My Story: Home Remodeling

contributed by Karen

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My husband and I had plans to tear down our existing house of 850 square feet and rebuild a new and larger one, and we had gone far enough to have had plans drawn up and approved by the building department. Unfortunately, he hurt his neck and shoulder and our plans had to drastically change. This got us re-examining our needs and wants and realizing that the plans we'd had drawn up were actually for more house than we really needed and the knowledge that any major remodeling would have to wait.

I came up with inexpensive ways to improve at least the aesthetics of the kitchen, which has been one of the most dated looking of all the rooms in the house. I'd bought a used kitchen base cabinet for $15 and we put that in the kitchen along one blank wall between two doors to increase counter space and hold items that we don't use every day but regularly enough not to relegate them to storage. As a member of several Yahoo Freecycle groups, I found someone else's newer kitchen cabinet handles to replace the old ones in our kitchen. Although they didn't cover all the cabinets and drawers, the cost of a few additional knobs and new magnetic latches for cupboards came to only about $12.

The wallpaper in the kitchen was atrocious and peeling off the wall. With some encouragement, it came off entirely. The next step was to paint the walls a nice light color, which only cost $21 for a gallon of paint.

Behind the stove, the wall was laminate for about five inches and then that awful wallpaper up the rest of the way. It went with the rest of the wallpaper and will be replaced with large tiles at $1 each. The project needed 10. We also needed to purchase an $8 grout/adhesive mix, which oddly enough is cheaper than the individual items by themselves.

The cabinets are all plywood, painted beige, and in very good condition. I plan on sanding them and repainting them white, which will cost about $21 for another gallon of paint.

Just last weekend, we found a very nice Moen single handle faucet in perfect condition at a garage sale for $10 and that will replace the too-small one we currently have. I also found two hardwood shelf brackets from Ikea for 50 cents, which will hold a shelf for cookbooks and miscellaneous items above the base cabinet I bought.

We also found a way to create closet space in a room big enough for a bedroom so we could turn our old bedroom and walk-in closet into a craft/computer room. We were able to create a dining room area and an entry with bench and coat rack (both sitting around waiting to be used). We built a rack in the under-stovetop cabinet for pans and lids from some modular grid material we had sitting around and created a pantry in the kitchen for a nominal sum.

So far, we've spent approximately $250 including various chemicals and miscellaneous hardware, and while we still have those major remodeling plans for the future, our current layout and decor will be much more attractive and conducive to use when all these little projects are done. I think watching all those home-improvement-on-the-cheap programs is finally paying off.

When you think of remodeling, it isn't always about tearing out walls and building major additions. Sometimes paint, a little imagination, and some elbow grease will get you a lot farther than you thought.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to

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