Building Your Off Grid Home On A Budget

There are many ways to save money while building your solar dream home. One way is to start collecting items that you know you want to include in your design or tools and materials you will need if you are building it yourself.

When building our solar home, Joe and I started planning long before we ever started to build. This gave us plenty of time to shop around and collect items we thought would be great for our solar cottage. Many items I had purchased a year or more before we ever started building. In order to save money and not slow down the building process once we started, we kept a lookout for items we were interested in incorporating in our solar home and also tools and materials we would use to build.

The first item I bought, probably several years before we started building, was my porcelain kitchen farmhouse sink with the large drainboard attached. I got it for a steal- 50.00 on Craigslist. I knew I wanted a farmhouse sink, so I looked on Craigslist about 8 months before I found this one.

Farmhouse sink with drain board

Farmhouse sink with drain board

A vintage Chambers gas stove was on the top of my list. I found my Chambers stove also on Craigslist and although I had to travel to Fort Worth to pick it up, it was well worth the trip. Again, I stored it about a year before we started building.

Chambers stove

I found our white picket fence for the front yard on Craigslist. I’ve had it about two years now; it’s still laying in the yard. We hope to get it up this Spring. I only have enough to go around half my yard; I’m currently searching for more fencing to finish the back half of the yard.

Another item we found on Craigslist was our apartment size refrigerator/freezer. We bought it for 100.00 for our short term rental house we had and figured we could sell it when we moved into the solar cottage. We were actually going to get a full size refrigerator/freezer, planned enough solar power to run it, and left room underneath the open shelving to place one there, but decided to keep the apartment size refrigerator/freezer until it just stops working. I’d love a larger refrigerator, but for now, with just the two of us, we couldn’t justify the cost of a new one. So we will keep the small one and save the money for the time being!

Antique Stores:

I found a small green plank door on sale at an antique store. I bought it not sure where it was going to go, but I was almost positive I was going to incorporate it somewhere. I knew for the price I couldn’t pass it up and happily it ended up being the perfect size for my little pantry door.

The small green door I found at an antique store, the interior door and front door i found a discount door outlet

Reuse Items You Already Have:

Buying and Selling on Local Facebook Pages:

I was going to purchase hardwood lumber for our island table, which was going to be somewhat pricey. Joe realized that our current tabletop would fit perfectly, we just needed to remove the legs! I was about to list the table for sale on a local ‘Facebook Buy and Sell’ page, since I didn’t think we had room for it in the house. I was super happy we could incorporate it, since it was the first piece of furniture Joe and I purchased as a married couple and both our kids grew up eating meals, finishing homework, and making crafts at this table.

When we started downsizing, I sold many items on the local ‘Facebook Buy and Sell’ page. I’ve also bought furniture off the site.

Estate Sales:

A box full of antique door knobs I found at an estate sale ended up on my front door, as well as on my closet doors.

I found an antique dresser and mirror at an estate sale a few miles down the road. I turned it into a bathroom vanity by distressing it a green color, placing my sink on top of it and running plumbing inside of it.

claw foot bath tub found by a friend, green dresser used as a vanity from an estate sale

I had been searching for matching twin beds for almost a year. When I saw the exact beds I had been dreaming about pictured in an estate sale flyer, I was super excited when I found out they had not been sold. I cut the legs off 2-3 inches so they would fit under the rafters, painted them black, and now they are perfect!

Loft twin beds found at an estate sale

Loft twin beds found at an estate sale

Going Out Of Business:

I didn’t want to hang curtains in the living area; I wanted an unobstructed view of the outdoors. I found a pair of green shutters at an architectural antique store that was going out of business. I think they add a lot of visual contrast, interest and color to the room. I got them for a steal at 75% off!

Dark green antique shutters from a local antique architecture store

Black Friday/Cyber Monday:

Most of my lighting I found online and bought during black Friday or cyber Monday. I scoured the internet for hours looking for light fixtures I loved, and then waited for the sales to roll around to purchase them.

Liquidation and Surplus Stores:

I did lots of online price comparison. I found all my doors-interior and exterior-at two different door surplus stores for a fraction of what I would have paid at a conventional store. Some great Google search words are “surplus doors”, “discount doors”, “surplus building supplies” or “surplus building materials”.

Tell Friends and Family:

It’s a great idea to let family and friend know what items you might be looking for. Make a list of items you’d like to find and email it to family and friends. Tell them to send you pictures of anything they think you might be interested in. That’s how I found my clawfoot bathtub. I had all my friend on the lookout for a claw foot bathtub. I got lucky when my dear friend, Cheryl, called and said she had found one for a great price! She text me pics and I went the next day to pick it up. My sister Lori is always sending me pictures of items she thinks I might like. The last picture she sent me was of outdoor furniture. The time before that it was of a small side table.

Joe has also had great luck finding building supplies and tools from all these resources. Ladders, electric sanders, hammers, a table saw, ceramic tiles and painting supplies are just a few of the items we found for a fraction of the original cost.

Do you have some great bargain building suggestions? I’d love to hear about them!

And, if you’d like to see more of the Solar Cottage and Solar Living, visit our YouTube Channel here!

 Greetings from The Solar Cottage!

Karin and Joe