Cheapskate Hall of Fame II
Die-hard renovators will stop at nothing to save a buck—and we think that's terrific. Presenting our second annual roundup of penny-pinching advice from TOH readers
Persuading contractors to work for free? Snagging scrap materials from a school?
You die-hard renovators will stop at nothing to save a buck—and we think that's terrific. Presenting our second annual roundup of penny-pinching advice eight great ideas from TOH readers
"I'd been dreaming of redoing our kitchen with white marble counters for many years. However, the expense put them out of my reach until a miraculous event occurred. My children's school sent home a letter saying they were going to remodel the building's bathrooms. In those bathrooms were stall walls made of 4-by-4-foot slabs of white marble imported from Italy in the 1940s.
"I had marveled at them for almost a decade every time I visited the school. I instantly contacted the person in charge to find out what the school planned to do with the marble. To my surprise, nobody wanted it, so I hired a pro to cut and install the slabs in my kitchen. I now have the countertops I dreamed of, and they have great sentimental value as well!"
"As we finished the final details of the gut renovation of our 1930s stone house, we coveted copper switch plates for lights and electrical outlets. But at $25 or more each, the price tag was way over our budget. So I bought cheap metal switch plates from the big-box store and copper foil sheeting from the crafts store and used spray adhesive to affix the sheeting to the plates. My husband even embossed a beautiful fern design on some of them. They are developing a patina that gets richer every day, and we still have enough foil to make 'copper' plates for the entire neighborhood."
"Our master bath was stuck in a bygone
era, with its almond-colored sinks and ugly beige sponge-painted-style wallpaper. When we finally got around to renovating it, we saved a lot of cash by creating a vanity out of an old beat-up wood buffet that we bought at a consignment store for $65. We painted it, gave it a teak countertop made from leftover flooring, and added two drop-in ceramic sinks to finish it off. It's the crown jewel of our renovation."
"I was renovating my fixer-upper, which was built between 1900 and 1920, and needed a countertop for a new peninsula in the kitchen. As we demolished interior walls, we found many intact 2x4s made of pine and realized these could be made into a counter easily. After removing all the lath nails, I drilled some holes through them, inserted threaded rods, and glued them together, using wood filler to make repairs where needed."
"When we moved into our house there were so many trees and shrubs in our yard that it was hard to see our home from the street. After renovating the interior, there was not much money left in our budget to tackle the outside. So we contacted a landscape designer and told him he could have just about any tree or shrub on our property that he wanted in exchange for removing them himself.
"He brought in his crew and they dug up many of the problem trees, which he planted at other clients' homes. As an act of goodwill, he even removed some dead and dying vegetation for us. Then he filled in all the holes and graded our yard with fresh topsoil—all at no cost to us. After we gave our house a fresh coat of paint and added some new plantings in the yard, we turned our eyesore into a gem."
"When we bought our 1976 ranch house in 2005, the previous owner left us many partly used gallons of paint. I had promised my sons I'd paint their rooms, and my 8-year-old was saving up to buy the color he liked. He really wanted to get a new toy with his money but didn't have enough cash left over to buy paint as well.
"That gave me an idea. I mixed up different colors of the leftover paint—peach, burnt orange, browns, blues—and came out with a mocha shade that my son loves. The color nicely sets off the train memorabilia he collects, and it only cost me a couple of bucks for a roller pan."
"We desperately needed new counters for our kitchen renovation, but we couldn't decide what material to use, plus we were put off by the cost. So as a 'temporary' solution we installed some pieces of maple plywood. We liked the way they looked so much that we decided to keep them. We spent a total of $200 for plywood, strip maple to cover the edges, and a couple of cans of clear-coat polyurethane finish—and we get loads of compliments on them."
"Instead of buying trim to frame doorways and windows, my husband and I use 3-inch-by-8-foot furring strips. They're inexpensive and come in bundles of six at the home center. The strips can be left as is for a simple, clean look, or you can use a router to create more decorative profiles. So far we've used them for a window, doorways, and baseboards in our foyer and living room. They give us a look that's a little different and unexpected."