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Need to be schooled in frugal home renovation

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

My family has lived in our (approx 30 yr old) home for almost 11 years. In that time we've needed to replace the roof and the furnace/ac as well as appliances that have broken down. Those repairs pretty much took up the home maintenance/furniture/decor budget, but the deferred maintenance in other areas has gotten kind of out of hand. At this point there are things that really need to be replaced because they're torn, broken, damaged, etc. and other things that would really benefit from updating. The former (like replacing our severely damaged 1st floor flooring, non-functioning kitchen light fixture, living room drapes that have been torn in half, horribly stained/torn family room sofa, broken dresser in my girls' room where the drawer front falls off when you open the drawers, etc.) are really necessary at this point for safety and sanity reasons. Beyond that, we'd like to be in a position to possibly put the home on the market in a year so some updating is prudent just to make the home look move-in ready and fairly updated (e.g. the mauve wall-to-wall carpeting and matching faux-marble mauve double sinks in the master bedroom/bath are probably not helping us).


We have never had money to buy anything or hire anyone to do anything. All of our furniture with the exception of the "nursery" furniture that we bought 9+ years ago and our 14 year-old kitchen table/chairs were given to us as people we know moved, downsized, died, etc. I have no experience decorating a home or making one look pretty. I don't know where to buy what, but I know that I need to be as frugal as reasonably possible to get the most bang for the buck. I''m not shy about taking on projects, but with 3 kids and no child care my time can be limited. DH has zero handyman know-how, although he's helped me paint a room before. I can paint walls and I've replaced light fixtures and put down some peel & stick vinyl floor tiles but that's about the extent of my DIY experience. I also have a sewing machine and can do basic sewing.


Can anyone help me? Where do people go to get (everything that we need) anywhere near affordably?

post #2 of 13



I haven't done much lately, but my parents did quite a bit when I was growing up. I would first suggest doing research.


1) Public Library

 Go to the section with books on home repair and borrow some and get some ideas of what you think you could do by yourself.


Also borrow books on home decorating, and see what sort of things you like.  I remember reading a "For Dummies" book on home decorating that helped when DH and I bought our flat over 10 years ago.


2) Craigs List, Freecycle, classifieds, etc.

Start looking at ads for used items for things like a dresser for your daughters or sofa. Start comparison shopping, looking at what some items would cost new.  Can your sofa be repaired or re-upholstered? What would that cost vs. buying new vs. buying used,Think, think, think, and talk w/ your DH and daughters.


3) Hardware stores

Start looking at local hardware stores or home furnishing stores and pricing things. How much would replacing the damaged flooring cost with different materials? When are the sales? Are there every any Groupon-type deals?


4) Furniture stores

Even if you don't plan to buy immediately, go into different stores and try sofas and other things. That way you'll have a better idea of what you like and want. DH and I shopped on-and-off  for over 6 months until we found a replacement for our old sofa. It can be an OK outing w/ the kids as long as they know going in that you will NOT buy today.



Having done research, try to draw up  a list of the projects you want to do. Prioritize them in terms of health, sanity, do-ability, & cost. 


Good luck!

post #3 of 13

I hope that this thread gets a lot of traffic. I will soak them all up! 


I have found that yard sales can be a good source of not only home decorating things but also some home repair items.  I have purchased bathroom medicine cabinets, towel bars, shelving, closet doors, tools, etc at yard sales.  Home decorating stuff can be even better: large pictures (even if you only use the frame), rugs - even room size ones - decent dressers, nice old trunks, dining room chairs, etc.  Another good source for things like bathroom fixtures, built in appliances, etc is from contractors who often will hold on to things they remove from homes while renovating and may be able to sell them to you at a good price.


I would suggest that you get a general idea of a decorating style (some are much more frugal than others), make a list of what you want to tackle, keep an eye out for any bargains along the way, and then just work through the list.  Go for neutral colors and styles on anything big, like carpeting or large furniture.  You can always add accents later for more color and style. 

post #4 of 13

As far as flooring, light fixtures, etc do you have any places near you that are similar to outlet hardware stores? For example we have an outlet Hoods, bought our carpet squares there for an excellent price. Smaller rooms can be done from the clearance section for dirt cheap. We also have a habitat for humanity outlet store that sells paint, cabnits, old appliances, lighting, doors, all sorts of things that people haven't used or have been taken out of other homes when remodeled, situations like that and the prices are good. Cheap paint can also be had at stores like Lowes or Home Depot for about $5 a gallon. They usually have a shelf or cart marked "oops".

post #5 of 13

One of my friends lives near a place called the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  While visiting her, we went to check it out and it was an AMAZING place!  They collect construction/housing/building/home improvement materials from contractors and individual people who are working on projects.  Most of the material is either 1) leftover from a home improvement project or 2) something that was removed from the house but was still in good enough condition to use.  They had a lot of paint, flooring, cabinets, light fixtures, etc. and the prices were very good.  Plus, all the money they make goes back to Habitat for Humanity.  It's worth checking to see if there is anything similar in your area.

post #6 of 13

Couldn't you rip out the carpet and put in snap together laminate instead?  That is totally DIY- add some sale area rugs and you should be good.  I have done light fixtures- but you might not want to go there- find a handy friend or neighbor and hire them for much less- or find a handy man to hire for the day :)  But don't go cheap on light fixtures- I have learned that lesson well.  Drapes cost a stinking fortune (at least for me it did- 7 full length windows in our living/dining space!)  Here is my suggestion- find some twill/canvas/ticking (I went with red and cream ticking) and do them yourself.  I did see some in a magazine made of burlap- they were awesome.  You will want something to back them with- maybe just sheets from the dollar store or something.  For the furniture- I second craigslist- or put an ad on Facebook. 


As far as your kitchen- When we moved in our kitchen was horrible (well it still isn't great) but After I painted the cabinets and walls it started to improve a lot!  We don't have a matching dining set- But after I painted the chairs black it came together nicely.  My SIL took a falling apart free dining set that was horrible (I wanted to burn the nasty thing), sanded off the veneer, painted it all black, and put on awesome seat cushions- it is awesome and all for about $100 in sand paper, a sander, paint, and some fabric.  


I don't think I would tackle the sink vanity- but I did see an awesome kit that you paint and seal countertop- not sure how it would work on marble though...  

post #7 of 13

I have personally found clearance items at Home Depot that are dirt cheap. $1 for tiles instead of $2-$10. And since you want to sell, you don't need to be too particular about the color.


When you go to a home improvement store, ask the other shoppers (the guys with dirty jeans) where you can find deals on "scratch and dent" products. Every city has a place that sells that kind of stuff.


Look at realtor websites pictures of homes for sale interiors to get an idea of what other people are doing.


Good Luck!

post #8 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the suggestions so far. We actually do have a H4H Restore in town and I hadn't given them much thought. I went the other day after the idea was posted and it looks like it will be a really good resource (hit or miss of course, but good to keep checking in). I have been looking on CL for a year+ for bedroom furniture for the girls/a new sofa and we've even made a few trips out to look at things, but it seems that some peoples' ideas about "good condition" or "excellent condition" is very different from ours. No luck yet. I'll check the big box home improvement stores for clearance deals and I intend to call the realtor who we would use to ask her what things are worth investing in vs. just "prettying up" in prep for selling.


As for the snap together laminate, that's what the previous owners put in our foyer/kitchen/and family room just days before selling the house to us. Unfortunately, what they used (and I assume all laminate) specifically said that it was not to be used in kitchens/bathrooms/entry ways or other areas exposed to water so when the seal on our dishwasher broke overnight and flooded the kitchen floor, it warped/destroyed the laminate. Same thing happened when the roof leaked by the doors to the patio where the prior owner had incorrectly attached the pergola. It's totally trashed in several places. We even tried to patch it up using a leftover box of the laminate that the prior owner had left behind, but he had actually glued together the snap together laminate so there was no way to do a repair...sigh. Not sure what we'll replace it with. I'd hate to use the same inappropriate materials, but we may be left with little affordable alternatives (and we've replaced the dishwasher and had the pergola removed so at least that should prevent future damage).

post #9 of 13
Here's things we did in a similar situation.

Furniture always bought used, frequently on craigslist. Goodwill & salvation army can be great also.

Our house was almost 100 so there was hardwood under gross carpet. I pulled it up myself (while 2 months pregnant lol it HAD to go). We paid to have them refinished because it made more sense. If you go this route be prepared for carpet hiding damage.

All the trim for our kitchen came from habitat for humanity.

Our kitchen counters were ikea butcherblock. There is a lot of info online about how to waterproof it, etc. They were beautiful.

Our kitchen cabs HAD to be replaced unfortunately. We found a place (like green demos) that takes out & sells stuff when people remodel. We got beautiful cherry cabs. It was a little tricky to fit into our space but we figured it out.

We got a 2000 french door fridge from sears outlet for 800 cuz it had a tiny dent on one side.

There is a forum site called garden web that has a bunch of fantastic home forums.

Curtains always seemed best on sale at jc penney. Or yard sales!

Sent from my phone using Tapatalk, please ignore typos!
post #10 of 13
Oh! Most important! Research EVERY project before you start. Find out all the possible gotchas & what could go wrong. Know all supplies you need first so you dont have to run out in the middle if something.

We had an ugly paneled wall that we painted rather than removing the panels because we were afraid of the potential can of worms that panel could be hiding. Some changes are NOT worth it.

Sent from my phone using Tapatalk, please ignore typos!
post #11 of 13

Patience is your best friend.  I just relocated and had the Salvation Army pick up my entire apartment of furniture (H4H was too busy to come and get it).   For the time being can you throw a sheet over the couch and call it 'even'?  A plain full size sheet should be a few dollars and help things.  Target has things on clearance all the time.  I got some wonderful bathroom shelves for 75% off years ago and they lasted me until my move last month, then I sold them for darn near what I paid for them.  I used them in the living room, not the bath.  Most of the linens I had (and will get) were 75% off from Target as well.  Kids quasi furniture gets marked down also.  

I was able to get my DS 'nursery' furniture at babies r us and it was clearanced out back in 2000, it never looked like nursery stuff.  A dresser is a dresser IMO.  Check non-traditional places for stuff.


See if you can trade home improvement skills for other stuff.  IDK where you are but someone on here has 'timetrade' near them I think.  Its like a service type trade website.  For example 2 hrs of painting for 3 hrs of sewing or something.

post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

Just wanted to pop in with a progress update because I think that just starting this thread brought me a lot of great karma....I went to the ReStore (thanks PPs for the suggestion) a few times and have found several items so far....I got new (to me) hammered metal bathroom accessories (waste basket, soap dish, soap dispenser, cup, tissue box cover, etc.) a toilet paper holder, AND a really cool new track light fixture for my kitchen that will look perfect with the other light fixture in my kitchen. Our current (really ugly) track light was down to only 1 light working out of the 5 and cooking past sundown was getting very challenging. In total I spent $68 there so far.

Next, after TWO YEARS of trolling craigs for maple bedroom furniture for my girls' room to replace their falling apart dresser and to update the room so that the furniture all matched I finally snagged a huge deal. We bought 3 dressers, a desk, matching desk chair, a hutch, a mirror, and a double headboard all for $375. They are in very good condition and the girls love each having their own dresser.  There's more furniture than we need right now, but hopefully when we move we'll have another bedroom and can use the extras to furnish rooms for all 3 kids (the nursery dressers are the same finish and a very similar style so they'd mix/match well). We're trying to sell their old furniture (desk/hutch, nightstand, mirror, headboard, and the smaller non-broken dresser) to recoup some of what we paid. Fingers crossed.


But here's my favorite...I was at my favorite thrift store looking around at kids clothes and whatnot when I saw a sofa. Usually they are really grungy and tired there, but this one was in near perfect condition (small tear in the skirt fabric in the back, which would be to the wall so no biggie). It was is a durable neutral fabric and fits with our general decor and taste, and it's really comfortable. The price......$39.98. I looked up the manufacturer and estimate that it was probably $1000-$1500 new. Such an incredible deal. It's sitting in our family room and everyone LOVES it. My husband was so struck by our good fortune and by what an amazing improvement it is over the embarrassingly shabby and soiled and one that is now on our curb that he was in tears when he sat in it gazing at the old one. He said that sometimes you grow so used to what's around you that you don't even realize how bad it is until you see how much better it can be.


I've been looking into flooring to replace the lower level carpet & laminate. Costco is having a sale on their laminate this month and it would work out to about $1.15/sq. ft. if we installed it ourselves (which I'd have to learn how to do, but I'm motivated). Their laminate looks like a much better quality by far than what we have and it has a 35 yr. warranty which I hope speaks to its durability. They also have glass mosaic tiles on sale, which has me thinking about maybe trying to learn to tile as well. Our kitchen is pretty small so I think that I could add dramatic appeal for not too much (maybe). I've also been looking at the Rustoleum laminate counter refinishing kits and cabinet painting kits to overhaul the cabinets/counters. Not sure. I'm going to call our realtor on Monday to pick her brain about what we should focus on and to what extent.


So there's my update. I'd love continued ideas. I'll keep checking in with updates.

post #13 of 13

For the flooring, also check out lumber liquidator (they are online and have physical stores all around) ... they have hardwood (in the store i saw some for 1.50 - clearance) and laminate for 49cents/ sq ft. bamboo and cork.

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