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Controlling Interior Finish Costs

Controlling Interior Finish Costs
Typical interior finishes include flooring, counter materials, c
(Note: this post has been updated.) When your house is framed in and protected from the elements, it's time to start spending money on the things you will interact with on a daily basis - the interior finishes. You'll walk on the floors, touch the faucets and shave by the light of the bathroom sconces - hopefully you have money left to get something nice, as illustrated in the great room of Plan 928-10, above.

Just kidding. I know you are a careful planner and are reading through this article to help you plan before you spend the first dollar. In fact, that is the most important advice I can give you when it comes to saving money on finishes: complete the plan. A complete plan should include specifications for all selections in the house. This way you are not depending on a contract full of budget allowances that may or may not be enough to buy you what you want when the time comes to make a decision. Also, going through the selection process

reduces surprises that some selections might bring up. For instance, if your plans show a 30" towel bar in the bathroom and the only one you can find that you like is 36", it is much easier to make adjustments to the bath layout to accommodate this before you've already framed, drywalled or tiled, when the bathroom is still just a drawing on paper. (The bathroom above is from Plan 890-1.)

The point I've tried to make repeatedly in this series is that you are not saving money if you buy something that is going to need maintenance or replacement too soon. It pays to do your research and try to estimate how long the faucets you put in your house are going to last. A $400 faucet may seem like a lot more than a $100 faucet, especially when you need five of them, but if the hard water where you live puts pinholes in the cheaper faucet in two years and you have to buy five more faucets and pay for a plumber again, you'll end up in worse shape. Labor is expensive, don't pay to have things done twice. (Master bath above is from Plan 449-13.)

The internet is a valuable tool when it comes to researching finish materials. If you can't find information about the specific item you're interested in, look at what people have to say about that manufacturer's products in general. There are many forums for professionals where you can find what they think about certain products. Trust what a plumber says about a toilet more than one homeowner's experience. Along the same lines, ask your builder and architect for suggestions and follow up by asking how many times they have used that product. Installing the bath fan your builder recommends also means it is more likely to be installed correctly as this won't be the first one she has installed. There are idiosyncrasies to building products that aren't always made clear in the instructions. Nothing beats experience. Also, your builder may get a discount from their supplier that you can't get. This is usually wiped out by their mark up on the item, but ideally you get the product for the same price and have the added security of knowing the builder will deal with problems that arise and handle warranty service. (Living room above is from Plan 454-12.)

Many people are tempted by prices for materials on Ebay, craigslist, etc. This can be a way to save money, but keep a couple things in mind: Ask your builder. Many builders do not want you to buy materials because they will be on the hook if there is a problem and they want to control the process. If the product is likely to need warranty service you are better off buying from a supplier you can go to when there's a problem. Make sure you have more than enough of each material and well before you need it. A close-out of hardwood flooring will be a great price, but if you run short and can't get any more you'll be in trouble. In general, the more time you leave for planning the finishes in your home, the more you will find quality products at good prices. If your back is to the wall you'll either end up spending too much or getting something you don't like. (Living room above is from Plan 891-3.)

Kenny Grono is a Philadelphia area contractor.

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