Link to the Home page Link to the Home page
Information ForAboutResourcesToolsPracticesNewsroomSearch

Finding Recycled/Salvaged Building Materials

Now is a great time for daydreaming about the home-improvement projects you could do this spring and summer.

Make that remodel affordable.

The holidays have passed, the guests have gone home and things are settling down. These long winter evenings are great for daydreaming about home-improvement projects you could do this spring and summer. Maybe traffic would flow better next holiday season if you took out that wall and added a kitchen island. An outdoor grill area would make summer entertaining a breeze. Changing hardware and fixtures could give the bathroom a modern look.

Using recycled building materials in your project is a two-fer. By using materials that already exist, you rescue that material from a landfill and save the energy that would be used to create a new product.

But holiday bills are piling up. Can you afford the materials necessary for these home improvements?

I invent nothing, I rediscover

-Auguste Rodin

The answer is yes. With patience and creativity, you can find most of the building materials you need for any minor home renovation at building material exchange centers. While most architectural salvage shops specialize in high-end furnishings like antique brass drawer pulls and crystal chandeliers, exchange centers generally stock everyday building materials like hollow core doors, sheetrock, and lumber alongside more upscale fixtures and fittings.

Habitat for Humanity maintains over 500 ReStores nationwide that offer everything from patio pavers to ductwork to custom cabinets at 30 to 50 percent below retail costs.

These aren't your typical big box stores. You won't find the same thing every time, so it's best to go shopping with your measurements and an open mind. And go back often to catch the really big bargains.

Let the adventure begin

And if there are no building materials exchange centers nearby? You just have to be a little more adventurous.

Surf the web and check the yellow pages to see if there are any local deconstruction experts (sometimes listed under "demolition contractor"). When contractors deconstruct or dismantle a building, instead of demolishing it, much of the lumber and other materials can be reused. Ask if they salvage materials; perhaps you can barter with them.

Construction sites usually produce an abundance of waste in the form of sheetrock scraps and dimensional lumber. Builders will often hold a few choice scraps aside or let you pillage the piles if you ask nicely and come appropriately dressed in long pants and close-toed hard-soled shoes.

Metal scrap yards are great places to find gutters and flashing. Materials are usually sold by weight. Scouring the yard for what you need sometimes turns up serendipitous treasures. As on construction sites, be sure to dress appropriately.

Road cuts, where a road is being built or expanded, can be excellent sources of stone for patio flooring or garden walls. Bring a friend, a shovel, and a pick.

The beauty of tradition

This beautiful bench is built from sand, straw and clay in the old english tradition of cob building.Go back to the basics. Learn to build beautiful structures, ovens and benches from the very earth beneath your feet at a natural building school. Cob and adobe building are just two of the many vernacular construction methods that make use of sand, straw and clay to create sturdy, beautiful structures. Both require lots of elbow grease, but very little financial outlay if you're willing to do the work yourself.

Learn more about affordability.

Content updated on 1/2/2008

Tip of the Month Archive
Home | Search | ToolBase | Contact Us | Privacy Policy

Text-Only Version