Sweat equity in remodel projects: The true costs

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Sweat equity can save money on remodeling…..BUT Consider time vs savings in the time you spend remodeling

One way to save on your next remodel project is to take on some of the work yourself.  Many remodel contractors are willing to credit or discount work completed by a homeowner.  For those on a tight budget, this “sweat equity”, as it is sometimes called, can make the difference of whether a project is afforbable or not.

Most professional remodel company’s will allow a certain amount of this work. There may be stipulations that items get completed in a timely manner, as to not hold up other phases of work.  And, in most cases, a reputable company will maintain control of items of liability, such as framing and mechanicals.  Or, anything that needs to be signed off on in a routine building inspection.  These are items that could pose a risk to the homeowner if not completed correctly.  Contractor’s run the risk of having the liability of this work falling within their building permit.  But, things such as simple demolition, cleanup and even installation of insulation can be passed on to the homeowner and provide some savings. However, it is important to think about the cost vs. value of taking on some of these responsiblities. (photo by PatHayes)

In some cases, sweat equity might not be worth your time and effort. Time is one consequence of taking on a portion of the work.  Especially for those with children, it can be difficult to find the time to complete the tasks you are responsible for.  I have heard from several homeowner’s, who took on sweat equity on their project say, “….everything took twice as long and it was hard to get motivated after working a full-time job.”  The truth is, even the easiest of work can be challenging while juggling a career, children, sports, homework, etc.  A good suggestion is plan on taking a few days off work!

save on remodeling with sweat equityTo justify sweat equity and make it worth the while, you must consider the true cost savings.  Smaller projects, such as bathroom remodeling, are usually easier to justify when analyzing the time versus the cost savings.  For example, bath remodeling typically involves a smaller area per square foot. Demolition of most bathrooms is a manageble project for a homeower to complete in a small amount of time.

Larger projects, such as second story additions, can be a different challenge.  As mentioned, bigger spaces required more time, no matter the task at hand.  Even cleanup can be more time consuming, given the increase in space.  In the case of major renovation, remodels and additions, sometimes the work involved does not justify the cost savings.

Sweat equity can make sense for the right people.  Those that enjoy doing this type of work and those that have the time to do it, are more likely to see a benefit to handling some of the work on a renovation project. For some, the reward might not equal the effort.  If your curious, it never hurts to ask your preferred contractor.

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