Some Special Tips for Home Buyers or Remodelers
If you are lucky enough to have the funds to do some remodeling or as was my case, I had to replace a kitchen counter and floor in order to sell my house, then these next tips are something you should consider.
- • Do not go for the Granite or Marble counter tops. These are expensive and if you are a “greenie” they are not all that green. Their quarries are just as polluting as a strip coal mine and they too are finite earth resources. Same with most tile products not made of recycled materials. Instead you can use counter top products made of recycled paper, concrete, glass, porcelain and tile. Although the “green industry” has grabbed onto these products to facilitate their “Mega Buck, Mega Profit” mentality, they are still cheaper in the long run, last just as long if not longer and help to reduce the off-gassing of chemicals into your home. In my case I really saved by purchasing two $60.00 concrete kits which let me re-surface my old 60’s Formica counter top. It looked like a modern concrete counter top when I was done and the cost was way less than actually replacing the countertop.
- • I also had to replace the flooring in the kitchen/family room recently and I didn't have much money to do this and I wanted a quality, bio-friendly product. For about 6 months I called and collected the scrap flooring from builders and floor stores. In my case this was bamboo. These flooring scrapes would have ended up in a recycling center or the land fill and most were free. When I was charged it was along the lines of $5.00 a big box full. When I had enough scrapes I had the floor laid, sanded and re-stained. Different bamboo sources, shorter board lengths and varied widths, different grains and even different colors since not all the original stains were the same. One very unique, natural, renewable, durable floor that only cost me for the installation, as I did the sanding and re-staining.
- • Paint in neutral colors is the cheapest way to add a fresh look. You can strip it horizontally or vertically; make the room two tone with some walls a different shade or color; or you can enhance the size of a room by painting a lower half a different color than the upper half or ceiling.
- Select a structure with the least amount of walls, doors, halls and archways. By archway I mean one that is door to double door width, not the kind that are the width of an entire room. The more walls, halls, doors and archways the harder your heating/cooling system must work, which means the more it will cost and the faster the system wares down costing you in replacement or maintenance dollars.
- Look for homes that have deep seated windows as these reduce the extreme temperatures between inside and outside.
- Check the orientation of the house to the path of the sun to take advantage of passive solar qualities for cheaper heat and cooling bills. Be sure to consider the building material and exterior color. Brick becomes a thermal mass if it is medium to dark colored, which radiates heat. This is not being green, this is being smart.
- Keep an eye out for smart, low maintenance landscaping instead of a picture perfect much work needed yard. Less work, less money, less water, less fertilizer.
- Stick to room sizes that meet the necessity of your lifestyle and don't let the advertising and marketing people 'talk' you into something you will rarely if ever utilize, like super large bedrooms or baths. Remember the larger the rooms, the higher the ceilings, the more it is to heat and cool. Do you really want to spend heating/cooling money that way instead of a vacation?
Before you remodel, build or buy do a Home Usage Audit of your current home.
How much time do you spend in the master bedroom other than sleeping? How much time do you spend in the spa bath other than the daily “3 S’s”? How often is that formal living and dining room used? If you find you have a lot of space in these rooms but rarely use them beyond their specialty needs, then you are wasting heating and cooling dollars – big time! Not to mention the time wasted to clean and maintain these rooms.
Here are some detail tips on doing a Home Usage Study (and be honest).
- • List all the rooms in your home
- • Measure each room for square and cubic feet
- • List how you use each of these rooms and how many hours you spend in each. For bedrooms do NOT include sleeping. For Bathrooms do NOT include the daily personal hygiene routines. For Kitchens do NOT include the prep time of the three squares a day.
- • List what you like and dislike for each room
- • List how much time is spent maintaining/cleaning the room.
If you want to see the costs involved per room, take a year’s worth of heating and cooling bills and divide by the total cubic feet (not square feet) of your home. That gives you a good ball park to the cost of heating and cooling per cubic foot. Then take the cubic feet of each room and multiply by the estimated cost per cubic foot and you will see just what each room is costing you. So if you don’t use that room very often, the cost of heating and cooling a seldom or unused room sticks out like a sore thumb.
Learning from History
Take a close look at old buildings and homes from the 1700 and 1800’s. Many had deep seated windows to avoid the worst of the winds affects and to help shade the window from the sun. Most had a louver window above the doors and archways to facilitate air circulation. (The more air circulation the easier and cheaper to heat and cool.)
Older homes had smaller rooms. If you can tour one take a closer look and you will see that south facing rooms had more windows and a fireplace, while the north facing rooms had windows but no fireplace. This was true for both bedrooms and parlors. The smaller rooms between bedrooms were often the closets of the day before indoor plumbing.
Many also had summer and winter kitchens. The summer kitchen could be in the basement or outside on a covered porch on the north side, while the winter kitchen was inside on the south side of the house, close to the main living areas.
That’s because in the olden days people “moved” within the house for summer and winter to facilitate the passive heating and cooling of the sun. The south side of a home is generally warmer and the north side cooler and since most fireplaces and kitchen stoves were the heat sources of the home.
Just about every home had a root cellar or cold room for storing the harvest. Most had some kind of smokehouse built on top and these were on the north side of a home.
In northern areas most homes had an enclosed foyer or entryway to assist in keeping the temperature inside at a more even level. In rural areas the back entryway became a laundry/mud room to isolate dirt and reduce the need to sweep, mop and clean the house. This wasn’t just to save time; this was driven by the need to use their time wisely and save money.
These building arrangements or floor plans made a lot of sense for comfort as well as money savers.
With the advent of indoor plumbing and coal and gas heating, the first big shift in these floor plans was to enlarge the rooms into fewer larger rooms and stop moving around the house with the seasons.
Rural homes were a little slower at making this shift however they did start to keep the kitchen on the north side of the main floor with the general family living area open to it and the concept of the “open floor plan” was born.
Over time, what with the industrial revolution, the advent of big cities and the birth of suburbs we humans lost the common sense knowledge that cold air sinks, hot air rises and the north is cooler than the south. We also forgot that air circulation or lack of it can make a room too warm or cool and result in “layers” of warmth.
We have forgotten what it takes to grow and preserve our own food or weave our own cloth and sew our own clothes. We don’t remember that bartering and trading were the norm and standard practice, not credit cards and supermarkets. We never had to haul water from a stream or dig our own well.
Growing up in the “have” it all world of today, our youth have forgotten the hard times of the Great Depression or what it took to just survive back in the 1700’s. Yet some of us have stopped to think about all of this. We are the homesteaders, the country folk, the Preppers or survivalists and we are learning from the past and putting that knowledge to good use. Yes, history does teach and us smart people are learning and doing.
From a 50 Something, soon to be rural homesteading Prepper
Links to other Great Depression and Frugal Money Saving Ideas
What the Great Depression Can Teach Us About Food and Frugality http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-great-depression-can-teach-us_04.html
Frugal Food Tips From the Great Depression http://www.paylessforfood.com/cooking-for-less/frugal-food-tips-from-the-great-depression/
Hard Times Bring Back Old, Frugal Ways http://news.opb.org/article/4467-hard-times-bring-back-old-frugal-ways/
Learning Frugality From Our Grandparents http://www.usnews.com/money/blogs/alpha-consumer/2009/02/11/learning-frugal-from-our-grandparents
The Great Depression A reminiscence http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/yeager115.html
What the Great Depression Can Teach you About Managing Money Today http://www.articlesbase.com/finance-articles/what-the-great-depression-can-teach-you-about-managing-money-today-288443.html
Frugal Tips: How To Make 10 Ordinary Things Last Longer http://www.thedigeratilife.com/blog/index.php/2008/04/07/frugal-tips-how-to-make-10-ordinary-things-last-longer/
Common sense: The new frugality http://www.frugalvillage.com/2009/04/04/common-sense-the-new-frugality/
Living in a Frugal Way http://save.lovetoknow.com/Living_in_a_Frugal_Way
Frugal Living, Saving Money, Promoting Thrift and Happy Homes http://www.allthingsfrugal.com/ (Great site, lots of frugal subjects, ways and means!)
For a whole bunch of great ideas on Frugality see Almost Frugal: http://almostfrugal.com/category/series/
- Back to the Frugal Basics: Building a Budget http://almostfrugal.com/2009/04/01/building-a-budget/
- Back to the Frugal Basics: Creating a Plan http://almostfrugal.com/2009/03/25/frugal-basics-creating-plan/
- Concepts in Frugality: Hoarding http://almostfrugal.com/2009/02/23/concepts-in-frugality-hoarding/
- Concepts in Frugality: Rethink Your Thinking http://almostfrugal.com/2009/01/28/concepts-in-frugality-rethink-your-thinking/
- Concepts in Frugality: Know What You Want http://almostfrugal.com/2009/01/12/concepts-in-frugality-know-what-you-want/
- Holidays by Hand: Ribbons and Thread http://almostfrugal.com/2008/11/18/holidays-by-hand-ribbons-and-thread/
- How to Look Fabulous, Frugally: Part Three http://almostfrugal.com/2008/11/10/how-to-look-fabulous-frugally-part-three/