10 Easy Ways to Cut Remodeling Costs

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated September 29, 2021
A young couple choosing paint color for their home
Klaus Vedfelt/DigitalVision via Getty Images

Make big design changes on a smaller budget by shopping secondhand, budgeting smartly, and renovating in the off-season

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You’ve been waiting to replace the dated cabinets, old carpet, and faded wallpaper for months but haven’t been able to get past the sticker shock: The average kitchen remodel costs nearly $57,000, while a bathroom renovation runs nearly $17,000 on average. Before you throw up your hands in frustration, we’re here with 10 tips to help you cut down on the costs of a home remodel without sacrificing any of your big design dreams.

1. Map Out a Detailed Budget and Stick to It

Coming up with a plan that includes a detailed budget requires time and thought, but it will be worth it in the end. Create a spreadsheet that includes every renovation project you’re ready to tackle, and call any contractors you may need for the job to get quotes. Don’t forget to add tax. Once you can see the big picture, you can figure out if there are areas where you can cut costs (e.g. materials, DIY vs. hired labor). 

  • Cost to forego a budget: Potentially thousands

  • Cost to make a budget: Time and energy

  • Savings: Sky’s the limit!

2. Don’t Change Your Home’s Footprint

Rather than knocking down an entire kitchen wall, consider space-saving cabinetry or built-in shelving you can install that will give you more space for much less. Think about everything in your kitchen, and map out a blueprint that stores and organizes everything: Can you outfit your pull-out drawers with organizers and dividers that better store spices, canned goods, or water bottles? You can also reface your cabinets and update the doors rather than replacing them completely. 

  • Cost to expand kitchen by 200 square feet: $50,000

  • Cost to build efficient, custom cabinets: $35,000

  • Savings: $15,000

3. Shop Secondhand

Buying gently used fixtures and other items will not only save you money, but is an eco-friendly choice that won’t contribute to the manufacturing of new materials. Habitat for Humanity runs ReStores throughout the country that sell appliances, lighting, building materials and more at a fraction of the retail price, with sales benefitting the nonprofit. Check out other thrift and secondhand stores in your area for more deals on furniture and fixtures.

  • Cost of new marble vanity top: $400

  • Cost of salvaged substitute: $50

  • Savings: $350

4. DIY Demo

It’s sweaty work, but might be worth it to DIY some demolition tasks in order to save on a full day of labor and hauling costs. Carefully consider each demolition task and leave more complex jobs to the pros. Outside spaces like decks are not complicated to demolish, but if you’re working with interior walls, proceed with caution as there is live wiring and plumbing to avoid, so this is best suited to the professionals.

  • Cost for a pro: $1,000

  • Cost to DIY: Sweat, time, and energy plus $400 for dumpster rental

  • Savings: $600

5. Schlep and Clean Up Yourself

A modern bright kitchen in a refurbished building
Westend61 via Getty Images

Over the course of the renovation, you might be looking at hundreds of dollars in delivery fees and labor costs for cleaning up after each day of work. Take on these tasks yourself (or enlist your teenage kids) and you can funnel those savings into another aspect of the renovation. If you don’t have a pickup truck, you can purchase a single-axle utility trailer for about $400 to $600 and resell when everything is done.

  • Cost of 10 deliveries: $750

  • Cost of hired cleaning crew: $200 per day

  • Cost to buy a used trailer: $400-$600

  • Savings: Depends on the remodeling job, but could easily be thousands

6. Renovate Off-Season

Many renovation projects are seasonal, and contractors expect work to be busy during certain seasons for some projects and quiet during the other seasons. For instance, window replacements tend to be popular summer projects, so if you can tackle this during spring, you may be able to purchase materials and negotiate with your contractor when demand is low. Planning your renovation in advance is the best way to figure out when the best time to renovate will be.

  • Cost of a major bathroom remodel in peak season: $25,000+

  • Cost in January: $23,625

  • Savings: $1,375

7. Keep Plumbing In Place

If you can avoid it, don’t move the kitchen sink, toilet, or anything else attached to plumbing. Your overall costs will skyrocket if you need to adjust the plumbing, so try to work around these fixtures.

  • Cost to move a toilet over three feet: $1,000+

  • Cost to leave in existing location: Zero

  • Savings: $1,000+

8. Rethink the Lighting

Rather than recessed lighting, consider installing wall and ceiling-mounted lighting, which typically offer more wattage and will save you the labor costs created by having to carve holes and install insulation. In addition, if you were planning on cutting into the wall to add windows, you could instead install a “light tube,” which fits between roof rafters to funnel sunlight into dark spaces. 

  • Cost to install four recessed lights: $800 ($200 each, includes fixtures and labor)

  • Cost to install one surface-mounted light of equal wattage: $400 (includes fixture and labor)

  • Savings: $400

9. Shop Strategically

There are many ways to find materials and appliances at discounted rates. You can ask about purchasing floor models (which are usually discounted at least 10%, sometimes more) or see if the store will price-match a lower rate you found online. You might also scour Amazon Warehouse for refurbished deals, or set up price trackers and price drop alerts to watch for sales and special discounts online.

  • Cost of new Viking stove: $5,000

  • Cost to haggle with the store for a floor model: Nothing but confidence

  • Savings: $500

10. Glamp at Home

Rather than ordering sushi every night and buying oat milk lattes every morning while your kitchen is being redone, ask your contractor to set up a makeshift prep surface, microwave, coffee maker and fridge to prepare simple, money-saving meals.

  • Cost: Zero

  • Cost of daily takeout and coffee: $50+

  • Saved: $1,000 for a three-week kitchen remodel

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