anyway, Stores will also have clearance sales for drywall, vapour seal and other products and this can be as high as 35%.


Painting is the easiest thing you can do yourself. If you have never painted large areas before go to the paint shop and pick their brains or just go and watch videos on the internet. These clips will demonstrate the proper procedures on painting the surfaces and properly cleaning brushes so they will last. In addition, watch for the paint sales as these can save you 25% or more.


Even if you have someone else install it flooring is a product that has many different prices depending on the supply and the season. For example, a discontinued tile that retails for $2 a 12” square can come down as low as 35 cents. In some cases it is because a contractors has ordered too much for an apartment complex and the store is stuck with the remnants. This goes for hardwood as well.

Another way to save is to buy a good quality laminate and then install it yourself. There are hundreds of different designs these days that mimic the qualities of hardwood and can be purchased for as little as 80 cents a foot.

Clean Up

Like many people few tradespeople like to clean up. They will usually hire a labourer to do this. Here is another way that you can save money. When they leave you go in and clean and vacuum the place.


In some jobs a portion of the lawn has to be ripped up to build. Instead of paying a landscaper $1000 to some in and replace the sod measure out the area and call around for the best prices on sod.

For more information on home improvement contractors consult our Contractor Directory or post you project online at

Posted by: TrustedPros
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