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Chances are you will have to pay the going rate for contractors in your area. Architects or designers will typically cost 12 to 20 percent more.

But remember you will want a home improvement that is done right the first time. That said, there are still ways you can save if you do decide to work with a contractor:

Shop around for the most reasonable bid – not necessarily the cheapest.

Ask friends and family if the contractors they refer stuck to budget.

Root out hidden costs written into contracts.

Insist that trade discounts on materials be passed on to you, or buy materials yourself.

Compare payment alternatives – flat vs. hourly rates, for example – and negotiate the more reasonable of the two.

Do part of the project yourself, such as some disassembly or prep work.

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