Whether you're redoing your kitchen, replacing your windows, or putting in a stone patio, one of the first and most important decisions you'll have to make is what kind of materials you're going to use. The question is: what are the right materials for the job?
Understanding the Costs
As with most products, building materials come in many options across many price points. Your budget, application, and expectations will go a long way in determining what materials you should buy. The biggest factor, of course, is your budget. It is generally advised that you buy the best materials you can afford. You might be tempted to save money up front, but you might end up spending more in the end, as cheaper materials tend to have a shorter lifespan than more expensive ones. Many pros refer to this as the "life-cycle" cost. It might sound complicated but it's actually a pretty simple concept. For example, if the cost of a product cost twice as much as the alternative but lasts four times as long, the first product will ultimately prove to be the less expensive option.
The other factor to consider, if applicable, is the energy cost. This is especially true with windows, insulation, and HVAC equipment. If option one costs more but has a bigger affect on your energy bill, the payback period will likely be shorter than if you went with the alternative option.
Looks don't matter when you're installing a new furnace. However, when it comes to windows, shingles, siding, and other materials that will be open to judgmental eyes it's important to consider the material's aesthetic impact. Sure, you might save a few bucks by going with something a little less visually appealing, but if you're going to hate looking at those cheaper vinyl windows, you're going to wish you had bought the better looking option.
At the end of the day it's all about working with what your budget will allow. Ideally, we all buy the best materials for the job. Realistically, that's not always doable. Prioritize the most important materials and focus your financial resources on those items. If you've got the time, shop around for suitable alternatives. You might be able to find a good deal on items that are being closed out or on clearance.