If you’re a homeowner, does hearing the word “remodel” make you giddy, or send chills down your spine? Sometimes it can go both ways. Maybe your 1970s-era kitchen cabinetry is in need of an update, or a bathtub on its last leg inspires a bathroom redo. Whether it’s a brand-new fireplace or something as simple as a new faucet, when it comes to home updates, change is always good.
But what about the cost, and what are some ideas for projects within a set budget? That’s where remodeling contractors know best. We asked local builders Mosquito Creek LLC, Tod Raehl Remodeling and Welhouse Construction for their expert insight into the process of updating your home — on a budget.
Tod Raehl, owner of Tod Raehl Remodeling in Neenah, explains that homeowners contact him most frequently for one of two reasons: “First, that something is in rough shape and it needs repair, so sometimes if we’re going to fix something, we might as well do other updates at the same time. Another reason is that someone has an old house and they’d like to update it.”
Ali Fagerlind, design specialist at Mosquito Creek LLC, suggests some quick and inexpensive ways to make an impact in your home, such as a fresh coat of paint or new hardware for out-of-date cabinets. She says, “You can change out the knobs or pulls to a more trendy finish, like brushed nickel or Venetian bronze. There is an extensive range in cost, but the final product does wonders.” Going a step further, she suggests that within the $1,500 to $3,000 range, a countertop or backsplash update can spruce up a kitchen or bathroom. For a backsplash, “Try choosing a neutral as the base and add a pop of color or design with a glass tile.”
The exciting part of planning a remodel is designing and choosing what you’d like to see in your home, but the trick is figuring out what these updates cost, and why. Paul Welhouse, owner of Welhouse Construction, says, “The most common question we get would be ‘What can I do with my budget?’” The answer is tailored to every homeowner’s individual needs. Part of the process is to “educate customers about material choices, including their pros and cons, so homeowners can make informed decisions,” Welhouse explains.
A good piece of advice is to be straightforward about what your projected budget is, and what kind of work you would like completed. The cost of a remodel can make or break a home update plan — or at least scale it back somewhat, so it is good to know what you want, but also be realistic. “It helps me considerably to know what your budget is,” says Raehl. “A lot of people come to me with an idea, without thinking about how much it will cost.”
One major benefit of working with an experienced builder is that they can explain how costs break down, and how to achieve the best value. Welhouse explains, “Sometimes, I get a little bit of that deer-in-headlights look” when customers realize how much their dream remodel would actually cost. “Most clients don’t come to the table with a budget; they come to the table with an idea,” he continues. That’s where an experienced and well-connected builder can start to tailor an updated design to your budget and needs.
Sometimes, it’s simply refreshing to redo a space in the home because it brings joy. And, perhaps there is no need to do a full-blown remodel; even small-scale, quality updates will improve the value of your home. Kitchen and bathroom renovations are the most popular because they are the most used spaces, and when designed with functionality and aesthetics in mind, they provide personal enjoyment and value.
Welhouse suggests some simple changes that can make a big difference, including the installation of sun tunnels and sky lights, full replacement windows, interior and exterior doors, countertops, cabinet modifications, fireplace upgrades and gas fire inserts. If you’re looking to do something outside of your home, a small deck or porch would add curb appeal or a place for your grill, and pergolas, planters, or even an outdoor shower could enhance your yard.
Raehl suggests that simple and attractive changes can enhance the entire atmosphere of a room, such as the addition of crown moulding or wainscoting. An updated fireplace can bring modern flair to a historic space, or complement new windows or shelving. A new front door or foyer also can put a spring in your step.
Every project that a remodeling contractor does is customized to the customer’s needs. To get started, usually a series of meetings occur from the earliest idea stages up to the end of the project to make sure that you are happy with the design and craftsmanship. Some remodelers and construction companies also include in-house custom design services.
A project can involve several steps depending on the complexity of the project, such as a custom design, plumbing, electrical, plastering and more. “The process could take a couple of weeks for a bathroom, or over a month for a kitchen,” Raehl says. It’s never a bad idea to estimate under what you can actually afford to invest in the project, just in case something hidden becomes something you can’t ignore.
“One of the most common home renovation projects is the bathroom, often out of necessity,” Raehl points out. “If we’re tearing something apart to fix something that’s broken, sometimes it turns out we might as well redo the floor, or the plumbing.” A lower estimate for a bathroom remodel starts around $7,000 or $8,000. But it’s not all a matter of necessity, of course! Another option is to surround the shower with new tile, which “can be a major upgrade for your master bathroom,” Fagerlind suggests. “This also gives you an opportunity to add relaxing features such as body jets, or a hand shower.”
Home improvements are home investments. The higher-quality construction that a homeowner invests in, the longer it will last, and the more value the home will retain over time. Fagerlind suggests, for example, investing in quartz, a man-made stone countertop option, as a nonporous, easily maintained surface that is durable and long lasting. Durable stainless steel or composite stone sinks also give the look of high-end stone with half the price tag.
This philosophy applies to the choice of fixtures as well. “Some plumbers will charge more to install and fix a lower-quality fixture that a homeowner picked out for themselves,” Raehl explains. By going with a builder who installs high-quality fixtures, he continues, “You pay for the quality and the service, and you get something that will last,” as opposed to a cheaper product that may require more maintenance, and more cash out of your pocket in the long-run.
Spring is a fantastic time to begin planning or starting an exciting home improvement project. With some inspiration and a little planning, a small budget can take you a long way. Talking with a professional remodeling contractor is the first step to making an update to your property, and approaching your dream project is a lot easier when you know what to expect.