Launch Slideshow

10 Ways to Save Money on Your Interior and Exterior Finishes

Creativity and out-of-the-box thinking sold separately.

10 Ways to Save Money on Your Interior and Exterior Finishes

Creativity and out-of-the-box thinking sold separately.

  • MDF Trim

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    The Home Depot

    Trim and casing cost money—a lot of money. One way to cut that cost is to buy your own medium density fiberboard sheets (about $30 for 97-by-49-inch panel) and rip your own 3- or 4-inch strips. A coat of primer and some paint, and you have trim that costs about $1.90 for a 97-inch-lomg strip. www.homedepot.com.

  • Plywood Flooring

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    dezeen

    Sometimes a limited budget precludes wood flooring, but one creative option is plywood. Used often by architects on a budget, hardwood plywood (with a few coats of polyurethane) is a good (and cheap) solution for moderate traffic areas. It may not work for very busy rooms. This one in Italy is made from marine-grade plywood.

  • Panel Members

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    Timber Products Co.

    Plywood is one of the most versatile building materials in construction, which is why it can be used for flooring—and for walls, built-ins, and doors. Some architects even go as far to use OSB for walls and floors, but the look is only for the truly creative and intrepid. www.timberproducts.com.

  • Salvage Yards

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    Second Use Building Materials

     Reuse centers and salvage yards might not be ideal for high-volume builders, but they are great for small builders and remodelers looking for character-filled architectural elements such as flooring, bath vanities, urns, fireplace mantels, and doors. This 71-inch vanity costs a mere $65 at Second Use Building Materials in Seattle. www.seconduse.com.

  • DIY Frosted Glass

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    Krylon Products Group

     Regular flat glass is boring, but some architects have solved this problem by sandblasting or frosting their own and popping them into cabinet fronts and doors. Frosted glass spray creates a semi-transparent effect, and can be handled in three hours. www.krylon.com.

  • Hip Faucets

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    www.fixtureuniverse.com

    You could stick with the traditional faucet brands if you have money, but if the budget is tight you might want to investigate other brands and other sources. Besides, Consumer Reports says that better valves and tougher finishes are now common on all but the cheapest faucets so you don’t have to worry. This very cool Vigo wall unit costs $89 at www.fixtureuniverse.com.

  • Happening Hardware

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    www.target.com

     You could change the look of a kitchen just by using cool hardware that stand out. Again look to non-traditional sources for inexpensive options. These classic birdcage pulls in oil rubbed bronze cost $9.99 for a set of four at www.target.com.

  • Creative Countertops

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    www.ikea.com

    Most buyers want granite (or some other solid surface), even when they can’t afford it. Solid wood is a happy medium. Butcher block reminds buyers of grandma’s house and adds a warm look to a kitchen. This Numerar solid beech countertop measuring 73¼ inches long by 25 5/8 inches deep costs $129 at www.ikea.com.

  • Long Live Laminate

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    VT Industries

    If wood is out of reach, laminate is still a good (and affordable) deal. And with new advancements such as high-definition printing and innovative edge treatments, laminate offers much more attractive options than the old days. www.vtindustries.com.

  • Pave the Way

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    www.homedepot.com.

    Outdoor finishes are sometimes even more important the interior ones, so architectural treatments that make buyers stop and take notice are important. Using concrete pavers is a cheap and easy way to accomplish this goal. This 12-inch concrete paver costs $1.48 at The Home Depot. www.homedepot.com.

The home building industry is constantly trying to accomplish one thing: building a stylish, quality house for as little money as possible. This is easier to do in a strong economy when homes are selling, but things get tricky when real estate is flat, the economy is limping along, and the credit market is tight.

You can always buy land for cheap and use building panels and modular techniques to control costs. But how do you outfit your interiors—and exteriors—to look good without breaking the bank?

The trick is to get creative—to think outside the box, as it were. Yes, this is a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true. So let’s assume that you’ve done all the recommended things, such as chose a simple building form, used advanced framing techniques, and picked standard-sized windows and products. Now what? Now it’s time to use some imagination.

We have assembled here 10 money-saving tips and tricks that we’ve picked up from architects, designers, and forward-thinking builders. For example, U.S.-based architects have been preaching for a long time that plywood can be used for floors. Architects overseas also feel the same way. We have tracked down a house in Italy—yes, all the way over there—in which Italian architect Francesco Moncada used marine-grade plywood flooring to great effect in a stunning remodel. You can see the entire house on the design e-zine dezeen.

The following architectural features might not work for every buyer—or every builder, for that matter—but they could pay off big for those who want to get creative.

Nigel F. Maynard is a senior editor at Builder magazine.