Introduction: Deck a House Out for Nought!
So the old house is going to be hosting a party, not to mention myself at times - it's beaten up, has about three bits of furniture and a a lot of dirt and dust.
The budget is: �0.00 - Obviously we're in a sticky one here but it can and will be done!
Step 1: The Basics
Ok the first things you need in a house are the most basic things known to us dirty scallions.
Those would be A kettle, a toaster and of course the ubiquitous microwave, none of these will cost you a penny, don't be tempted by the �5 kettles and toasters in tescoes.
See every family will have at least one of these things that work but is no longer in service - they're not likely to be pretty or stylish but they'll work, asking around I got all three, the toaster and kettle almost match. The microwave needed a light clean but it even has a plate, the family house doesn't even have a spinning plate (it got broken).
Now I hope you remembered your bog roll.
Step 2: The Amenities.
So the other basic stuff...
Toilets: The house should have a toilet, otherwise you'll be doing some plumbing, even then a toilet can be had for free, look for people remodelling homes. Now first things first, pull the chain and if it works great, there's not much goes wrong with toilets that can't be fixed anyway. If not then is the cistern full, if so follow the mechanism from the flush handle through until you find the problem, usually a screw fell out or the flush isn't hooking it right. Now if the cisterns empty try moving the ballcock arm, if it's sitting up then move it up and down a few times to see if it's stiff, if so loosen it up and all should work. If the float fell off the ballcock it's not a big problem, a splint of rod or wood and tape should do until you see a toilet being thrown away, ask if you can scavenge the ballcock arm and the float, or ask a local plumber for one. If I'm off here all I've got to go on is the problems I've had and fixed successfully
Baths and sinks - both are likely to be filthy, clean heavily and assess afterwards, if it's proper old stuff then re-enamelling is preferable, the sink and bath in the bathroom are probably valuable, to be honest, the cast iron bath is amazing, it's like a single bed... The taps are unlikely to be too much of an issue, if they're jammed then try turning them as hard as you can, a good method is to hook your thumb around the tap handle and lean in - don't use tools if it won't budge, spray a little penetrating oil on the threads and leave it for a while.
You'll need a bin - these are easy to come by for nothing and don't need to start life as bins, however that plastic bin came from a friends garage after they did up there kitchen.
Showers are another matter - if it's a simple mixer shower then it's not likely to be an issue other than stiff - if it's a heater electric shower then leave it alone after checking if the power's on at the breaker and so forth and the water's on - these things can be extremely dangerous and use a lot of energy, hence the separate circuits, there's little that seems to mess up with them anyway.
Step 3: Kitchen Appliances/utensils
So the fridge and freezer were in the house anyway but the official verdict was scrapping them, instead we took a huge amount of cleaning power to them and the inner stuff, antibacterial and such is a must, a bleach solution wouldn't be overkill, the nasties that grow in fridges and freezers when they're left like that are evil. However it does make for an easy way to get a free fridge and freezer for nothing, again looking for people re-modelling and moving in/out of houses,re-models are a bonus, usually clean, not too old (they have the money to remodel remember?) and can be had for free if you offer your services in removing them and maybe pitch in for a day, washing machines can be had this way too. Tumble dryer would be a bonus but a washing line is free already if you get some yarn/string/cable, anything that won't mark clothes works, not just washing line.
Utensils are often thrown away for little reason, ok sometimes it's easier to buy a new cheap pan than take a grinder to it but you're looking for free stuff! Utensils - Well I got a bag of them from a friend whose family had changed all their stuff when moving house and they matched the couple we brought along - IKEA is cheap, secondhand IKEA is free...
A few pots and pans shouldn't be too hard to acquire but they'll likely not be the uesful ones, more and odd assortment of pans.
Dishwashers aren't necessary but look out for people getting rid of old brand names ones - they're usually pretty tough, ask if it works and offer to take it away for nothing, usually people are happy to instead of paying removal charges or lugging it to a dump themselves.
Okay - this house came with an oven, an old and dirty but sweet halogen hob oven that needed a damn good cleaning, ovens aren't too hard to come by, you'll probably be having microwave junk for a little bit but keep asking everyone you know, trust me someone's brother's cousins, aunties, grandma's, sister's, dogs, fathers, owners, wife will have an oven to get rid of - you'll need to know some basic electrical stuff to hook it up if they've left the switch and wire intact, then make sure the circuit breaker is off for that circuit if not the rest of the house. It matching wires at the basic level though if in doubt get the electrician friend out, you will know an electrician or someone will that'll do it for nothing or a cup of coffee.
Suppose you need smoothies to function? Well that's not an issue, you should have a drill, tools should be pre-existing with plans like this, well find a broken blender, take the blade and bodge, alternatively look for a basic broken blender and see what's wrong, find one that's got a good blade and one that's had a spoon in it, combine to make functioning blender.
Coffee machine is not essential, filters and such can be used, or try finding a broken coffee machine - they're not complicated affairs, look for clogs, a damaged seal or a missing switch, all repairable in five minutes.
Forks double as: Whisks, poking devices (baked potatoes anyone) picking up tools, most cutlery
Knives as: Forks, obvious poking device, stirrers, surprisingly effective tile grouting and filler tools
Spoons as: Knives (edges), mirrors, backscratchers (no stabbing self in back this way) spreading tools (back side) trowels.
Be imaginative with kitchen equipment, you'll need to get rid of those preconceptions about hygiene, it's just not that important.
Step 4: Seating.
Ok this is where it gets more interesting, not to mention a whole bunch of fun, like whimsically so...
So the blue stools: They were seen in a carport used and abused, the chrome rusted pretty badly, dirt covering them and the blue finish faded and little ponds with their own nasty little ecosystems on top. Took twenty minutes to have all three looking like this. Wiping them down and giving them a good clean removed the faded stuff and the pond life. As for the chrome there are the odd little bits with marks from pitting but using a pot scourer works wonders, wipe down after and relish in the good work.
The funny looking armchair: Now that chair was in the house and is still severely dilapidated, it's comfy though and it's got a sturdy frame and a cool shape. For now a blanket over it with a folded sheet as a layer between the crazy itchy inner, it's some kind of nylon stuff like wool but prickly. Eventually a few black bedsheets and a staple gun will be making a new cover for it...
The couch: I'll admit up front that this came from the family, we originally got it for free though, from friends who were moving and they asked for help, when the couch was seen being thrown out it couldn't be allowed, it's a beast, seven people can be comfy on it. It was in the storage container and it's great, a few sheets as simple covers, eventually it wants recovered aswell but really well. One note about couches - Secondhand couches are worth their weight in gold, no one seems to realize that they're always comfier than a new one, tend to be free or a pittance, less of a burden. Once you get to third owners beware, also beware of people with small children, it may need a good cleaning or possibly have spills permeated in to the innards, which means smelly couch for life, for always sneak a sniff of a couch, if it's whiffy bring out a measuring tape and say it wont fit.
Metal folding chair: I'm not actually sure where it came from but it's painted thick and has no scratches, a little squinty but perfectly usable and handy.
Kitchen chairs are always an easy one to get hold of, a matching set being done away with isn't uncommon - try to find ones with most of the bits still attached, though bolts are easily replaced, home remodels, guttings, moving and the dump are all your friends here.
Step 5: Tables Etc.
Ok this one was actually pretty easy, tables are easy to build and easy to come by, as are other bits of furniture.
So that big dark wood thing - it was in the house, it's a bit beat up but well built and veneered with what appears to be mahogany, layers of polish, varnish and things have been applied over the years making it hard to tell... That will soon have an 'ible of it's own, building a bar for nothing...
Kitchen table - has a few nicks in it and the usual loved look, someone else's IKEA stuff don't you know, they have made furniture cheap enough that when you move hacking the table up to fit is no longer the first thing that comes to mind.
Drawers - A friends neighbour was getting rid of a lot of furniture, this being one of those items. Nice bit of furniture for nothing...
That random looking stand thing was left behind, it's made from about a fiver's worth of plywood - my dad preferred functional furniture. It's sturdy and holds things.
The round coffee table is designer, it came from my room and was a gift, I haven't touched on that but house warming gifts are essential supplies, I still haven't bought bread or milk because people keep giving me them.
All the cupboards are pre-existing in the kitchen and handily fit in with a planned colour scheme which utilizes more free things, first of all the tools we have ready to use are borrowed, return in good condition for best results, people don't mind that kind of stuff. Since white paint features heavily in the plan we already have enough for a few rooms because every household has a few half buckets of white emulsion, trick is to ask around and though mixing them usually isn't obvious between brands the most common one here is Dulux so we managed to get it all one brand.
Step 6: Lighting.
This one can be both the easiest and the most annoying, electricals scare people, this is a particularly scary house in terms of electrical stuff. Some of the light fixtures are original, though it has been re-wired and isn't due it's complicated...
Most of the fixtures about the place are simple enough bulb replacements and such, bar the upstairs room which has two things on the ceiling with nothing on them, not a scrap of wire, you can easily acquire fixtures from the right lamps being chucked or from people with spares lying around, though cheaping out on these can leave a building below code for renting out and things or for re-selling, they're 99p a piece and and easy wiring job, no need to waste money or time by getting things wrong.
The halogens in the kitchen weren't looking hopeful, the transformer had a big black streak behind it and I didn't even bother trying to turn them on, I unplugged them and took the transformer off the wall when my insatiable lust for magnet wire kicked in and I unscrewed the back of the transformer - the connecting wires used a little plastic screw clamp thing, that's fine unless you try putting 8.75A through a few strands of the rail wires, easily repaired with some cutting and a new plastic clamp.
The lamp shades in the rooms were either ugly, filthy or non-existent, I made a new stylish one out of the frame of a less attractive one to put in the living room, made from some translucent plastic boxes I happened upon. Shades are easily made from stuff and personally not worth buying.
The uplighting lamp came from a friends house and was just fine, it'll get a CFL once the incandescent bulb goes, it's not a halogen monster that'll go on fire so I'm not too worried. It's also a little bit bent but hey, I just have to be more accepting of this.
A second lamp base came from them aswell, glass shade + dog + broken lamp. It was fine, apart from no shade on it whatsoever, I haven't gotten round to anything for that, it's lighting the downstairs bog which I haven't figured the lighting out for yet - new bulb, need to find the switch.
The kitchen also has a fluorescent tube light, this definitely needs a new starter (ballast), hopefully not a new tube, if it needs a new tube then I'll just swap it out for two fixtures with CFLs.
Most of the other lamps were collected from various sources - people getting rid of them and disused, the lamp on the counter is lovely and stylish, came as a pack of two and they only needed one, then one got scratched, people don't even think of taking the bulb out nowadays, wasteful world.
The only other lamp of specific note is the one I built from a 12V LED strip I acquired at some point, a 1A rated 12V transformer and three switches, RGB control for morons you say? It's worth noting that this lamp was built carefully, using the best matched transformer available, making it safer and more likely to live for ages.
That insane projector lamp is my brothers donation, it came from IKEA and wasn't expensive but is a real party piece, it also gives me a few ideas about making a giant projector...
The scrap lamp V2.0 can also be seen lurking...
Step 7: The Red Bull Fridge!
This deserves a step all of its own!
See in the house, for no cost we have a fully functioning fridge which is shaped like a can of red bull, it's on wheels and is amazing for parties, not to mention surprisingly efficient, it's for businesses to run 24/7 so it's reliable aswell.
It was acquired in a strange way, while taking some stuff to the dump, glass bottles I believe we saw the fridge in the bay for fridges, a guy that worked at the came over to help as always and we asked about the fridge, he said it's a no-no to take from them, ask if he takes a beer now and again and he say he likes the odd Tennents, we said put it aside, popped to Asda (Walmart owned - Americans) and grabbed a crate of Tennents and walked away with a fridge, this happened ages ago but it's great and gets dragged out for parties and such, it came in good nick with the wire shelves intact and the lid, wheels mean that once it's on the right floor you can sit it there and wheel it out carefully without worrying about the settling time you need for fridges usually, also by removing the shelf it holds three crates of beer when stacked neatly, it cools fast and hasn't failed us yet.
Step 8: Other Toys.
Now there are two CD players in the house with radios and tape decks intact, the radios are good because my phone transmits FM giving us our own little radio station...
The lack of other entertainment machines isn't without reason, see the house needs a TV license renewal which isn't cheap so having politely declined no less than six TVs ranging from little 15 inchers to a whopping great 28 inch CRT which would barely go through the door and all in between, including a couple of LCD ones.
Computer isn't an issue right now, I had the laptop with far better WiFi capacities than my desktop down and there aren't any signals to nick, as in there's one on the edge of range and encrypted, so my plan is to do something a bit drastic and attempt to pick our own up from down the road, I don't think it's impossible, there's a room with a metal frame and some big leaded windows... As for non-internet stuff I'm not under any heavy load for writing junk and other stuff requires me to have either that laptop and my phone or my desktop...
Step 9: Wrapping Up.
I thought I'd just wrap up by saying this has easily been the most fun and cheap project I've done in a while and it's been good so far, I got a bunch of mates on board to helping me and it made all the difference, dead birds aside it's been great. The dead bird comment refers to a bird that flew in to the chimney, got stuck in a hole in the boards covering the fireplaces and perished, we assumed it was a ball of cloth for quite some time until I took another look and saw a beak, during removal of the wood thing the head fell off and it took a week to be moved due to our general bemusement at it. It's not that it was too icky see the draft had dessicated it and it was just plain nasty, messy to move and when the flesh looks green it seems best to avoid.
Ok other than that small point let me say that this is a great way to do anything, not just what I've done but next time you have plans to make/build/furnish something, ask around, this has happened over the course of about two weeks, it's not a slow process like buying and building furniture is.