Need advice on thrifty renovations
Hi, all! I'm a remodeling newbie, homesteading on half an acre in a tiny little old house that's never been fancy and hasn't been well cared-for. Our remodeling budget has been eaten away by septic woes, but we have a lot left to do, so I'm asking for any and all advice on thrifty renovations I can do myself. My father and I have already knocked out a couple of walls (he's a builder, so it was done right!) to open up the living room and moved the washer and dryer to a new laundry room in the garage (they were in the kitchen). Next I'll be putting in French doors from the dining area (open to the kitchen) to the backyard, to provide access to the outside directly from the house instead of through the garage. My specific concerns are:
1. Insulation. I'd like to hear thoughts on increasing R-value in the attic, best products for insulating the unfinished west wall in the garage and improving the existing single-pane windows, since we can't buy new.
2. Siding. Has anyone ever heard of stucco or COB re-finishes on pier & beam, stick-built homes? I'd like to move away from the damaged and patched hardi plank siding to something more seamless, inexpensive and yet still appropriate for a garden cottage.
3. Skirting. We've got to have ventilation and access, and are correcting the grade around the house, but I'm leaning toward a rock half-wall if I can find some rock on Freecycle. Would there be settling issues if attached to the house, or should the wall be free-standing?
4. Flooring. The house was carpeted COMPLETELY, so we ripped that out before we moved in. We're living on plywood subfloor and what's left of some old linoleum, but I'd like permanent flooring by winter. Does anyone have experience with tiled plywood flooring? I'm thinking 18" squares, with grain at 90-degree angles for interest, stained and polyurethaned. What would I need to put between the new floor and the subfloor, roofing felt or blue underlayment? And, does anyone have ideas on how to attach the plywood?
Any thoughts, ideas or suggestions would be helpful. I realize I have LOTS of questions, but these are only the most important ones for all you wise GWebbers.