How to Really Save

You might believe that a high price tag guarantees the best products, but that's not always true. For example, you don't have to use marble in the foyer. Tile that closely simulates marble is a quarter the price and far more durable. The same is true for some trim boards. You might ask for poplar or high-grade pine, but composite lumber, which is competitively priced, remarkably consistent, free of knots, and preprimed, will do just as well or better. The situation is similar for brand-name items. For instance, you can almost always replace fancy brand-name plumbing fixtures with economical substitutes that perform as well for much less. For building products that are essentially commodities, like insulation and framing lumber, it always pays to shop around for the best price. I'd be rich if I had a nickel for every time I've heard "I wish I had extra wiring and plumbing put in when we had the walls opened up." The cost of running water-supply lines, waste pipes, and wiring for telecommunications (phone, fax, computer) and television (cable, satellite) is pennies on the dollar compared with opening walls and doing the work later. So try to think of potential uses for a room and install needed services at that time. Large-scale remodeling is complex — things aren't always what they appear to be. Spend to save money? It might sound like advice for fools, but it often does hold true.
Don't Know?... Ask!

When reviewing material choices that you've dreamed up on your own or with the help of an architect or interior designer, ask your contractor where inexpensive substitutions would do just as well. Although a design professional might have a certain look in mind, it's the contractor who sees the performance of these materials in the field year after year. He or she can be a great practical resource for spotting areas where you're paying for an expensive product when a cheaper one will perform just as well. It's also an opportunity to identify specifications that are really false economy, like cheap locksets or low-grade siding. Sure, the up-front costs are low, but you don't want to pay the replacement bill.
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