Get the biggest bang for your buck

Here’s how to get the biggest bang for your buck for major projects such as additions, garages and outdoor landscaping.

© Kurhan, Adobe Stock


Constructing an addition is a large and often costly undertaking, but there are ways to make it worth your while. Before you even commit to building out, get creative with the existing space. Mina FiesCEO of Synergy Design & Construction, recommends asking your designer to look at the big picture. “There might be some great ways to work within the same footprint,” she says.

If you do decide you need more space, build up, not out. “You can do that more cost-effectively because you don’t have to build a foundation,”  Chris Arnold, vice president of business development for Foster Remodeling Solutions, says. Fies adds that a partial second story—like adding a room over the garage—can save even more.

Contractors’ calendars fluctuate with the seasons, so Fies says the best time to get in touch to begin planning a project is when school lets out for the summer or right around Halloween. This lets you get the time-intensive design phase out of the way before the rush hits.


“The garage is the new entryway into the house,” says Todd Carter, CEO of Tailored Living, who specializes in garage organization systems. He sees that as good reason to opt for cost-effective solutions to keep the space neat and tidy.

Wall storage has come a long way from a simple peg board, and the modern system involves creating sections where you can insert custom hooks to hang anything from leaf blowers tobicycles. “You can get a lot of flexibility and a lot of coverage [for] your garage,” Carter says. You can also adapt the system over time.

Overhead racks are adjustable and mounted to the ceiling. These are ideal for seasonal items like holiday decorations or outdoor cushions that aren’t accessed frequently.
Carter advises contacting a contractor about garage work during the early spring, before the busy summer season begins.

Outdoor Landscaping

The value of outdoor improvement can be subjective, but Dave Reed, vice president of the landscape department for Meadows Farms, says there are a few projects that have universal appeal. “In my experience, the single greatest perceived value in the home landscape is privacy screening. Even through the darkest periods of our most recent recession, homeowners requested evergreens to screen their properties from neighbors,” he says.

“When a landscape designer faces a situation where either a deck or patio can be constructed, the patio is the better value. Even ground-level decks require more expensive materials, and for above-ground decks the cost escalates with county permitting and requirements for handrails,” Reed explains.

“As for hardscape elements, I have found that dry stacked rock walls are perceived as the best value,” he adds. “I often remark to our landscape design staff that a $500 rock wall makes more impact in the landscape to the homeowner than a $500 Japanese maple.”
Fall is a great time to approach a landscaping company because you won’t be competing for attention. Plus, there’s the growth advantage. “The roots are developing and you really do get a jump on the spring season when you plant in the fall,” Lewis says.

(Best Home Experts, March 2018)