Sweeten’s Splurge vs. Save Renovation Guide: A Breakdown by Room

by Lee Wallender

Want to get more value out of each room in your home? Know where to invest (splurge) vs. hold back (save) in a renovation.

Your house needs a few improvements and you have the urge to do them all immediately. Every project seems to announce itself with equal priority. Unless you’re awash in money and time, you cannot address all at once. You need to sift through your priorities—starting with knowing where to splurge vs. save during a renovation. 

Below, Sweeten helps you understand where to splurge vs. save so you can define your priorities. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

What does splurging mean?

Splurging doesn’t mean overspending. It can mean shifting money from one project to another. Or placing one project higher on the to-do list than other projects. Splurge on things that you touch or see often. Splurge on things that are meaningful to you or which make you happy. 

What does saving mean?

Saving doesn’t mean to skip or ignore. It means that you can safely put it on the back burner for now. Or if you want to do it, you can dial down on the cost a bit. Many times, after the project has been on the back burner long enough, you might see it in a clearer light.

Once you think in terms of splurge vs. save during a renovation, all of these home projects fall into an order that makes perfect sense.

Splurge vs. Save: Kitchens

Splurge: Kitchen Countertops

Every day, you touch, see, and use your kitchen countertops. Whether you choose quartz, solid surface, natural stone, laminate, or wood, your countertop choice is semi-permanent. After the design, fabrication, and installation, changing out your countertop shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you want a certain type of quartz countertop, but choose a shade or pattern that you don’t feel strongly about, ask yourself: How will I feel about this in a year? 

Save: Kitchen Appliances

Kitchen appliances are better designed than ever. The rising tide of improved kitchen technology lifts all boats—even for lower-priced appliances. With research, you can find lower-cost refrigerators, dishwashers, cooktops, and ranges that fit your needs. These appliances often match or exceed the quality of higher-priced versions from only a few years ago. 

Splurge vs. Save: Bathrooms

Splurge: Bathroom Fixtures

Bathroom fixtures are more than just mechanical devices. They aren’t just knobs and levers that start and stop the water. Fixtures are ornaments that complement a beautiful shower, tub, or sink. Spend more to splurge vs. save for bathroom fixtures that make you happy.

Save: Bathroom Technology

Technology has entered all parts of our lives, so why not the bathroom, too? IoT, or the Internet of Things, is a concept that describes how common things within our life are now Internet-equipped. Bathroom technology and IoT are not gimmicks! IoT devices can track water usage, regulate heating, and allow the bathroom to better adapt to your needs. Bathroom technology has its place, and it is the future. But for now, you can limit your bathroom smart devices or put them on the back burner.

Splurge vs. Save: Living rooms

Splurge: Paint

That designer paint that you’ve been eyeing? Now it can be yours. You can easily justify spending more on the premium paint that you want in the living room. That’s because the living room gets so much facetime, and it’s so public. Poor quality paint may flake, chip, or fade over time, costing more in the end. When you decide to splurge instead of save on your desired paint, you’ll be happier in the long run.

Save: Lighting

Living room lighting, while necessary, does not need to be expensive. Prioritize the shape and the finish of the lighting fixture over the brand name. One trick of designers is to over-scale lighting fixtures for a dramatic look. Just make sure that all of the in-wall wiring for sconces and ceiling lights is complete first!

Splurge vs. Save: Bedrooms

Splurge: Bedroom Closet systems

An unfinished closet is an empty box waiting for your stuff. However, that stuff has no place to go unless you create a system. Gone are the days of the closet rod with one shelf above it. Closet storage systems belong in all closets now. 

Reach-in closets benefit from a shoe fence or shoe cubby, two or three drawers, and plenty of open shelving, plus a closet rod. Walk-in closets should be outfitted with the same and more: additional shelves and drawers, pull-out baskets, multiple hanging areas, and lighting.

Save: Millwork and trim

Custom millwork and trim are the finishing touches for homes. If yours is a home of architectural significance, custom trim throughout is practically required. But if you want to save money, you can ease back on the fancy millwork in the private areas of the home. Save the ceiling medallions, crown molding, chair rails, dentils, batten, and picture rails for the dining and living areas.

Splurge vs. Save: Basements

Splurge: Basement Flooring

Moisture is usually the deciding factor when you consider whether or not to finish your basement. Prevalent moisture can turn an expensive basement remodel into an uninhabitable area best used for storage. 

An attractive, moisture-shedding floor covering and a subfloor system can make a world of difference. Begin with the subfloor system, interlocking 24-inch squares that elevate your floor covering about 1-inch. Then, choose a basement-ready floor covering that you love, whether ceramic or porcelain tile, luxury vinyl planks, engineered wood flooring, or laminate flooring.

Save: Guest bedrooms

Building out a guest bedroom in your basement is a wise move when you know that it will get frequent use, either by friends and family or as a rental unit. But if you want a guest bedroom in your basement only for the occasional visitor, you’re taking up valuable space best used for other activities.

Splurge vs. Save: Attics

Splurge: Built-in storage

Built-in storage doesn’t often rank high in priority in other parts of the house, but this is not the case for attics. Attics are starved for space to begin with. Once you add furniture, you have even less storage room. Knee walls are the short walls that extend from the floor to the rafters. Knee walls that have built-in storage should be built during the remodeling process, not later.

Save: Full bathrooms

Full bathrooms—toilet, sink, and shower or shower/tub—are a rarity in attics unless the intent is to build out an entire suite with living quarters. Otherwise, attics used as offices or children’s play areas work well with just a half-bathroom.

Splurge vs Save: Decks

Splurge: Deck Flooring

Your choice of deck flooring can easily make or break how much you end up using—and loving or avoiding—your deck. With that in mind, you’ll want to prioritize decking.

For the best in looks and maximum strength, choose a premium wood such as ipe or mahogany. Both are long-lasting, easy to maintain, and they return maximum resale value. Composite wood—a mixture of wood fibers and plastics—is smooth, splinter-free underfoot, and looks remarkably like wood.

Save: Deck Built-ins

Built-ins such as benches, tables, and planters are wonderful additions to decks. Built-in benches are especially valuable because they tuck away to the side, opening up more space in the center of the deck. Yet one way to pare down your deck-building budget is to save the built-ins for a later day. The same builder (or a different one) can always come back and create those built-ins that your heart desires.

Splurge vs. Save in a Renovation: Conclusion

Almost every room in a home would gladly use a piece of the budget. Knowing what projects can wait until a later date, or what may or may not maximize the full breadth of the room, can help guide on where to splurge vs. save in your renovation.

Here’s how to minimize the mess during a renovation and how to clean up after it’s finished.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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