1. Hire an interior designer
It may sound counter-intuitive to spend money to save money, but an interior designer/decorator can help create a look for you that is beautiful but will not break the bank. A design professional can also prevent you from making the very common mistake of buying materials and fixtures without understanding the potentially budget-busting installation costs.
Many a situation occurs where a prospective client has purchased tens of thousands of dollars worth of fixtures, tiles, and lighting and has extremely specific design specs that need to be executed with serious precision. But when presented with the labor costs for the plumber, tile contractor, electrician, plasterer, the potential client was shocked. Always consult a designer or contractor before buying materials.
2. Get prices from at least three contractors
Beware of the building super’s recommended contractor. Just about all superintendents get some kind of kickback or gift from contractors. The recommended contractor is sometimes just the guy who tips big. He will ultimately pass these costs on to you. Be sure to get comparable bids from other renovators including the one your super wants you to use.
That said, understand that hiring a contractor who gets along well with your super can be priceless in terms of saving you time and aggravation.
3. Ask your chosen contractor for advice
Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor for recommendations on how to cut costs and still get the end results you desire. For instance, most prewar buildings have masonry walls. When updating the electrical, if you allow the contractor to build out the walls by one inch so he can run electrical wiring, this will cost less than the labor involved in repairing masonry walls.
4. Stick to the scope
Remember that the five most expensive words in any renovation are “While you’re at it….” Be crystal clear about the scope of work and try not to create changes in the middle of a renovation. Change orders dramatically increase the cost of any renovation. Stick to the scope and you have a much better chance of staying within your budget and schedule.