Friday, May 29, 2009

Budget Home Improvements!

I'm surprised I never talked about budget home improvements. Besides being extremely anal about my grocery spending and raising my kids, I also spend a great deal of time with my husband doing home improvements. And not just like painting and stuff - but like knocking down walls and replacing sinks and stuff. I know, we're odd. See this picture to the left here? This was our kitchen last July. And yes, we were living in the house while this was our kitchen. Fast forward to today:

This is our kitchen (same view as up above) as of May 29, 2009. We still have a few things to do (crown moulding, cabinet moulding, get rid of the lamp once the new electrical service is updated, etc.). We did everything ourselves except for two things: We hired a guy to plaster the ceiling (although, we did hang the drywall, so all we had to pay him for was the plastering. Hanging drywall on a ceiling is not fun.) and we hired a plumber friend to hook up our dishwasher, garbage disposal and gas stove.

So since I seem to go to Lowe's more than I go to the bathroom, here are a couple few things I've learned to save a few bucks:

- When those lovely $10 off $50 coupons come out - get all you can get! It's so easy to ring up $50 worth of stuff at Lowe's. Let's say you want to paint a room. You think "oh $23 for a can of paint isn't bad!" - but take into consideration the brushes, the roller, the paint tray, paint tape - you're pretty close to $50.

- Think of alternative (read "cheap") ways to do stuff. If you are painting a room and have an old comforter or blanket - use this or newspapers instead of buying a drop cloth. Don't buy those plastic cups for paint - use one of your recyclables.

- Really think about what you need and want. For instance, we decided to splurge on the tallest cabinets we could get (without being custom made). But we scrimped on our countertops and bought in-stock laminate. We aren't planning on selling our home anytime soon, I really don't like cooking and stuff, and countertops are relatively easy to replace. Cabinets are not. Are they the fanciest thing? No. Do they do the job? Yes. Do we like them? Yes. If someone offered to buy me new Corian countertops as a gift would I accept? In a heartbeat!

- If you aren't comfortable doing something - just don't do it. We're probably more of an extreme case of home improvement freaks. I think one of the things we have learned fixing up stuff, is if you aren't in the right mind set while doing something, lack the confidence, or just don't want to do it - chances are the results will show. We needed to plaster some walls and ceilings. We didn't want to do it. We knew we couldn't do it right. We ended up biting the bullet and just hired a guy to do it. Best thing ever. It didn't break the bank as plastering isn't too expensive, but the results were fantastic. It took stress off of us as something else to check off the list.

- Be prepared for hidden costs. When we ripped apart our downstairs bathroom, we realized the shower the previous owners had leaked. So we had to add buying wood to replace the baseboard and since my husband was worried about the structural integrity, he had to buy a bunch of wood to double up the joists in the basement (he was worried about water damage to the existing ones). Did we want to spend effort, time and money on this? No. But we had to do it to make sure it was done right.

- Salvage what you can and join Freecycle! When we put our downstairs bathroom back together, we were able to reuse the toilet. It was recently replaced by the previous owners and was only 2 years old. Why buy a new one? We also scored a practically new bathroom vanity off Freecycle. These two actions saved us at least $400.

- Take into consideration the tools needed to do stuff. My husband has a ton of tools from his days as an auto mechanic. My family has been kind enough to offer him "hand me down tools." My uncle was kind enough to give us this awesome table saw - just because he bought a new one! Friends have let us have/borrow some stuff. Home Depot and Lowe's gift cards seem the only gift my husband ever gets. We'd never be able to afford all the tools and saws we have if it wasn't for the circumstances we're in.

Have you been able to do something relatively inexpensive to improve your home? I'd love to hear about it! If you're interested in the things we've done, you can check out all of our crazy home improvements at !!


Michele Horne said...

I have found that the best way to save money is to go slow and buy stuff as you need it. Our addition went without crown molding for a year since I did not want to charge it. When we finally had the extra money, we took our Lowe's coupons and paid cash. Your house might not be perfect, and you don't get instant gratification, but you'll stay out of debt.

Katy said...

Rob is building a deck for us now. We estimate that having him do it will save us 5-6K.

SURE, he used the wrong nails and needs to replace them all, but that's some serious savings.

Who needs my husband around on weekends when he can be prying and replacing nails?

Moral of the story- save money DIY, BUT read the directions first!

SwapSavers said...

Great tips! Also you should really do your homework before you start your project. My husband (who is very handy and finished the basement himself including electrical work) did the trimwork in our dining room. He used the stud finder and thought he was nailing into a stud when it was a heating pipe. We had a slow leak for over a month and didn't know it. It ended up costing $3,000 to repair everything (hardword floors, etc)--if we hired someone to do that work it would have only costed $500 to do the trim. Our home insurance covered it but it was a lesson to us and a huge headache!

icestone said...

What type of laminate product did you order?

BECKY! said...

We didn't order the laminate - we walked into Lowe's and bought their in-stock stuff. Both Lowe's and Home Depot have about 5 different patterns in stock at all times. $160 total for the 3 pieces we bought. Can't beat that.

Great tips! That's crazy about the deck and mouldings!! We just did some crown mouldings yesterday - I don't think we hit any pipes! ;) cross the fingers!