Fix Up Your Home with Free Stuff!

Remember last week when I showed you how to get free money just for asking?

Want Free Money? Fill Out Some Forms

I’ll bet you couldn’t believe it!  Well we’re fixing our house and setting it up with free stuff too.

If you have been following along here I’ve covered some of our home ownership adventures and associated costs in the past.

Fixing Up the House of Usher

So, you like the idea of owning a big old f’ing house?

The bottom line is that owning an old house can be kind of expensive.  You have routine maintenance which gets expensive and common repairs like fixing plaster walls that are inexpensive until you consider they are very time consuming.  Your time and our time are very valuable but we DIY as much as we can around the Chateau Smidlap.  One project that has been on the list for years is insulating our attic which is Mrs. Smidlap’s painting studio for fine art creations.  In the past we’ve had a free home energy audit and the final report revealed the most cost effective ways to increase the energy efficiency of the place.  By far the biggest bang for our buck were modern light bulbs and caulking and air-sealing any cracks that leak hot or cold air into the living space.  Most of the caulking was completed years ago along with taping up pocket doors and making sure the areas underneath outside doors are somewhat air tight.  We ought to take apart window frames and blow foam insulation into those spaces but there are only so many hours in a lifetime.  The biggest life enhancer for us is to insulate our bare rafters for a double win.  First, the space is presently uncomfortably hot or cold in the peak summer and winter months so it is uncomfortable for her to work up there for long periods.  Second and very obvious is the energy savings and dollars saved when heat is no longer going our that drafty attic all winter long here in Buffalo.  I suppose the NPR listeners in the group can even count saving the planet due to our reduced carbon footprint and burning less natural gas.  That is my long winded way of saying we’re insulating our attic and hopefully will drywall over that for a splendid and presentable art studio that’s been years in the making.

We had a quote last year for closed cell urethane insulation which is sprayed into the cavities in between the ceiling joists and is really the gold standard of attic insulation.  It’s air-tight and has some enormous R-value but the quote came to something like ten thousand American dollars!  Cost was a deal-breaker for the spray foam option.  One of our friends has a spray foam set-up but we don’t know what the hell we’re doing and that would still cost a fail amount in materials.  Fortunately, having been in this community for many many years, MB knows Captain Pete, who does a lot of handyman and carptentry work around the area and has done work for a lot of our friends in the past.  He’s basically just an all around great guy and we were lucky to approach him about this project.  First, he replace our huge attic window 6 months ago and that came out fantastic.  Secondly, he’s not interesting in milking the job and doesn’t seem especially interested in cutting up and installing this insulation, which is kind of nasty business with all that itchy foam.  Instead, he has just instructed us on what to do and will come in later in the process with some foam to seal in the panels and do more real skilled carpenter work.  He has enough work to keep busy but is still interested in helping a friend get the job done right.

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Captain Pete installed this gigantic attic window for us.  Some folks think we should have painted it.

So, aside from generously teaching us how to install foam insulation Pete goes regularly to Buffalo ReUse to pick up repurposed and re-usable supplies for other jobs on his list.  He’s there a lot and it turns out they regularly sell and give away poly-iso foam insulation panels that were reclaimed from large commercial jobs.  He just drops them off in our driveway if we’re not home or we help him unload them if we are home.  We only get the ones from the free pile and hence the name of the article (Free Stuff!).  So far we must have gotten close to 100 of these panels, which are irregular in size but will function just fine in a 16″ rafter space.  I looked up the price of these things new and 4′ x 8′ x 2″ panels go for about 40 bucks each if I’m reading it right.  The ones we get aren’t a full 4′ x 8′ but they’re better due to being F.R.E.E.  Hey, if it’s free it’s for me!  I don’t know what the panels cost used but we might have enough now to finish our big-assed attic space.  That must be a savings of at least a thousand clams and probably more due to being able to install the things on our own time at our own pace.  This project will get done eventually but probably should have just been contracted about 5 years ago when we were rolling in dough.  You can’t second guess it, though, only learn and do your best going forward.

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All this crap cost about zero dollars

Furnish your house with free stuff too

See that furniture in the photo?  All of it was free.  Who in the hell would want anything made of wicker is beyond my delicate sensibilities, but it was here when I got here and we didn’t have to pay for it.  That table has been outside on our front porch for about 15 years and maybe has seen better days but along with the questionable wicker it was put on the curb as trash and rescued to the forever home of Smidlapville.  I probably should paint that damned table and it might last another 15 years (mental note).  The glider/couch was free from an in-law who sold her house but apparently it required borrowing a pickup truck to drive and go get it.  We have repainted it and take the cushions in for the winter.  The only things in the photo we bought were probably the cushions and the outdoor carpet.  I garbage picked some wrought iron chairs a couple of winters ago.  I carried all 4 of them home in the snow and must have looked so pathetic some ladies I didn’t know felt sorry for me and offered me a ride but I was almost home.  Our kitchen table was free from the curbside and so were many art supplies and little side tables and crap like that.  Mrs. Smidlap even recovered an enormous antique solid oak door with a full length mirror on it a month ago.  The thing must weigh close to 100 pounds and I’m not even sure how she got it into the car.  She was going to do something craft-like with it but I think we can sell it for a few hundred bucks on Craigslist.  So, there you have it, Smidlappers.  Keep your eye out before you go splurge on something you think you need.  Oftentimes there is a free alternative that is just fine to suit your needs.  Feel free to save and invest that savings and go getcha some of that financial independence!  Have you ever curb-shopped any cool stuff?  What’s your best free-of-cost score?  Let me know.

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Free stone slab. Can’t set a wine glass on wicker
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Free kitchen table
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This furniture is good enough for a porch

14 Replies to “Fix Up Your Home with Free Stuff!”

  1. Too many curb-shopped items to list. Must see to appreciate.

    My wife has a keen eye for quality trash. My Gary Fisher mountain bike that hauls my butt to work a few days a week came from the county dump. Just needed to replace the front wheel (which was taco shaped) and a few cables.

    I’ve had several people complement my nice wheels. They’re shocked when the learn it was a trash find.

    1. i have a curb shopped bike i rescued for mrs. smidlap when i first met her. it’s one of those cool old-school hipster 3 speeds. i need to get 2 newer straighter wheels because even a pro couldn’t get ’em true. that’s a great score from the dump! i used to love going to the dump back in the 70’s with my old man. he said no to most of the treasures i wanted to bring home.

  2. That’s an outstanding score. I’m trying to figure out if we need to do something like that or just put a blanket over the pull down into the attic. Good luck with the foam too. Please post lessons learned.

    Our family kind of passes around furniture. So there have been some free scores in that regard, and we’ve supplied some as well. The latest one is that my uncle is downsizing and moving and I think we got what feels like the entire contents of his garage, which includes some serious tool overlap that we’ll store until one of my cousins buys a house and then they get a free homeowners tool kit that includes everything that was overlapped + whatever else we think they should have in order to fix their stuff around the house.

    Our best cheap score was a used table saw. It’s a mid-range one in between industrial and the ones you get at home depot. The hubster got it for $40 from a guy who bought a new one that had the sensors so you don’t cut off a finger. We offered the guy $200 and he’d only take $40. So I guess sometimes you win some. We wired the shop for 220 and now it runs like a scalded dog.

    1. i table saw running like a scalded dog is a great score! i bought one new for the mrs. a few years back. that’s great that you store stuff to give away. i was looking around the other day and realized we have about 50 screwdrivers. we keep kitchen stuff around and some tools which we offer to people starting out.

      my best tip for that foam is to cut it outdoors if possible. it’s kinda nasty on the skin. from all i’ve learned if you’re not spending time in an uninsulated attic the easiest solution is to insulate the attic floor because you don’t care if the space is hot/cold, only to keep the heat from leaving your living areas. i can’t wait for this job to be done and just throttle down and enjoy the place for a couple of years.

  3. Hahaha, awesome! If t’s free it’s for me as well. That’s a great win man! I’ve heard of so many people getting great wins with free finds, i need to start keeping my eyes peeled

    Cheers man! And you need to keep Pete around, sounds like an awesome guy lol

    1. pete is an awesome guy. he just has all that rural wisdom and easygoing manner. we know a bunch of those guys who are great for the community. free finds are the best. if they don’t work out for you just put ’em back to the curb. thanks for the support, man.

  4. I love your thrift–plus it’s great for the environment! Our house came fully furnished, down to the grilling tools (it was someone’s second home). None of it was really any treasure, but it was worth thousands to us! Now we can take our time to find sales and treasures that we love. When we replace something, I list it for free online or take it to the thrift shop so someone else can use it!

    1. that’s just great to get a furnished house. i 100% agree with the “good enough” concept for that stuff. that’s how we treat repairs too. we could do cosmetic stuff and renovations with a contractor and spend 10’s of thousands, but it turns out that old linoleum floor works just fine when it’s paid for. i love being able to take your time to decide what to upgrade. well done.

    1. ontario is only about 5 miles from our house. he really is a great guy and it’s so refreshing to see. mrs. me has brought home some questionable crap and sometimes it’s a change of mind and back to the curb. i just hate to purchase something where almost anything would serve the purpose, like a porch table.

  5. I like your kitchen table, looks really nice! That’s fantastic that you got such a deal.

    I once found a vacuum in the alley and cleaned it up , used it for a few weeks, then sold it for $40.

What do you think? You must think something. This is the place to let it fly or just say hello.