Start prowling the aisles at the hardware store or home center way before the wrecking crew shows up. Get a good feeling for what you want in fixtures and appliances and what they cost. If you aren't absolutely specific up front about what you want, you'll have to rely on your contractor's estimate, called an allowance, and his notion of what is acceptable may be quite different from yours. "Ninety-eight percent of the time, allowances are too low," says Tom Silva. For instance, you may have had a glass-tile backsplash in mind, but your contractor's bid was for ceramic.
Cost to plan ahead: $0
Cost of change orders midstream: The difference in the item price, but also time lost to project delays and communications glitches
SAVED: Up to thousands