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Veterans: Use your military training to earn remodeling discounts

Jeffrey Anderson | Improvement Center Columnist | August 30, 2013

Whether you're on active duty or a veteran who has already served, there's one thing you share with every past and present member of the military: the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing recruit training.

At the time, that intensive training might not have made much sense other than to possibly satisfy the sadistic tendencies of the instructors. However, those who persevered soon discovered that there actually was a reason to the madness. The extreme conditions honed character traits that could benefit service members throughout their military careers. Believe it or not, those same traits might lead to contractor discounts on your home remodeling projects.

Military training: Using your skills to lower your remodeling budget

So what were a few of the traits those friendly drill instructors did their best to bring forth? While they might bring back some unpleasant memories, see if any of these ring a bell:

  • Perseverance - Did a drill instructor ever allow you to give up when navigating the obstacle course?
  • Taking the initiative - A key to overcoming any obstacle.
  • Thinking outside the box - Any tactical problem could be solved with a little thought.

Your instructors were confident that each of these traits could help you be successful as an active duty service member. What they may not have known is that the same characteristics might also help you find or negotiate better prices on your home remodeling projects.

Remodeling discounts for veterans and active duty service members

Numerous home improvement vendors such as Lowes and Home Depot offer military discounts on purchases. These can really help your budget when buying materials for your projects, but what about labor costs? Is there any way to get lower prices from the contractors that may be needed for your renovation?

Don't forget -- even if you're an experienced DIYer, there are some jobs that should always be done by a trained contractor. Any work involving gas lines requires the expertise of a professional and the same is true for many HVAC, electrical, and plumbing tasks. Here are just a few of the home improvement projects where you might need to hire a qualified contractor:

  • Kitchen remodeling
  • Bathroom renovations
  • Room additions
  • Basement finishing
  • Interior renovations involving wall demolition

Of course, if you're not a DIYer or just don't have time in your busy schedule, you may want to hire a general contractor to manage the entire job. Depending on the project, labor can make up a significant part of your remodeling budget.

So how do you go about finding contractors who offer discounts to active duty service members and military veterans? This is where those traits you honed during recruit training may come in handy.

Most contractors aren't large enough to have an official discount program such as those advertised by the national home improvement vendors. In many cases, you may have to make it your mission to search out and get under contract companies that offer military price breaks. Here's one method for accomplishing the mission:

  • Make a list of the various tasks that may need professional expertise during your project.
  • Contact qualified local contractors licensed to do those phases of work. An online service such as that offered by ImprovementCenter.com or ReliableRemodeler.com might be of assistance in finding reputable local contractors.
  • Ask each company if they offer discounts for military service.
  • If the initial person you talk to isn't authorized to make a decision, go up the chain of command - eventually you may get to a supervisor who will agree to a price reduction.
  • Keep calling contractors until all the labor on your project has been discounted or you run out of local companies.

While it may seem a daunting task, you might be amazed at how many contracting companies have military veterans in key positions or are very appreciative of the country's service members.

How much military discount do contractors offer?

The amount of the contractor discount you receive may depend on the size and location of the project. After a few phone calls to HVAC contractors in the Northern Virginia area, Michael Bitter of Fairfax Cooling & Heating stated that he always provides a price break to customers when made aware of their military service. The discount varies depending on the amount of work, but can be as much as $200 for new HVAC equipment or 5 percent for servicing systems.

If your project is in the same region and involves any electrical tasks, Michael of Rock's Electric in Springfield, Va. provides a 10 percent price reduction for all active duty service members and veterans. And if you happen to live in southwestern Virginia, A.J. Thomas of TownSide Plumbing offers 10 percent off the job cost to any customers with military experience.

The amounts of the discounts offered in your region may vary, and if you can't find any official military price breaks, do a little thinking outside the box. A contractor may lower their estimate if you take care of delivering all material to the jobsite or do any needed cleanup after their phase of work.

So is it worth your time to find contractors who offer discounts for military service? Remodeling Magazine estimates that the national average cost for major kitchen remodeling in a midrange home will be about $53,931 in 2013. A bathroom remodel in the same type of house is projected to be around $15,782. It might be worth a few phone calls if you are able to save about 10 percent on all the materials and labor for either of these projects.

About the Author

Jeffrey Anderson has a Degree in English from V.M.I., and served as an officer in the Marine Corps. He worked in Residential and Commercial construction management for 25 years before retiring to write full time. He spends his time writing, remodeling his old farmhouse, and in animal rescue.

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