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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Remodel for Less

Remodel for Less

Before you start a project, there are some steps you should take to make sure you don’t overspend or under budget. Prepare a cost sheet or contact a licensed contractor to prepare an estimate for the renovation or new addition. If the costs associated with your planned project exceed your budget, what should you do? Forget the project, or consider where you can make cutbacks that will not compromise the integrity of the project. Here are some good things to consider when making this decision …

What Not to Cut Back On
- Permanent Components: Don’t cut quality on the more permanent components of your home project such as doors, windows, roofing, foundations, and insulation.

- Bathroom and Kitchen: Don’t forgo modernizing an outdated kitchen or bathroom. These key rooms are essential for present use and greatly affect future resale values.

- Electricity: Determine whether the existing electrical service panel has ample space for additional circuits, if needed.

- Heating Systems: Ensure that the heating and air system is adequate for a room addition.

- Plumbing: When renovating or adding a new bathroom, preplan plumbing needs before starting the project. Use mold- and water-resistant wallboard, greenboard, or a cement board in bathrooms and high moisture areas.

- Windows: New windows should be rated low-E, to block out ultraviolet rays and prevent loss of indoor heat and air.

- Insulation: Exterior walls and ceiling insulation should be of the highest R-value feasible. (A high R-value insulation blocks penetration of outdoor temperatures.)

- Sealants: Seal and insulate around and behind new electrical switch and receptacle boxes on exterior walls to eliminate outside air infiltration and reduce energy costs.

- Hot Water: Retrofit a hot water recirculating pump into your existing hot water supply system and receive instant hot water. This pump will lower water heating costs, reduce water usage and sewage charges, saving energy and reducing expenses.

What You Can Do to Save
- Consider a lower cost yet quality floor covering to stay within budget.

- Install ceiling fans to reduce energy expenses. Flip the switch on the fan, reversing the direction of the blades in winter to circulate the heat comfortably in the room, especially in rooms with high ceilings.

- Remove old flooring, cabinets, wall coverings, etc., yourself to save labor charges.

- Do your own painting, wallpapering and install floor coverings to save money.

- When shopping for flooring, lighting fixtures or wallpaper, check the discontinued and sale items first. Store lighting displays are often marked down in price, but make sure that all the parts are intact before purchasing and that the quantity available is enough to complete the job.

- Instead of replacing existing cabinetry, install a new countertop and paint or refinish the cabinets and replace the hardware.

- Barter with handyman friends, enlisting help on projects requiring assistance or skill.

- Complete the project in phases as money permits, break big jobs into several mini projects. Seeing each phase to completion will encourage you to continue as funds allow.

Creative Do it Yourself Ideas
Need to update your kitchen or bathroom but don’t have enough capital to gut an entire room? Want to replace your fixtures, appliances, flooring, countertops, or cabinetry? Try several of these do-it-yourself suggestions as your budget permits.

- Need some extra storage space in the kitchen? Why not try adding an island with storage space below to the center of the kitchen.

- Hang a pot rack over the island or range top.

- Shop at unfinished wood furniture stores for kitchen islands, stools, bookcases, etc., and stain or paint them yourself.

- Go green. Pull up and discard old carpeting; expose original, existing wood, tile, or terrazzo flooring beneath.

- Repurpose and introduce vintage furniture such as farmhouse tables, Hoosier cabinets, rolling carts, and the like into your country kitchen. An old pine freestanding cabinet instantly adds country charm to your kitchen as well as pantry space without the need or expense of installation.

- Transform a vintage oak dresser into a bathroom vanity. Cut an opening in the top to incorporate a sink. The top drawer will need to be eliminated except for the drawer front, to allow fitting of plumbing fixtures. The outer wood shell remains intact and stylish.

- Update your lighting. Installing an attractive chandelier, ceiling fan, or track lighting will transform a room with the flip of a switch. Paint existing kitchen or bathroom cabinets to freshen and brighten the room.

- Update the hardware on your cabinets.

- Installing a chair rail and beadboard wainscoting on an existing wall is affordable, attractive and doesn’t require professional installation.

- Paint an old brick fireplace surround to conceal stains and lighten the room.

- Update and organize your closet space with the latest shelving and storage units available.

- Spruce up an existing bathtub by affixing decorative tiles to the outside of the tub. Either cover the entire outside of the tub with mini tiles or mount one or three large, diamond shape tiles in the center to add color and style affordably.

- Want an elegant bath? Install a paneled wood covering and trim to the side of the bathtub, coordinating wood stain or paint colors with existing cabinetry.

- Mount a shelf above doorways and windows in the kitchen or den for displaying decorative items.

- Breaking up the massive job of updating a kitchen or bathroom into affordable mini projects keeps you motivated while making your overall goal attainable, one step at a time.

A Closing Word of Caution
Not sure whether to attempt a job yourself? Consult a contractor. Most will be glad to help you determine the level of expertise your job requires and won’t charge for estimates. Don’t attempt any renovation work yourself that you are not competent in performing. Inferior workmanship subtracts from the overall quality and appearance of a room, thus reducing the overall value of your home and your satisfaction.

* Lowell Tukua contributed to this article.


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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.