Building with recycled materials offers two-fold benefits. Not only are you building with cheaper materials that come with a story, but you’re also helping to offset some of your carbon building footprint. It’s no secret that building materials can really eat into your building budget. Just like the housing market, material prices can ebb and flow. By searching for recycled materials whenever possible, you can save more of your money. Not sure where to start? If you know where to look, you’ll find an abundance of reclaimed materials at your fingertips. Here are some of the best places to score free and low-cost materials.

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Reclaimed wood kitchen

Reclaimed material adds extra character to your home. Image: Pillar & Peacock

Social media and online classifieds

The best place to start is by putting out the call to your friends and family on social media. Chances are someone on your friend list has something you need sitting in their garage right now. Post a message on your page and then post messages on indoor swap meet and online classified sites. There are entire websites, like Freecycle, devoted to exchanging used goods for free. You can find wood, tile and counter remnants and even tools there.

Building reuse stores

Habitat for Humanity Restores are outlets that accept building material donations like fixtures, cabinets and even tools. They then resell them to the general public for pennies on the dollar. You can check if there’s a Restore near you, but if you’re not lucky enough to have one, try thrift stores.

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Industrial style bedroom

Check out demo sites for reclaimed stone and metal, too. Image: Barker and Stonehouse

Bartering and trading

Hey, you’re not looking for a handout, just recycled materials! Trading some of the extra materials you have on hand can be a win-win situation. Don’t have anything extra? Offer to lend a hand for a builder or a neighbor who has materials you need. Or, take a look through your garage and post some of the tools or toys you don’t use on trade or sell sites. It’s a great way to get to know your community and help offload some of your extra stuff, too.

Scratch and dent centers

When floor models or packaging becomes damaged, it’s usually unsellable for retailers. While some stores might write damaged items off at a loss, others send the damaged things to scratch and dent outlets. There, you can find screaming deals on materials that have minor cosmetic issues, were returned by customers or were ordered incorrectly. Check out these outlets for things like carpeting, lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, flooring and even appliances. If you’re willing to overlook cosmetic issues or are less picky about color and finish, you can outfit your home on the cheap.

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Barnwood home exterior

Make contact with local builders for first dibs on scraps. Image: Appalachian Antique Hardwood

Building sites

Here’s the thing: building sites almost always have remnants and leftovers in their garbage bins. Before you dumpster dive for scraps, however, check to make sure it’s kosher with the builder. In fact, calling a builder to see if they have extras of your bathroom tile or an incorrectly ordered chandelier can help you connect with contractors who are happy to give you scraps they would have thrown out otherwise.

Demolition sites

Demolition sites are the real motherlode for recycled materials because in most cases, the materials are headed to the dump. When you think about how many homes are renovated while still in technically good condition, it’s a no-brainer. Cabinetry, for example, is updated frequently, even when there’s nothing wrong cosmetically or functionally. Keep an eye out for demolition sites to score reclaimed wood, brick, cabinets and even tile and flooring.

Salvage yards

Salvage yards are usually run by individuals who can see the potential in just about anything. Even the pallets used in shipping can become reclaimed wood if you can find them in good condition. Take a Saturday afternoon and head over to your local salvage yard. Let the owner or manager know some of the things on your wishlist and, more often than not, you’ll find someone happy to help you on your treasure hunt. Salvage yards are great for upcycling metal and reclaimed wood and finding replacement parts for pricey tools.

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Industrial style kitchen

Reclaimed materials make for great architectural features. Image: Jane Kim Design

Advertising

Hey, no one can give you their recycled stuff if you don’t ask, right? Simply putting the word out in your neighborhood can give you a huge return on your time. Printing a flyer that lets your neighbors know what you’re working on and some of the materials you’d like to recycle can help you reclaim things practically from your own backyard. Put a few flyers up around town or post them on community bulletin boards to make sure you get the word out.

Whether you’re renovating your home or building from scratch, your local hardware store isn’t the be-all, end-all for materials. Getting creative about sourcing and looking beyond the usual avenues can help you save money, plus it adds more to your story. Give materials new life by committing to recycle and reuse whenever you can and you’ll appreciate your finished project even more than before.