If you jump into a remodeling project with an ambiguous contract or no contract at all, you may as well hire an attorney and set a court date right away. "The contract needs the right address, a start date, a completion date, and a detail of what is and is not going to be done," says Rosie Romero, founder of Legacy Custom Builders in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Unfortunately, most home improvements do not pay for themselves. If you can't afford to finance the project in full with cash, know the different ways you can finance your home improvement without putting your home at risk. Also, if you know the difference between tax breaks you get for home repairs or home improvements, you can make the proper deductions at tax time and get some money back from your project. Similarly, if you're paying private mortgage insurance, home improvements that increase the value of your home could help you eliminate that cost, which, although it doesn't raise funds for your project, can reduce your housing expenses overall.

One of a room's most neglected spaces, the ceiling, makes up one-sixth of a room's total area. Updating your home's ceilings will net a lot of bang for the buck while adding architectural interest. First, if you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a contractor to scrape them smooth. To add a sophisticated custom look to a smooth ceiling, install crown molding or box beams for a coffered look. Ceiling millwork, an attractive feature prevalent in older homes, is rarely found in newer construction. Adding small touches like these will help your home stand out from the pack.
Of course, finding less expensive ways to do expensive-looking things doesn’t begin and end at IKEA. All you need is a little creativity (and maybe a little help from design blogs) to come up with a less expensive way to do a project you’ve been dreaming of. I was able to create this large dynamic wall of chunky shelves for very little money by polishing up construction-grade lumber, and Laura made her closet doors look brand new with a little applied moulding. If you don’t want to shell out a lot of money to replace your laminate countertops, you could refinish them with concrete feather finish like Josh did in the Habitat House. And if you like shiplap and want to make it on the cheap, try using inexpensive lauan instead of shiplap siding! You’re really only limited by your creativity or your internet connection!
Only 7 percent of handymen and painters say they routinely are tipped, though 28 percent say they receive tips for service that goes above and beyond. Remodeling companies expect a tip 6 percent of the time, with 18 percent tipped for top-notch service. Half of remodeling firms say their gratuities come in the form of food and drink, gift cards or personalized gifts.
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