Home Renovation: Tips for Thrifty Upgrades

happy couple carrying carpet...
Gone are the days when home improvements were "a dollar in, a dollar (or more!) out."

Still, it's an excellent time to undertake home renovation projects. Contractors, tradesmen, and other skilled craftspeople are eager for work. Their empty schedules may mean better rates for you than in years past. And scaling a gigantic home renovation down to a smaller scope can save money.

Here are more ways to upgrade your home while minimizing the financial impact:

Visualize Greatness

A great --and thrifty --home renovation starts with clarity of your plan. It literally pays to map out your entire project before you begin, so you can minimize waste and wrong purchases. A 3-D floor plan will help you adhere as closely to your budget as possible. Visualize specific floor plans in three dimensions by using free, web-based applications. We review three such 3-D visualization tools on AOL's Housing Watch.

Same Look for Less

Have your heart set on granite in the kitchen? Try materials that give a similar look for less. Perhaps try granite tiles, Stonelite, or crushed glass. Determine where you can splurge and where you can save on your home renovation.

Stick to It

You can quickly waste money if you change your mind midway through a home renovation. Some items, such as custom-size cabinets or special order sinks are non-returnable, non-refundable, or worse: cannot be easily sold second-hand. Sticking to your plan also has the added advantage of facilitating better choices when options present themselves. Will this vintage light-fixture work in my expanded living room? You'll know if your plans detail the specific sizes necessary.

Second Hand, err ... Vintage

Speaking of second-hand, you can save a fortune if you select "pre-owned" appliances, fixtures and other materials. Locate your nearest Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They offer everything from excess building materials to gently used decor items. Proceeds from the sales are donated to the organization.

Gold in Green

Insulate the attic? Install a tankless water heater? These and other "green" home improvements aren't as fun to show off to guests, but they do offer tremendous value beyond the positive environmental impact. First, and practically, energy efficiency projects can save you money on your home's operating expenses. Green home projects are frequently tax advantaged and/or have multiple funding options available too. Lastly, "green upgrades" will help sell your home faster and for more money.

Don't forget the "green upgrade" potential of your yard, either. Some municipalities offer financial incentives for planting water conserving plants, trees or native plants, too.

Walk the Yard

Thrifty home improvement can be as simple as pulling out your hedge clippers and getting to work. A neat, tidy and well-maintained yard enhances curb appeal. A positive first impression will make your other home-renovation projects shine.

Complete That Chore List

Unfinished projects will do more than irk you, they can significantly affect your ability to sell. No one wants to purchase a bathroom that's "almost there" or kitchen that's "mostly done." Before outlaying cash for a big remodel, make a list of smaller projects that need that final thing to get them to 100 percent. Money spent to complete an unfinished home renovation project is a guaranteed return, and perhaps the thriftiest move of all.
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