When it comes to saving money on a remodel homeowners are often inclined to do so at the expense of the finish carpentry portion of the project. There are opportunities that make sense, for example, there’s a sizable difference between using clear cherry millwork verses MDF. There are however a few areas where little upgrades can impact how your new renovation will stand up to the test of time. Here’s a list of 6 places you should insist that your general contractor use premium materials:
1) Pocket Door: A pocket door can be the perfect solution in a tight space. If you anticipate adding one into your next remodel here’s a suggestion to take to your contractor. Ask that the door slab being installed has a molded solid core rather than what is known as a hollow core door, even if hollow core doors are being used throughout the rest of the house.
The weight of a solid core door will actually help it run smoother on the track. They also tend to be be more stable than hollow core doors which means they’re more likely to resist warping over time. Even the slightest inconsistency in the slab will prohibit the door from functioning properly. Choosing the proper hardware is also important to ensure the door runs smoothly on the track once in use.
2) Soft Close Cabinet Hardware: Cabinets are one of the bigger ticket items in any kitchen or bath remodel. There are however many ways to save money here and there to stay within budget. Door styles, construction materials, and specie of wood are areas where costs can be controlled with various options.
One upgrade that homeowners always seem to be glad they went with is soft close hardware for doors and drawers. The added touch of luxury these little gems bring to the finished room is always one of the first things that’s shown to impress guests. The hardware helps to keep the contents of your drawer from flying all over the place when it’s slid shut with ease. The smooth closing action also helps to ensure longevity of the drawers, doors, and cabinet frames because they won’t be jarred out of alignment from hurling shut. If you have kids you’ll certainly appreciate the noise reduction and the fact that little fingers will be less likely pinched from a slammed door or drawer.
3) High Quality Caulking: Nothing makes a remodel pop more than a finished coat of paint on the millwork. On the other hand nothing is worse than when the caulking starts to crack on millwork 6 months after the project is completed. Over the years we insist that our painters use top quality paintable caulk with high flexibility and capability with various building materials. Also for joints larger than 1/2″ it’s critical that backer rod is installed before caulk is squeezed into the void, this also helps to keep the caulk flexible.
The few extra dollars spent on the paint prep goes a long way to ensure your painted millwork joints stay smooth and crack free. Don’t assume the painters won’t use a builder basic level caulk to save a few bucks, often times they do if you are not specific in advance.
4) Base Shoe: If new baseboards are being installed during your remodel consider incorporating a base shoe to complete the look. If the base is taller than 3-1/4” and you have wood or tile floors this 3/4” x 1/2” rounded stick is a great finishing touch to the millwork.
Base shoe helps to keep dust out of the crack between the floor and baseboard which makes cleaning the floors easier. Down the road if the floors need to be refinished or changed out the new installation doesn’t require removing and redistilling all of the baseboards. The base shoe can be easily popped off and then tacked back on after the new flooring is put into place.
5) MDF & Water Don’t Mix: MDF (medium density fiberboard) is a fantastic product which has many uses in construction. In millwork it is more cost effective than real wood and it paints very nice and smooth. Basically it is fine sawdust that is pressed and bonded together with resin glue. It has many advantage but it’s arch-enemy is water. Even a tiny bit of moisture (even water vapor) can cause MDF to balloon up and spring off the wall. It also becomes a source for mold as it acts like a sponge to water.
This may seem like an obvious product to avoid using in bathrooms (or anywhere water is expected) but I see builders install MDF anyway as a cost cutting measure where they know very well this product will not last the test of time. Be sure that MDF isn’t installed where it shouldn’t in your home. A couple of alternatives to MDF are either PFJ (Primed Finger Joint) real wood or PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride or commonly known as Plastic). These products cost a little more that MDF but they are far more stable in wet environments. Typically you’ll only need these upgrades in 1-2 rooms which helps to keep the cost low. They paint up just as well as MDF to match the rest of your house and will continue to look just as good as the day your remodel was completed.
6) Closet Casing: If new closet doors are being installed, either bifold or bypass style, choose to have them cased out in the same manner as the rest of your hinged doors. In spec homes closet doors are usually not cased out and doors are left butting into drywall to save money. This small upgrade will keep every renovated room looking sharp and consistent with the rest of the millwork in the house. The last thing you want at the end of a remodel is for any room to appear ordinary.
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