Frugal lessons learned while renovating a 100yr old house

4 Replies

I am about 90% complete on renovating a 100 year old SFH and have learned several ways to be frugal which I will carry into the renovation of my second property. I thought the BP community would gain from my experiences:

1) Do ALL of your demo at the beginning.  Then, if possible, rent a Uhaul or Penske and have help loading it and then take it to the landfill/dump yourself.  A dumpster costs me $450 or so for the week and the above is $175-250 depending on how much debris I have.

2) Do not start garbage services at your investment property.  My city doesn’t collect “construction debris” and boy are they picky about classifying EVERYTHING as construction debris.  I live in a different city and they couldn’t care less, so I’m forced to take my “construction debris” home with me.  Yuck!

3) Do not start water service at your new property until absolutely necessary.  My city charges a $29 “convenience fee” per quarter fee for being connected to the sewer lines.  Just make sure you tell whoever you have working at the house that there is no water service.  Believe it or not, workers like to be able to use the restroom and be forced to leave.

4) Plan ahead and buy hardware online.  I have saved literally hundreds of dollars on hardware like hinges, door knobs, window locks/fixtures, screws, etc… on ebay.  Ebay is a great resource for used or discontinued hardware.  Seriously, plan ahead and check it out.  Also, craigslist is great for large items like doors, cabinets, countertops, vanities, etc… and even tools!  I bought a compressor and brad nailer, and a dewalt sawzall for $150 off craigslist.  Additionally, If you can swing it... buy a good drill.  I was using my Craftsman Evolv and it got it’s a*s kicked midway through this renovation.  Instead of spending $50 on a new battery, I went ahead and bought the Dewalt impact/drill combo pack and couldn’t be happier.

5) Water heaters can also be saved for a last minute turn on. No use in heating water for an unused house.

6) NO Balance budgeting. Always make sure your utility bills are based of actual readings and not estimates.  

7) I put everything I can on a 0% credit card and hoard my cash for laborers.This allows me to earn points that I use for statement credit which really adds up.  Also, I pay a few dollars more than the minimum each month to earn that “paid more than minimum” line item on my report – for whatever that’s worth

8) Sharkbite.  Pex.  Seriously.

9)Harbor Freight is a great resource for buying tools that you will seldom use.  Although, I will say that I bought their varial speed multipurpose tool and its been priceless.  Make sure you have a 20% off coupon at all times.

10) Shop at your local hardware store for your odds and ends.  Their experience is invaluable and they generally are the best people to solve all your issues.I have a family owned ACE store down the road and all of them are landlords or involved in some degree of real estate investing.

11) Always continue to ask yourself “what is my goal?”  This keeps me on track and prioritizes projects.  I was about to start fixing windows when I really needed to start the drywall process.  I would have wasted 10+hours on only focusing on windows if I didn’t ask myself this question.  I was therefore able to regroup, start my drywall and do windows while the newly applied mud was drying.  I worked one room at a time and established a system of sanding immediately upon arrival, mudding, then doing something else for the duration of my time.  Rinse and repeat this process and I was able to bang this portion out in a relatively quick time frame.

And lastly, this has to do with time.  You cant be frugal with time.  You must be efficient with time.  DO NOT arrive at your investment property without a gameplan.  DO NOT leave your investment property without a list of materials and a gameplan for the next time you’re there.  If you have a family, this means leaving your house when everyone else is sleeping and arriving back in time to get the kids on the bus.  This means using your lunch hour to work on your properties.  This means arriving home at a reasonable time - everyday.  Be super efficient.  Maximize “your” time and minimize family time.  Your SO will be very much appreciative and very much supportive.

Let me know if there are frugal approaches that you’ve discovered while renovating homes.

Cheers!

Updated over 3 years ago

Update: Dumpter cost is $775 for 3 days usage.

Updated over 3 years ago

Update: Dumpster cost is $775 for 3 days usage.

Updated about 3 years ago

If a rewire is being considered, make the decision as early as possible. It takes TIME to for an electrician to fit this in their schedule. Avoid delays and decide early.

@Justin C.  I love those Harbor Freight coupons and use them at Lowes, per their "accept competitor coupon" policy ... I usually can get 10% off one item with those, even though the coupons are for 20% off one item at Harbor Freight. Haven't had much luck using them at Home Depot 

I also like to bundle my Home Depot purchases to $2K so I can get the Pro Desk discount.

I also like buying stuff off Amazon rather than ebay because of the reviews and 2-day Prime shipping, and then having them mailed directly to my contractor's house for security and to save time.   

Also, I can't imagine remodeling without water. To me, it poses a safety risk. How do you go to the bathroom? How do you mix stuff? (those are more rhetorical questions)

Originally posted by @Lee Liu:

Wow!  I didn't know Lowes matches Harbor Freight coupons!  I'm willing to bet thats a store managers discretion though but certainly worth a shot.  

As far as the Home Depot contractors discount, I'm not really buying all that much in advance.  At least I'm not that good at planning THAT far in advance : )  Its usually a few hundred bucks every time I walk in there.  

Renovating without water is really not that big of a deal if you plan accordingly like I said.  Especially at the very beginning when your in demo phase and tearing everything out anyway.  Every situation is different i guess.

Thanks Lee

Do you have a Menards near you?  We have had a couple an hour away for a while, they recently built 2 within a half hour (yay) and are planning on one right in my town, so it will be closer than Lowes and Home Depot!

Anyways, at least once a quarter, they do an 11% rebate, so you can plan accordingly.  Of course the rebate has to be used at their store, but in this business we always need something from a Home Improvement store!

Check craigslist and garage sales for tools- I bought a $300 Dewalt chop saw for $50 at a garage sale, only thing wrong with it was a cracked blade guard.  

Kelly

Originally posted by @Kelly N. :

Do you have a Menards near you?  We have had a couple an hour away for a while, they recently built 2 within a half hour (yay) and are planning on one right in my town, so it will be closer than Lowes and Home Depot!

Anyways, at least once a quarter, they do an 11% rebate, so you can plan accordingly.  Of course the rebate has to be used at their store, but in this business we always need something from a Home Improvement store!

Check craigslist and garage sales for tools- I bought a $300 Dewalt chop saw for $50 at a garage sale, only thing wrong with it was a cracked blade guard.  

Kelly

 I wish we had a Menards!!!!!

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