Buying Supplies Cuts Kitchen Remodeling Costs

Rick Thomas
Written by Rick Thomas
Updated June 15, 2021
Newly remodeled kitchen with tile backsplash and new countertops
Purchasing allowances on your own, rather than paying your contractor to do it, can cut kitchen remodeling costs. (Photo courtesy of Martha Staab)

Shop around to save when remodeling a kitchen — one of the most costly renovations you can undertake.

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Whether you’re updating or expanding, your kitchen remodel needs to meet building code and your own requirements. That may be more expensive than anticipated. You might hope to install that tile backsplash or custom cabinetry you’ve always wanted, but pretty soon, you’re paying the contractor well over $50,000.

Purchasing materials on your own instead of through the builder is one way homeowners can approach cost cutting, if you shop carefully.

Which remodeling materials should a homeowner buy?

A custom builder will remodel your kitchen on paper first, starting with the estimate. The estimate includes the necessities for the remodel, as well as “allowances” for choices such as cabinetry, lighting and plumbing fixtures, flooring, countertops and appliances. These things can make a difference cost-wise.

You can purchase everything on the allowances list on your own, if you want to put in the time and effort.

For building materials, such as lumber, wire or windows, it’s often futile to try to save a few dollars. Even with a contractor’s markup, it’s likely easier and more cost-effective to buy through the builder.

Shop smart for kitchen remodeling allowances

The key to how much you save is how hard you shop. It requires thorough research, in-person inspection and double-checking that the item fits the remodeling plan. For example, if you’ve told the contractor you want above-average cabinets, he or she may have given you an allowance of $20,000. If you shop around and physically see the cabinets, you might find the quality of a $12,000 set is suitable.

Some allowances may accommodate name brand fixtures. If you choose a lesser-known brand, you can save money. Be sure to check with the builder to ensure your selection will fit within the parameters of the remodel.

For example, if you want a gas stove range, some are dual fuel with a gas cook top and electric ovens. The contractor needs to know in order to provide the correct circuitry. Or, you might choose a lighting fixture that requires some electrical rewiring for it to work properly. While adjustments are possible, wiring that cheaper fixture will cost you more money in labor.

Appliances are another area where you can save money on your kitchen remodel. Only large developers really enjoy deep discounts for buying in larger quantities. You’re more likely to get what you want with the necessary features if you do the shopping. So shop, shop, shop!

After shopping, should you or your contractor buy?

Once you’ve done all of your research and made your selections, should you ask the builder to buy it or should you get it yourself? There’s no reason you can’t order through your contractor for many items.

In fact, it’s often to your advantage, because an existing relationship between the contractor and vendor may make necessary problem solving easier, and it’s possible the remodeler can get a contractor discount for you, saving even more money. As long as you’ve seen the item and feel satisfied with it, there should be no reason not to turn it over to the contractor.

Time is money, your time included

There is money to be saved, if you’re willing to put the time and effort into thoroughly researching your options. But remember that your time has a value, too.

Doing it yourself also requires close and careful communication with your contractor. Make your decisions based on what you expect your return to be — both in money and satisfaction.

How have you saved money on home remodeling projects in the past? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

As of Nov. 16, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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