How to Save Money on Your DIY Renovation

This post will walk you through how to budget for a renovation and some helpful tips to save money on your journey. All of our suggestions are gained from personal experience and we hope that you can use them to benefit your future projects.

The Budgeting

Categorize a List of Projects & Prioritize Them

DIY Renovation, Saving Money DIY Renovation, Save Money

The first step is to make a list of all the tasks that you want to complete in your remodel. We find it helpful to look at your project through the lens of “in a perfect world.” Then you can imagine everything that you would do to update your house, bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, etc. Once you have completed that list, then you should rank the tasks based on their importance to you. Let’s face it, most of us have limited resources we can afford to spend at any given time. Prioritizing the list breaks down your project into what really matters to you. Now that you have a prioritized list, you an start to break your remodel into phases that make sense for your budget.

During this process, it helps to think about what tasks must be done together. If you are an avid DIYer, then you know what we mean when we say that some projects are linked. This is a frequent occurrence in home renovation, so just ensure that you account for that in your plans.

Budget All Components

Save Money DIYNow that you have a list of each project broken into phases, it’s time to start budgeting. My favorite way to do this is to set a max budget and then give yourself allowances based on the average cost of each project component. Our Phase 1 Project Budget is pasted below for your reference. We had a max budget of $15,000 to start. We had many (oh so many! :-D) other to-dos on the list that were pushed to a later phase in order to ensure that we stayed under budget. We also gave ourselves a cushion for any unexpected issues that came up. This is always a good idea because no renovation goes perfectly. There are always unexpected hiccups along the way.

Phase 1
Project Components  Allowance 
Demo Floors, baseboards, Walls  Free
Remove Walls Engineer  $          300
Install Floors Flooring  $      2,000
Underlayment  $             –
Stair Noses  $            75
Moisture Barrier  $          250
Base Boards Baseboard  $      1,000
Toe kick  $          500
Caulk  $            15
Drywall Work Repair Drywall  $          500
Re-texture Ceilings  $          500
Appliances Refrigerator  $      1,700
Microwave  $          350
Range  $          750
Dishwasher  $          750
Paint Brushes  $            35
Pans  $              5
Paint  $          100
Plastic  $            35
Doors Interior Doors  $      1,000
Fire Door  $          300
Exterior Door  $          300
Front Door  $          300
Knobs & Hardware  $          250
Paint  $            35
Electrical Fans  $          500
Light Fixtures  $          300
Chandelier  $            95
Canned Lighting  $      1,000
Labor  $          500
Total Expenses    $    13,145

Determine What to Keep

Just because it’s ugly doesn’t mean it’s not salvageable. Look around your existing rooms for good quality workmanship. Then make notes of what could be fixed rather than trashed. There is bound to be something that you can keep. We kept our kitchen cabinetry and our stone fireplace. We simply refinished them to give them a more modern look. This saved us thousands of dollars in remodeling costs and they both look great.

If you’re unable to keep anything cosmetically, then think about what you are able to sell online. If your cabinets are in basically good condition, then you may be able to sell them on Facebook Market Place, Let Go or Craig’s List. The same goes for your ceiling fans, vanities or chandeliers. This can help you recoup some of the cost of the renovation.

Do not trash any good quality wood, if you can avoid it. We kept all of the studs from within our walls and used them for a boat load of mini-projects. One of my favorites is the floor to ceiling shelving unit in our garage that cost us next to nothing thanks to those studs. We also used them to build a stand for our chicken coop, my husband’s saw tables/work bench and a wall rack to hold all of the wood. It’s been over a year and we are still using the wood from our first phase.

Buy Materials Slowly

This suggestion is a great way to create a forced savings account for your next project. All this tip does is simplify your savings by taking the money that you would otherwise save for your project and buying the necessary tools for the job instead. This ensures that your money goes to the project, rather than to something else.

My husband and I slowly accrued a lot of the materials we needed for our kitchen remodel. When Nick “accidentally” (are we sure that was an accident? I wonder :-D) broke our kitchen counters, we had a lot of the components already purchased and waiting at our house. This made it much easier for us to start the renovation the day of the breakage.

Remodel in Sections

If you can’t complete the remodel due to budget restrictions, then go slowly. Section out the broader project into small, digestible tasks. For example, you can replace your light fixtures or repaint before you start gutting a room for a heftier remodel. This is an easy way to make noticeable improvements quickly without breaking the bank.

Demo Day!

Much like Chip Gaines, we LOVE demo day! Demolition is a no-brainer task that contractors can charge you north of $1,000 to do. For most demolitions, it’s just about effort and has very little to do with skill. If you’re comfortable with a few basic tools, then this is a great way to save money on your project. So, get your hands dirty and have a little fun while you’re at it. Also, please don’t forget to wear the proper protective gear. Insulation in your lungs is never fun…neither is concrete. Trust me…I know these things :-D.

Take Advantage of Tool Rental

Rather than buy all of the tools you need upfront, it’s worth checking out the cost to rent them from the tool desk at Home Depot. We do this a lot, especially when the tool is not something we do not expect to need again for a while. They have a lot of different options out there, which can help immensely with your upfront costs. They also offer truck rental, which has been a life saver for us since we don’t own one of our own. $19.99 for the first 75 minutes…Yes please!

Final Thoughts

We hope that you found our money saving tips helpful and that you are able to use them successfully in your remodel! If you’re interested in our other DIY Posts, please read the following posts: Beach House Renovation Story, How to Remodel Your Kitchen for $1,000, White-Wash a Stone or Brick Fireplace and 6 Tips for DIY Renovators.

6 Tips for DIY Renovators

If you’re taking on a new DIY renovation project, we have a 6 tips that will help make your experience a great one. Our goal is to help you keep your excitement for DIY alive throughout the whole process, even after you’re finished.

DIY is a great way to build sweat equity and your self-confidence. After you tackle that first project, big or small, the courage you gain in the process inspires you to dream bigger and to do more. Speaking from experience, once you catch that bug, there is no turning back.

A Little Background

As seasoned DIYers, Nick and I have made our fair share of mistakes. What’s important is that we learned from them and now every project we undertake is easier because of those experiences. We want to share what we’ve learned with you so that you can hit the ground running on your project.

Tip #1: Visualization

Have a vision for the finished product. This may seem simple, but it really is critical to any DIY project. If you know what you want, then it eliminates the hours of dithering that occur when you don’t. Can you tell we’ve been there before? 🙂

Whenever we do a project, we browse Houzz and Pinterest for ideas and formulate a picture in our minds of how we want the end product to look. This removes the uncertainty from the equation and we can move forward with a single, unified idea.

If you do not have an exact vision in mind, then pick a few key words that describe the look you want to achieve. Basically, it helps if you create a “brand” or “theme” for your project. For our beach house remodel, our theme was light, bright and beachy. Everything we chose for our home followed along that theme. There wasn’t a rigid picture in our minds, but we had a definite path to follow. Picking a few key words can really help clarify your goals and ensure that the final product is what you wanted.

Tip #2: Buy Everything You Need BEFORE You Start Your Project

I cannot stress the importance of this tip enough! Our first major renovation project was to build a 450 square foot deck off the back of our house in Orangevale, CA. This deck was a massive undertaking, especially since it stood 8 feet off the ground. Unfortunately, we made this mistake constantly during the course of the project. Every day we worked on the deck, we had to run out to Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace or a local lumber company to get more supplies. It was a huge waste of time and increased our project timeline substantially.

Do not make the same mistake we did! Write down a list of supplies you need to complete your project, validate it against other sources (You Tube, Pinterest, etc) and have all of those essential tools with you BEFORE you start working. It also helps if you arrange them in an easily accessible area. It will save you loads of time spent looking for them if  you do.

Helpful Hint for Saving Money

This does not mean that you have to buy everything you need all at one time. Instead, you can slowly acquire the supplies you need for a project over time before your start. We are actually doing that right now for our guest bathroom and have been for about 3 months. We find that this method helps spread the cost of the renovation and is basically like a forced savings for your next DIY project.

Tip #3: Do Your Research

Nick is particularly good at this and we’ve found some great resources as a result. These are the methods we use most often:

  • To the You Tubes!
  • Pinterest it Up
  • Leverage Your Personal Network

There is one You Tube channel that we’ve found particularly helpful, especially since he has so many different projects that we’ve done already on his channel. His name is Shannon and his channel is called HouseImprovements. We like this particular channel because he always explains everything VERY thoroughly. We usually take a look at his videos before we decide to take on a project. This helps us get a very solid picture of what’s entailed before we start.

Pinterest is great for the smaller, more artsy or wood-working projects. We always look here before we build or design anything. It helps us round out our ideas and make sure we have thought of everything.

Over time, we have developed a pretty solid network of friends and acquaintances who DIY as well. We also have a couple of contractor friends who help us out when we need advice. It’s always helpful to ask someone who’s done your project before and can help give you tips and ideas. Don’t be afraid to ask! Most of your fellow DIYers are just dying for an excuse to talk about anyone’s next project!

Tip #4: Do a Test Run

Sometimes, you’re just not sure if what you want to do is going to look good. We’ve all been there! We are only human after all. There is one sure fire way to make sure that your project turns out beautifully and that is to test anything you’re uncomfortable doing before you actually do it.

For us, this discomfort occurred when we started to texture our ceilings and patch our walls. Rather than going for it and texturing the whole ceiling, we tested our method on a small scrap of drywall and realized that we sucked at texturing. So, we called a professional. 🙂 It was good to know that this was not our cup of tea before we re-textured all of our ceilings and then had to scrape it all back down.

We also started with one small section of mudding on our wall. That helped us ensure that we were doing it properly before we started on the other 10 patches that needed work. Starting small and doing a dry run on something that isn’t important to you or permanent, will help ensure that you love your final product.

Tip #5: Keep a Clean Work Space

We are not suggesting that everything needs to pristine by any means. If you’re renovating, your house will be dirty, that’s just the truth for most projects. That being said, you should definitely make an effort to keep your work space clear of debris and unused equipment. I am totally guilty of this, but do not walk by the same obstacle 10 times before you pick it up! It never ends well…trust me…I know these things :-). If you follow this tip, it will limit the opportunity for injury and help regulate the risk of cuts and other frustrating mishaps along the way.

Tip #6: Know Your Limits

This one is pretty standard, but it is definitely a requirement for all DIY enthusiasts. Sometimes, it’s just better to call a professional and it’s important to know when that time arrives. We like to use Home Advisor, if you don’t have a good contact for what you need done. The reviews and certifications are super helpful to know you’re getting a good contractor.

There are two rules that will help you judge when it’s time to call a pro from a safety standpoint:

  1. You have no experience with the project you are trying to accomplish

AND

  1. You don’t have the foundational knowledge required to do the project

Nick and I have done plenty of projects without ever doing that exact project before. But what you do need in your toolbox are the skills to do the job. That foundational skill-set is what will get you through the project successfully. This is especially important if the project you are trying to accomplish can be dangerous. While we are big advocates of DIY, we do not recommend undertaking a job that can cause injury due to a lack of experience.

Another piece of advice if you do call a pro, watch what they do and ask questions. Most of them are happy to discuss what they are doing as long as you aren’t impeding their work. We had a closet installed earlier last year and we watched while the handy-man built a wall. We now know how to add onto a wall, which is critical for our kitchen expansion project…start date TBD.

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed our tips for new DIYers. Welcome to the club and we hope that your next renovation project turns out wonderful! As always, if you have any questions about your current DIY project, feel free to ask us. We’ll answer what we can and get you any resources we have for what we can’t. Also, don’t be discouraged if things go a little sideways while you’re working on your project. It happens to everyone! You are not alone! Just remember that almost anything can be fixed and that there are a lot of resources out there to help you.

If you enjoyed this post, please check out our other DIY Renovation posts: Beach House Renovation Story, How to Remodel Your Kitchen for $1,000and White-Wash a Stone or Brick Fireplace.