Angie's List: When should I splurge for the best materials?

Paul F. P. Pogue
Angie’s List


A man removes an old window in order to replace it in a home improvement project. (Dreamstime/TNS)

You get what you pay for, as the saying goes, and there are some areas where you shouldn’t skimp on quality — building materials and contractor services, for example. When you cut corners in important areas, you’ll typically end up paying a lot more in the long run. You might have higher operating costs, have to pay extra to fix the mistakes made the first time around or replace something years before you should have to.

–– Insulation. Properly insulating your home improves comfort, increases energy efficiency and reduces heating and cooling costs. According to the Energy Star program, 9 out of 10 American homes are under-insulated, so this is an easy way to boost efficiency. Aim for the highest R value achievable within your budget.

–– Caulk. Less expensive caulking materials aren’t as flexible as higher-quality options, and they typically won’t adhere to surfaces for as long. For a lasting result, use the best possible caulk for the job. The higher quality makes a big difference; premium caulk can last 10 times longer than cheaper options.

–– Windows. Windows are expensive and labor-intensive. You also don’t tend to replace them for many years after you install them. So, this is a job you definitely want to get done right the first time. Choose the most efficient windows you can afford specific to your climate. You can cut heating and cooling costs by as much as 33 percent by paying extra for low-e storm windows.

–– Paint. Not all paints are created equal. Lower-quality paint tends to fade faster and require more volume for coverage than higher-quality options, particularly in highly saturated colors. This is one area in which the benefit is immediately obvious. Economy-grade paint may require 2 to 3 additional coats to achieve the same effect.

–– Roof replacement. Roofing is one of the biggest and most expensive jobs you’ll do on your house, and the consequences of a poor roofing job can be catastrophic. So, hire a reputable roofing contractor to install the best quality product you can afford. Also, higher quality materials generally have longer warranties, sometimes 50 years or more, so you’ll likely only have to pay for this project once.

–– Kitchen appliances. You’ll be putting appliances through heavy use for years, especially the bigger ones like a refrigerator or oven. Higher-end models are likely to last much longer, and you’ll get a longer warranty. Space matters, too. You might save a few bucks by reducing the storage space of a fridge or the usable area of an oven, but over the years you might regret the small savings at the cost of convenience.

–– Hiring a qualified professional. The lowest bid won’t necessarily be the cheapest. Check references carefully and always be sure you’re working with a contractor who’s licensed, insured and experienced. You want someone who has done your specific kind of job before and knows what they’re doing. Also, never skip important permits and inspections. If a contractor waves off the permitting process as no big deal, that’s a red flag.


Paul F.P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit