With the full house renovation that we just survived Joe and I did LITERALLY 98% of the work from top to bottom. That includes (but is not limited to) fully gutting it entirely and removing walls/adding beams where we needed to, putting in all new plumbing throughout for three bathrooms and two kitchens, installing sixteen all new windows, four brand new exterior doors and five interior doors, building all of the new framing, running all new electrical throughout, putting on all new siding, building a brand new two car garage, refinishing the floors that were here and installing new floors where we needed to, hung and then taped all of the sheet rock and we did all of the painting and trim throughout. My estimate at the end of the renovation was that Joe and I saved over $60,000 in labor costs alone and another $10,000 on all of my purchases.
All of the lights in our entire home cost us less then $500 – that’s three floors (2,400 square feet!) of lighting and our outdoor lights too! Literally our entire lighting budget is what most people would have probably planned to spend on one or two chandeliers. With a Menards sale I got all of our recessed can lights (18 of them) for only $40. There were also two cool yard lights that were here that I used over our kitchen sink and master bathroom sink so: FREE. I chose these lights from Home Depot for the rooms that couldn’t use the recessed lights and they’re only $7 a piece! (There would be no boobie lights in any home of mine – and those lights from home depot averaged half the cost of the cheapest boobie light – who knew!) After that, we only had two chandeliers to buy (one for the dining room and one for our master bedroom) and they were each less then $100 a piece. Yes, having a chandelier above our bed was a little bit of splurge but I thought we deserved it!
Most of the hardwood floors in our house were here except for our entry/dining room and our extra bedroom. Doing it ourselves (laying the new floor and refinishing the old) we spent less then $500 throughout and that’s pretty good for 2,000 square feet of flooring! 🙂 To see what we used and how easy it was to install you can check out my post about our floors here: How to: install an inexpensive wood floor that looks like a million dollars and also my post about standing and staining them all! We saved a fortune with our trim by using the same 1x4s that we used on the new floor for all of our trim too!
I built our entire kitchen from the ground up, every cabinet, EVERYTHING including the sink base. I figured we would have spent over $5,000 on new cabinets but because I built them and used a lot of scrap lumber from the renovation, they only cost us about $300. We also made our own butcher block counter tops with salvaged wood that we found in the barn so we saved at least $1,000 not having to buy even the cheapest of counter tops. Our appliances (stove, microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator and washer/dryer combo unit) were all from a certified LG scratch and dent store, they are all “brand new” with warranties. The overall cost would have normally been over $6,000 and we only spent $3,000. There has been a lot written about on-demand-hot-water heaters and I do believe (now that I’m paying our electric bill) that we made the right choice in buying one as it really has not cost very much to run and it was very easy for us to install.
I figured because both of our bathroom vanities were free I saved at least $600 there. The master bathroom sink and faucet/drain I splurged on but still spent less then $150 – read our post about converting that buffet into our master bathroom vanity. Also, check out the post about how we converted a dresser into our main floor vanity. The 36” shower in our master bathroom we purchased as a “second” from a local company for only $200! That is a savings right there of at least $800. The tub in our Master Bathroom I splurged on, however I got it on sale for $599 down from $799 at Menards. Our tub’s faucet was actually a kitchen faucet and cost me only $69 at our local fleet store, I bought the same one for our kitchen sink too because I liked it so much. Our main floor bathroom sink faucet I bought on Amazon here for only $14. And, instead of splurging on the fan/heater combos for the bathrooms I bought basic bathroom fans from Menards for only $13 a piece.
The truth is guys that if you want to see real savings, you’ve got to do it yourself! These days labor adds up to over HALF of the cost of everything. And you certainly don’t have to do the big scary jobs like the electrical and plumbing, even if all you do is the demolition and hauling away you can save a lot of money! Ideally you can find someone you can work with and pay hourly to help you as you go. I found a local couple of brothers to shingle the side of our roof that needed it and then found I could call on them from time to time to do other jobs that we didn’t have the time or the confidence to tackle like installing our garage doors and installing our plumbing vent in the roof. They also helped us put up our garage!
My biggest note of advice: Here’s where I tripped up badly during the renovation and I know, deep down, I probably lost us over $8,000 if not a lot more money then that. I didn’t always double check prices on everything. There were so many many many times that I just sprinted to the most convenient store and bought what I needed when I needed it and sprinted back to whatever I was working on without comparing the cost to the hardware store down the road, or the fleet store in our home town, or our local salvage depot, or our local S&L Outlet, or one of our three local lumber yards. So many times since the renovation I’ll be somewhere, see a product, and just get sick to my stomach knowing how much MORE I spent for it somewhere else. If you’re willing to do the leg work you can save an absolute fortune just making sure to always get yourself the best deal. Also, never assume big box stores are always cheaper then the small hardware stores or fleet stores or lumber yards. Once you start really comparing prices and doing the work to find out, you will be STUNNED how many products Menards (or Home Depot or Lowes) sells for almost DOUBLE what some of your local stores sell it for. And online prices only get you so far you really have to GO TO the store and SEE the prices to know for sure what price you’ll be getting or you need to call them and that, my friends, becomes hella tedious really fast… Especially when all you need is “a few plumbing parts”… which we did… about thirty eight thousand times over the course of the whole renovation. I couldn’t imagine driving to every store to compare prices every time I bought a part… but I know we lost a lot of money along the way because I did not do that.