How to Save Money on Renovations—Without Tackling the Entire Project Yourself

Learn smart ways to save, no matter the scope of your reno.


Better Homes & Gardens / Kim Cornelison

Are you taking on a big renovation project and looking for ways to stretch your budget? You can always select more cost-effective materials or take your project on in stages, but there’s also the option of rolling up your sleeves and doing some of the work yourself. That said, there are things you should know and consider before you get started or else you could end up spending even more money than anticipated. 

Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design at The Home Depot, advises sticking with the basics. “Some of the most successful projects for beginners are the simplest, such as painting, landscaping, and installing blinds,” she says. “Limiting the scope of your projects at the beginning will help build confidence and knowledge before you take on more complex DIY projects.”

It might be tempting to get out the sledgehammer and demo those kitchen cabinets on your own but, unless you know what you’re doing, even prep work can damage your bottom line if you wind up making a costly mistake. Luckily, there are certain projects you can take on as part of your larger renovation that can save you money without fear of doing more harm than good. 

How to Determine Which Projects to DIY

Before you get started, Fishburne says there are a few things to consider, namely the amount of time you have, the potential cost and/or cost savings of tackling the project yourself, and how confident you are in taking on the job. “If you like to DIY and have the time, go for it! But remember to have realistic expectations about the result, she says. Your floor installation likely won’t be quite as seamless as a professional’s and a paint job might not be as smooth or have the detailed work you can expect from someone who has had training or years of experience. 

“A great way to determine whether you’re able to tackle a DIY project is by checking the difficulty level. We recommend a little research upfront to save you time and money down the road,” Fishburne says. Find a project guide specifically geared toward your project. This will help you determine what tools you need, the time investment, and the level of difficulty and skill level of the project. 

“While every project has the potential to go wrong, a recent pro survey we did found that 94% of pros have been hired to fix DIY projects in the last five years,” says Mallory Micetich, home care expert at Angi.

So which aspects of a renovation should you skip? “From a skill level standpoint, plumbing and electricity are the most difficult and potentially dangerous projects to take on. The room for error is very small and both require advanced knowledge,” says Micetich. Roofing projects, those that deal with structural issues, and anything that requires a permit are all best left to the professionals, too. 

vaulted ceiling kitchen with patterned wall blue cabinets

Better Homes & Gardens / David Tsay

How to Save Money on Home Renovations

It likely comes as no surprise that the end result of even simple DIY projects can oftentimes be more costly than anticipated. “We frequently talk to homeowners about all types of projects, including DIY, and many DIYers consistently tell us their projects took more money and time than expected,” says Micetich. “So if you're really looking to reduce costs, planning is key.” 

While the majority of renovations should be left to professionals, according to Micetich, there are certain projects homeowners can take on as part of a larger renovation that can wind up in cost savings. “For example, if you’re doing a full bathroom remodel, you can leave the tile and flooring installation to the pros, but replace the faucets, light fixtures, and mirrors yourself.” While she says that demo work can sometimes be done by a homeowner, proper caution must be taken to ensure you don’t do more damage than good. 

Both Micetich and Fishburne say painting is usually a good project to tackle yourself no matter which room you’re renovating and can even be a budget-friendly way to restore old cabinets. This can help you save big, whether you're renovating a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. 

Other Costs to Consider During a Renovation

Beyond the scope of the work and materials needed, there are a variety of aspects that can and will make a difference in your cost or overall cost savings—which is typically the ultimate goal in taking on smaller parts of a larger renovation. “When planning your project, it’s important to consider factors that can impact the overall cost, such as geography, permits, as well as the addition, disposal, and replacement of materials,” says Fishburne. “The average cost of fixtures, appliances, and labor differs by U.S. region.” She also points to labor, materials, and the size of the space undergoing renovation as factors that can affect the budget. 

As with all aspects of a DIY project, no matter how large or small, planning is key to saving money as well as winding up with a finished product that mirrors your original vision. She suggests making a list of top priorities so you can stay on track if the budget requires cutting down on the original scope of the project. “In some spaces, making improvements over time may be a better solution than taking on a total remodel at once," says Fishburne.

Finally, put all your cards on the table from the very start. Knowing what you can spend before you spend it is the smartest way to ensure your renovation doesn’t get out of hand before it's even underway.

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