My daughter bought a 1000 sq. ft 1960s starter home two miles from us. Low price as it is in horrible condition.

It is structurally sound, with new windows and good roof. But every surface needs something cosmetic done. The kitchen is complete garbage and needs a total gutting.

On the upside, hubby has tools and very good carpenter skills, and I have loads of free time. Since my daughter has only a couple thousand she can spend to make the place livable, we are saving wherever we can. When I google for thrifty home renovation ideas, I find little in the way of down and dirty, genuinely frugal ideas. So I thought I would start a chat on this, offering my thoughts and hope others will add to them.

1. We have divided our time between inside and outside work. The outside work was not a necessity, but hugely improved the look of the property. We have gotten rid of trash and junk, raked, and picked up massive amounts of sticks in the adjacent woods. It cost nothing, there was immediate gratification from the work, and neighbors have been very pleased.

2. We are reusing whatever materials we can that we have removed from the house. For example, we had to gut the bathroom, but have saved larger chunks of sheet rock to patch holes in sheet rock other places in the house. We saved any potential usable wood and plywood. The house has damaged Southern yellow pine flooring (this splinters in high traffic areas). I realized that a source of patch material was flooring from closets… closet flooring could be replaced with plain pine scraps.

The kitchen vinyl floor has too many holes to be patched, but is mostly good. It appears to be loosely glued, and so we will attempt to reuse it in the bathroom… might not work, but worth a try.

3. We are using whatever materials my husband and I have around. This includes leftovers from our projects, and things I have collected from curbside gleaning such as wood cabinet doors, vintage door trim for the front door, beaded board, stair spindles and so on.

4. I research online for solutions to problems. We’re going to paint the dark-stained hollow-core doors. Many have holes. I learned how to repair large holes with foam insulation and vinyl spackle. I’ve never been good at drywall mudding, but researched online and learned some tricks such that I am doing a much better job.

5. Morning and night I religiously check craigslist for building materials, and also the free section. We got an excellent condition kitchen sink with faucet and sprayer for $15. I also post requests on freecycle, but so far have gotten nothing.

6. We took down the acoustic tile ceilings, hoping the original ceilings could be repaired. We were disappointed to see one bedroom had that spiky textured effect, amateurishly done. Our first assumption was that we would have to cover this with another layer of sheet rock, but then I wondered what would happen if I tried a sander. It worked, but a scraper worked even better, followed by a smoothing with a damp sponge. This took two hours of labor.

7. We’re tackling this in a ceiling to wall to floor approach, but also doing what we know first, and leaving unknowns to last. From experience I know that if I wait, often solutions or free/cheap materials will present themselves. For example, we are confident we cab build respectable kitchen cabinets from materials we have, however we are stumped about the counter top. Since it is a tight arrangement, the kitchen has to be custom built. It is unlikely we can find a used one that will work, though I have asked carpenters I know to keep a look out for us. As for new materials, so far no solutions that would cost less than about $250. (Suggestions would be appreciated.)

8. One of the biggest expenditures will be paint. I know you can get wrong-mixed-color paints very cheaply at places like Wal-Mart. My daughter and her husband would like off-white walls with white trim throughout the house, so this strategy wouldn’t work for this project. I’ve learned that there is no substitute for quality paint… cheaper paints have less pigment and require more coats. So we went straight for Behr in a five gallon bucket… needs no primer. I do have a part can of off white that doesn’t match what is in my house, and will use that as an undercoating.