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Free building supplies?

3496 Views 7 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  oh'mike
Everyone enjoys freebies and super cheap bargains, right?
I put together a walnut and birch panel (300 sq ft) ceiling for $40.00.
Walnut was free from my woods, 1 $20.00 gallon of poly, the 16" x 60" Russian birch panels bought at auction for $10.00 for a huge stack and a box of screws for $10.00. I also used to scavenge roadside piles for wood before we moved out to the country. I always had plenty of pine and usually a good supply of scrap hardwoods from shelves, etc. I collected enough over one summer to floor our old attic completely. Free carpeting cut into 2' squares and checkerboarded finished it. Anyone else have any good suggestions for where to get free materials? Craigslist users post things frequently, but usually the last few unused "whatevers".

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When I finally started tackling the one side yard of our home; there was quite a pile of dead plants/etc. My reward for cleaning/digging out the area was a large lot of gutter/downspout parts. 3-4 elbows; a downspout extension, etc.

They were great freebies and we used every piece up when we put gutters on the garage.

We also dug about 10 cinder blocks out of the side yard; still not sure where they will get used.
There was an organization in Central Illinois that got first crack at the last days of old antique homes coming down. Most had fallen into disrepair or were just old farmhouses and so forth that were in the way of new development. Some had nice architectural elements like old light fixtures, fireplace mantels and so forth and salvage crews would grab these things for sale in the warehouse.

What caught my eye a time or two were gorgeous, century old, never (or minimally so) refinished hardwood floors. It took some labor to pull the flooring up carefully so as not to damage the T&G and denail it but it one case I found some beautiful cherry, milled in 1875 but never sanded after installation, that became new flooring for a kitchen and dining room renovation. I doubt I could have found such flooring new.

Some times the T&G on flooring bit the dust trying to get it up but some of the narrow oak I found made nice, straight nailed ceilings. I did one library home office for a client with it, some rich vintage wallpapers and nice recessed lighting.

Special turned elements ended up rescued and for sale at the warehouse but trim in end of life antique homes was usually free for the taking if you had salvage rights. The problem was finding enough space to lay it out to work on it. The oak and hardwood baseboards and so forth were often worth the effort.

I had to pay a little for some of it but recycled door hardware for a time. I sent it out for rebuilding, replating and so forth and ended up making a little money on most of it. So hang on to any of that sort of stuff. Old warehouse and barn hardware is usually in demand.

A newspaper publisher accumulated pallets at a pace hard for them to dispose of so they offered them to members of the public willing to haul them away. They tended to be broken as used so couldn't be returned for reuse or anything. I pulled more than a few apart, ran the planks through a planer to even them out, sanded them and stained them for walls of a basement rec room. It was untreated wood so scraps were safe to burn in the fireplace.

I would suggest a planer plus a stack of just about any flat lumber has possibilities for siding or paneling applications.

We had a great Habitat for Humanity ReStore in town too. Depending on how accounting creative you dared be, you could claim ReStore purchases as donations to Habitat---thereby getting things for free I guess. Made me squeemish so never went that extreme myself but did find some real bargains. And it felt good to be recycling materials and helping the Habitat cause.

Some contractor once left a huge amount of really nice, contemporary Italian ceramic tile that must have been ordered as part of a huge department store flooring project or something. I got enough to do two baths and an entry and paid next to nothing for it. The project budget could not have withstood tile of its kind had I not found it.

Same place had really nice track lighting fixtures a large department store was switching out. Fixtures were $1 and the bulbs $.50. I just had to buy track, wire connections, etc. It all went in a gallery space and I figured the savings to my client was $600 or so.

I used to see 5 gallon buckets of nice primers and paint (real paint store paint) but it did not last long and you had to be able to use institutional sorts of colors. I think ReStore got $10 for 5 gallon buckets of paint.

Anyhow, it was well worth breezing through the place now and then.

I don't know if landscape material falls into the same category as building materials but people seemed more than willing to share groundcovers and certain spreading windbreak types of plant materials. And of course one man's rock in the wrong place became a landscape design focal point just for the asking at times.

Repurposing things is always fun I think. The preservation people were not wild about seasonal runs on antique panel doors, but stripped, trimmed and refinished they do make lovely headboards.
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Sometimes I go to constructions sites at night and look for spools of free copper wire, free tools, free high-end tiles that can still be pulled up...

J/k :p When I saw the title, it reminded me of a news story where so much stuff was getting stolen from a construction site that the police actually setup a string to catch the people taking it. Would drive me nuts - I already have to make 10 trips to the store to finish a project.
Last summer we were trying to decide on which style and color of pavers to use for a small sitting area in our back yard, so my wife came home one day with 3 or 4 samples, and asked what I thought of them. Perfect! Turned out that the place she works was replacing a section of sidewalk that contained several brick inlays, so she asked the appropriate person, who told her that they were going to be scrapped, and that we could take as many as we wanted to haul. Two pickup loads on a hot summer day, but worth the effort.

Then there's a neighbor of ours, who built one of the most beautiful garden sheds that I have seen for his wife; about 10 x 12, complete with a very stylish door, roof trusses, tile floor, windows, skylight, all of which came from a couple of local second hand stores. Not free, but he said that he spent less than $400 in it, so it may as well have been free.
Freecycle dot org is a good source of stuff, around here, although building supplies are pretty rare. it's up in the yahoo boards, IIRC
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Remembered a friend in Upstate NY got all the brick she could imagine for free. There were lots of abandoned warehouses and things. I think she did have to come up with some liability insurance and sign a few things releasing the owners from harm if the bricks were used structurally. She just needed oodles for patios, walks, outdoor barbecues and so forth. Of course she had to make arrangements for labor and hauling.
Here's a tip on cleaning up old hinges and hardware that are crusted with paint and rust.

Use your cement mixer and a few shovels full of crushed gravel---add the old hardware and turn it on.

Works well.---Mike---
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