Cheapskate Hall of Fame
How TOH online users saved $52,280 (and counting) on home improvements
Here at This Old House, we don't mind when people call us tightwads. In fact, we're proud of it. But our readers taught us a thing or two about thriftiness when we asked them to tell us how they're saving money on projects these days. As TOH readers pointed out, there are loads of ways to shave a few bucks—or even a few thousand bucks—off a project without sacrificing your goals.
"My husband and I split a large full bathroom into a guest half bath and a master bath. After getting several bids from reliable contractors, the price was still more than we had planned. Most contractors supply materials at retail prices, so I asked what the charge for the work would be if we bought materials ourselves. By having our contractor do installation only, and buying materials online or from discount sources ourselves, we were able to afford the renovation."
"We watched This Old House and read books about installing laminate floors ourselves, but it seemed like a lot of problems could arise. So we hired someone to install them, thinking we'd have to choose a lower-grade material to fit our budget. But our contractor told us we could pull up the existing floor ourselves and prep the area for him to save on labor costs, and so we got the floor we wanted."
"The previous homeowners left an old dresser in the basement. I cleaned and painted it, then cut out the backs of the top drawers to accommodate water lines. Then I tiled the top of the dresser, put a couple of holes in two ceramic pasta bowls for sinks (make sure they're deep enough to avoid splashing), and found some inexpensive bar faucets to complete the vanity."
"Instead of paying a lot of money for a tile backsplash, I measured the backsplash area, went to a restaurant-supply store, and got a piece of stainless steel custom-cut for the space. I glued it on myself, and it fits perfectly and works great. For my countertops, I looked at granite but instead ended up buying butcher block from IKEA and had my contractor cut it to fit. I then stained it to match my floors. With an open kitchen plan, it really gives a finished look to the space."
"My husband and I wanted the look of a tin ceiling without having to foot the bill for the real thing. So we used anaglyptic wallpaper, an embossed, paintable paper. We bought it at Lowe's for $10 a roll; you can also find reproduction anaglyptic wallpapers online. It gave us the look and texture of a tin ceiling without the extra cost. We're very happy with the results."
"I decided that my Spanish-style ranch house would look best with 12x12 concrete tiles styled after Saltillo clay tiles. But after checking with manufacturers, I found out that readymade concrete tile would cost me between $8,000 and $10,000. Then I found a website called The Mold Store, where I could buy the molds and materials, and I'm making the tiles myself for about 25 cents a square foot. Massive savings!"
"Dumpsters from houses that are being demolished have lots of intact materials, and many superintendents will let you take whatever you want while they're working so they don't have to pay to throw it away. The things I've gotten by salvaging from the trash would have devastated my finances had I bought them new. In the past 14 months I've updated my 1949 house with new windows, leftover siding, recycled hardwood kitchen floors, and French doors, all saved from landfills and installed myself."