3 alternatives to expensive remodeling materials

  • 3 alternatives to expensive remodeling materials

    Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | August 12, 2016

    New kitchen with no personal details

    Making the decision to remodel often includes taking a deep breath and bracing for sticker shock. But it doesn't have to be that way. Remodeling smart means looking for alternative materials that look just as good, if not better, than your original plan, and cost much less. Here are some of the more popular 'must have' remodeling materials and their much cheaper alternatives.

  • Marble counters vs. tile slab

    Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | August 12, 2016

    marble counters in modern kitchen

    Marble countertops can be astoundingly beautiful, especially when surrounded by rich wood cabinetry. But the price tag on those countertops can be enough to make a budget-minded homeowner back away with real regret. Is it possible to create the look of a marble countertop without the steep cost?

    Amazingly, it is. Often known as 'thin porcelain tile,' the material is much lighter and thinner than marble, allowing for easier installation. The thinnest slabs can be installed right over an existing countertop, thus saving a great deal of money in demo work. The lines throughout the tile are so well-made that it is impossible to tell the difference between them and the natural look of marble. In short, it's a perfect fake.

    If that's something to rejoice about, the price differences will make you swoon. Marble can easily cost between $50 and $100 and up per square foot; thin porcelain tile will run about half that, depending upon the style. One of the big selling points is the lack of necessity for a full gutting of the kitchen or bathroom, which saves even more cash.

  • Hardwood vs. reclaimed wood floors

    Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | August 12, 2016

    Stack of reclaimed wood

    A gorgeous old hardwood floor can be enough to make a homeowner go weak in the knees. But floors that have stood the test of time are often found only in much older homes. If you want that look in a newer house, it's going to be necessary to go with hand-scarped wood floors, right?

    Maybe not. Reclaimed wood is all the rage, and for good reason: It allows homeowners to get the look of old wood for a much cheaper price, and it saves those treasured old boards from ending up in landfills or deteriorating even more in abandoned homes. A simple refinish and the wood is ready to be used -- nail holes, scrapes, and all.

    The money saved depends upon where you get the wood. In most cases, expect to save an average of two-thirds off the retail price through a building supply store or salvage shop. If you pull the wood from an old house or barn yourself, your savings will be even higher.

  • Wood vs. engineered wood siding

    Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | August 12, 2016

    Wood siding on a modern houseOpting for wood siding can turn any home into a classic. Most wood siding comes with the added bonus of being versatile, as with a few fresh coats of paint, your house can look like an entirely different place. But wood siding requires a great deal of maintenance over its lifetime and the good stuff can be quite expensive.

    Engineered wood siding is made of wood strands combined with a resin binder. The result is a strong, durable yet light wood material that easily installs on a home. It can be installed just like wood with the use of typical woodworking tools. In fact, engineered wood is so close to the 'real thing' that is can be very tough to tell them apart.

    The big differences in the two options become evident at the bottom line. Wood siding installed by a professional tends to cost between $6,500 and $10,000 for a 1,250 square foot home. Engineered wood siding, again installed by a professional, cuts that cost to between $3,000 and $5,000.

  • Same look, lower price

    Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | August 12, 2016

    Woman with blueprints and paint samplesWhen seeking out the best alternatives, choose materials from manufacturers that are tried and true. Cheaper materials from a reputable company are definitely not the same as 'cheap' materials from a company that is very new to the home improvement scene.

    Using more affordable materials can save a great deal of money as long as they are installed properly and treated correctly. That's why choosing the right contractor is so important. Look for someone who has a great deal of experience, excellent reviews, and a thorough estimate. Proper installation of more affordable elements helps ensure they truly will stand the test of time.