How to remodel on a budget

Homeowners looking to net extra profits during the selling process often turn to remodeling. In many cases, this approach works. House hunters normally react well to newly installed hardwoods, kitchen fixtures or other homey bells and whistles.

However, remodels are notoriously risky, especially large-scale, expensive ones. As a result, most home experts advise owners to stick with small projects that comfortably fit into their everyday budgets. Of course, this doesn't mean you have to settle for shoddy, short-term fixes. Profitable, lasting changes are still possible with some sly budgetary maneuvering.

Start with a plan
Remodeling is serious business and requires proper planning. So, before you start calling up local contractors, walk through your home and look for key areas due for upgrades. Once you've pinpointed some trouble spots, consider the possible return on investment. Small and medium fixes like replacing the front door or installing new windows often yield the most value upon sale, the magazine Remodeling reported.

Once you've picked a location, draft an exhaustive materials list. Make sure to include everything, as inadequate planning often leads to inflated costs, HGTV reported.

"One of the factors that sends a budget spiraling out of control is a homeowner picking products during the renovation," Robin Siegerman, chief of design and renovation at Sieguzi Kitchen and Home Inc. in Toronto, told the publication.

Recruit a home improvement partner
Few do-it-yourself remodeling projects turn out well. So, it's in your best interest to hire a certified contractor to oversee your remodel. However, don't dial one up before putting together a scope of work and projected timeline. Do a little research and find how long your project might take. Also, see what labor costs are in your area. Contractors charge based on the area they service, as business tax rates and licensing fees vary depending on the state or city, The Washington Post reported. Most also budget in multiple workers and cushion time.

If you're looking to get extra low labor costs, consider starting your project in the winter or spring, This Old House recommended. Most contractors have busy schedules in the summer and fall and tend to charge more as a result. Plus, material availability falls off, which leads to slower project completion times.

Go for smaller projects instead of grand, time-consuming remodels.Go for smaller projects instead of grand, time-consuming remodels.

Save on material costs
Most of your budget will go toward materials and related costs. With this in mind, focus on trying to contain these expenditures. In most cases, this doesn't require compromise – just some well-placed elbow grease and a little forward thinking. For instance, hauling your own materials can save you some money on delivery costs.

Leveraging your contractor's connections will also help when it comes time to source. Many work on multiple job sites and can often score otherwise expensive materials for free.

Building-supply auctions are another good option. Most offer scratch-and-dent and overstock for a fraction of the retail price.

Of course, look-a-likes are often good alternatives to more expensive options. Plus, many last for just as long as their budget-busting counterparts. For example, hybrid tongue-and-groove wood flooring often keeps better than costly mahogany planks.    

Avoid playing with plumbing
Bathrooms and kitchens are often remodeling hotspots. It makes sense, as these rooms get the most foot traffic. Unfortunately, many homeowners take it too far and try to completely reshuffle such spaces, drafting up grand plans that involve relocating sinks and dishwashers. Most experts advise against moving appliances and key water hookups. These maneuvers often bring about unintended plumbing problems that end up sinking budgets.

Even perfectly executed moves are expensive. Some say it costs, on average, $5,000 to move a single appliance. So, avoid this situation at all costs.

However, if realizing your radical new redesign requires such an operation, build additional space into the budget for new plumbing.