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Home Remodels: Where to Save and Where to Splurge

When remodeling a home, it’s easy to get carried away with ideas galore of how you want to craft each aspect of a room. As much as we’d love to re-create our ideal HGTV dwellings, our budget is often quick to bring us back down to earth. But that doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish the projects you hope to — it means that you must do so deliberately. Let this list serve as a guide on where to splurge and where to save during a home remodel.

The Kitchen

Splurge On…

Lighting:

Lighting is perhaps one of the most crucial design elements of any room as it is known to affect mood, perception of space, and much more. And since kitchens are, by nature, one of the most high-traffic areas of a home, achieving a functional and desirable ambiance is key. To do so, indulge in variations of lighting, including decorative lighting fixtures, recessed lighting, and even under-cabinet lighting.

To make the most out of this splurge, incorporate smart lighting options such as LED light bulbs or automated lighting control devices. For instance, the Google Smart Light Starter Kit allows you brighten, lower, and turn on and off lights by simply using your voice. Starter systems range from $50 to $200 but can turn out an average savings of $75 annually.

Pros:

  • Recessed lighting saves space
  • Energy-efficient light bulbs last sufficiently longer than traditional bulbs

Cons:

  • May require rewiring and other electrical work

Countertops:

If there’s one area of a kitchen you ought to break out the piggy bank for, it’s for the countertops. Countertops account for a large portion of surface area in a kitchen, making them an immediate focal point. Additionally, as a highly utilized part of the kitchen, you want to ensure that they hold up against any overuse. So, when choosing surface materials for countertops, think quality and durability. Consider how each material below will stand up to various impacts of cooking and other activities, for example:

Stone countertops (quartz, marble, soapstone, granite):

Cost: $2,500 – $6,000

Pros:

  • Durable
  • Heat-resistant
  • Typically stain-resistant

Cons:

  • Longer installation time than other options like laminate
  • Requires regular maintenance (sealing)

Save On…

Cabinets:

When you gauge the cost of kitchen remodels, you’ll see where the bulk of your money is going. Case in point—cabinets can eat up almost 30% of a budget. So, unless your cabinets are falling off the hinges, you can save your pennies by refinishing your cabinets instead of replacing them. To spruce-up gently-used cabinetry, remove doors and drawers, then clean them and let them dry. Next, strip the old finish and sand the wood. From there, once you prime the wood, you can stain or paint your cabinets to your desire!

Pros:

  • You can always add extra elements later, like new knobs and handles
  • Less expensive than both refacing cabinets and installing new cabinets

Cons:

  • A time-consuming process
  • Merely a cosmetic fix; there still may be interior structural damage

Appliances:

Like most things, appliances don’t last forever. But when it comes time to replace them, don’t let fancy bells and whistles or sleek designs trick you into blowing through your budget. Admittedly, there are certain circumstances where it pays off to invest in higher quality products, like EnergyStar appliances.

However, most other times, the allure of costly appliances is solely aesthetic. For instance, newer high-end dishwashers have controls integrated into the top of the door versus the front of the device. The difference? Mainly just appearance (and price tag). If you don’t mind the occasional and accidental button push, you’re better off purchasing a front control dishwasher. It will still get the job done but for a fraction of the price.

Pros:

  • Front controls are easily visible to check cycle status
  • Budget outlet appliances over high-end store-bought appliances can save you hundreds if not thousands

Cons:

  • Less sleek of a design
  • Lack of bonus smart technology features

The Living Room

Splurge On…

Furniture:

As much as many of us love a good thrift-store find, especially for a crafty reupholstery project, furniture is one aspect where you really shouldn’t cut corners. Couches and sofas are the centerpieces of entertainment spaces and the most utilized pieces of furniture. Therefore, you must factor in style, comfort, and durability when purchasing seating arrangements.

For the best couch or sofa, start by opting for hardwood frames. Softer woods are more likely to warp, while plastic and metal are usually less comfortable. Remember to choose fabrics that are practical for your lifestyle, and that encourages relaxation, like leather.

Leather Sofas:

Cost: $1,500 to $4,000

Pros:

  • Last nearly four times longer than faux leather
  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Fewer options in regards to patterns and colors

Smart-Technology:

Adopting smart home technology is becoming increasingly popular among homeowners. Smart home technology provides convenient solutions to household hassles, and the best part is that you can add these technologies to just about any room in the house. Smart blinds and shades for windows are quite possibly one of the most advantageous devices to have, especially in the living room.

For those too comfortable relaxing on the couch, you can control your blinds from a smartphone or remote and even put them on schedule. Ikea offers two variations of smart blinds: regular gray blinds and blackout shades—both for under $200, which is a steal given that most smart blinds start at $300. Smart technology is ever-evolving and the options or endless, so with enough research and planning, you can have a smart-house right at your fingertips.

Pros:

  • Conserves energy and saves money on bills
  • May also help insulate and soundproof rooms

Cons:

  • Can be difficult to navigate based on already existing systems in your home
  • Not all systems are fully compatible and may not function together

Save On…

Flooring:

Flooring is an essential element in a home. But despite its importance, you have the option to save money by restoring existing floors (like hardwoods) rather than replacing them—seeing as the cost of new floors can run you $3,000 to $8,000 for major renovations. The best part about going this route is that you can preserve the unique character of the original floor and add interest to your home.

Pros:

  • An affordable way to restore dated floors
  • Durable and easy to clean and maintain

Cons:

  • High-traffic areas can scratch, especially with animals or children

Home Decor & Accents:

Accents and accessories are what truly make a home unique. Decorating a house allows you to showcase your style, personality, and creativity. A general rule of thumb is to “splurge on classics, but save on trends.” So before you run out to your nearest home decor store, consider ways that you can decorate for less.

Tip: Don’t get caught up in trendy, overpriced pieces like throw pillows or wall-hangings. Instead, weigh your options. You can switch and swap accent pieces from different rooms to create an entirely new look for free. Additionally, you might display a collage of framed photo prints as inexpensive, yet sentimental wall art.

Pros:

  • Minimalistic
  • Reusing and repurposing helps reduce environmental waste
Cons:

The Exterior

Splurge on…

Garage Doors:

Exterior projects are quick ways to boost curb appeal and modernize your home, with benefits such as improved energy-efficiency and safety. Exterior updates like a new garage door are also an excellent excuse to hop on the smart home bandwagon when you invest in a smart garage door opener. This controller from MyQ allows you to open and close your door no matter where you are through a mobile app. As a bonus, it can connect with popular cameras to see a remote view of your garage.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Electric garage door remotes can malfunction
  • Possible added expenses to remove old garage doors

Structural Features:

Whether it’s insulation, windows, or doors—these aspects of a house are worthy of your wallet’s attention. Investing in labor and quality materials for each of these considerations can help homeowners save on cooling and heating costs throughout the year. When it comes to insulation, in particular, select materials that provide the best R-value—a measure of how well insulation prevents heat transfer. Insulation varies in types, but rigid foam board provides higher R-values, although it’s generally more expensive.

Pros:

  • Quality windows won’t require replacing for nearly 20 years
  • Energy-efficient solutions qualify for energy tax credits and rebates

Cons:

  • There are multiple parts of a home that may require insulation (walls, roofs, garage doors, crawl spaces, etc.), which can drive up remodel costs

Save On…

Landscaping:

Acquiring the expenses to landscape your home, may not be the most practical, especially in colder climates where you barely have time to enjoy it. While it may look beautiful once it’s finished, the labor, equipment, and maintenance alone required to upkeep landscaping may not make this project worth it. Not to mention, landscaping can quickly eat up your budget, the larger the size of your yard. If you want to add pizazz with plants in your landscaping, try more convenient and cost-effective options like succulents that require little water or perennials which come back year after year.

Pros:

  • Less water usage
  • No need to rebuy and replant

Cons:

  • Can be time-consuming since it requires up-keep

Pool Installations:

Homeowners in warmer climates or with children may cherish the luxury of a pool. However, pools have more disadvantages than advantages, so you’re better off investing your money elsewhere for leisurely features. The cost of inground pool installations, routine maintenance, and repairs can add up quickly. On top of that, there are a lot of overlooked costs that accompany a pool like enclosing it with a barrier fence or purchasing liability insurance to ensure your family and guests are safe. Ultimately, it’s best to skip this recreational feature. 😉

Pros:

Cons:

  • Missing opportunity for outdoor enjoyment in warm weather months




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