Home & Leisure



The Places Where Builders Can Cut Corners

Ron Wynn on

When looking for a home, you will need to decide where your priorities are, budget-wise. If you are purchasing a prebuilt home, be sure to have a knowledgeable consultant explain the quality of construction and where weakness might cause potential problems in the future. With new construction, you'll need to know what your priorities are: square footage or quality? And where can you save money on your construction without reducing the quality?

Builders have mastered how to build for less by minimizing steel reinforcements, which are required to support wide spans in a modern open floor with few supporting walls. It all starts with an architectural plan that provides adequate wood support. Steel is very expensive. Another way to save money is on windows and doors. Solid wood, double-hung, sliding or crank-opening windows are more expensive than vinyl, aluminum or synthetic window frames. Bifold or pocket sliders are far more expensive than typical sliding glass doors or French-style hinged or sliding doors.

Another way that builders can cut costs is to reduce wood finishes and intricate custom carpentry. Examples are tongue-and-groove vaulted ceiling finishes, crown moldings, fancy custom fireplace mantles and intricate custom cabinetry and closet build-outs. Cabinetry costs can vary tremendously from prefabricated cabinetry to custom-designed and Italian-imported, lacquer-finished cabinetry.

And the choice between wood and veneer can also impact exterior finishes. Consider one house with mostly a rough plaster exterior versus a home with either a custom Italian, smooth, hand-troweled finish or a Cape Cod home, with lots of wood siding, crown molding and corbels. For that Cape Cod look, shiplap is a more economical product and application but looks cheaper than solid-fitting, custom-cut planks of wood, which is what you might see on an authentic Hamptons-style home.

Hardwood floors, both solid and engineered, can be of many qualities and varieties, from manufactured plank to solid oak, from imitation wood to wood over manufactured pressboard. Fireplaces add to cost as well. Most cities no longer allow wood-burning masonry fireplaces, which would be far more expensive than a prefabricated gas fireplace.

Plumbing fixtures including bathtubs, sinks and toilets have a range of quality and price. A little research will make the differences very clear. Light fixtures, hardware, faucets, showerheads, spigots and drains come in many qualities as well. Learn to differentiate between standard and high quality.

Electrical is far more expensive in conduit than Romex material, which is also acceptable by code. Is the plumbing copper or PVC, which is a reliable hard plastic? Needless to say, the copper will last for longer but is much more expensive, and rarely visible.


Staircases and rails can be simple wood or custom wrought iron or reinforced floating steel. Of course, steel-reinforced floating stair systems are expensive. Appliances are another obvious issue. Do a little research to discover the difference in cost and in quality from one brand to another, and from an entry-level model to another.

Never sacrifice on weatherproofing or drainage. These are two areas that need to be perfect. Crawl areas and foundations must be dry and sustainable. Always have the foundation and any subareas checked to be sure they're dry and airtight. This is an issue not to be compromised. For further comment, call a reliable inspector to do a complete environmental check for moisture, mold, chemicals or plastics.


For more information, please call Ron Wynn at 310-963-9944, or email him at Ron@RonWynn.com. To find out more about Ron and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.


Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


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