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Pallets and reclaimed wood make up the majority of our materials when creating our DIY projects.
More often than not – the one question we get hit with is: “Where do you guys find this stuff for free!?”
Here are six tips and hints that have worked best for us – including specific details on the best places to look for those elusive materials to recycle into your next project:
1. Think Small
The smaller the business – the easier it will be to get quality materials to make your craft or project. Large businesses tend to have processes already in place to handle their waste materials. On top of that, for safety and time saving reasons – they are not fond of letting people in to take one or two pieces of scrap material. So think small business. They usually don’t have the resources or volume to unload scrap and spare materials to big haulers – so more often than not, it ends up in their dumpster.
2. Learn The Art of Asking
Always, always always ask! Just because there are some pallets piled up against a wall – or some leaves bagged on the road – it doesn’t mean that they are “free” for the taking. In fact, in some cases – stores that take deliveries on pallets pay a deposit on them – and are charged if not returned. In the case of items left at the curb – asking is always the safe and courteous thing to do. For a business – first thing in the morning or late in the day are some of the best times to stop in and ask. Why? Those times tend to be the slower periods - and they are much more likely to take the time to talk to you. And when you ask – be sure to share your plans for it with them. Trust me – when people find out your building a coffee table, a desk, a chicken coop or playhouse for your kids – they are much more likely to be on board and help. It also goes a long way to our next point:
3. Develop A Relationship
If you do find a business or a builder that has available items – work on developing a relationship with them to get materials as they become available. Exchange email addresses and stay in contact. Over time, we’ve developed a network of people who are on the look out for items we use. We make it a practice of emailing back a photo of the finished project we made from their “junk”. This works great for more than just pallets and wood – we have people that call us when they have left over stone, garden materials, etc. because of the relationships we have built. We have even gained some loyal blog followers now from our suppliers – wanting to see what we are building next.
So enough of the how to ask – here are some of the best places to find those materials.
4. Where To Find Good Pallets
Pallets are one of the hottest materials used right now – and you can find a myriad of projects all over the web to make from them. The key in making great projects is finding nice, clean and damage free pallets.
Our secret? First – we forget about looking at those big commercial and manufacturing businesses. Almost all of them have recurring contracts with pallet pick ups and deliveries - and you never know what chemicals or materials have been used near them or spilled on them. Instead – we concentrate on small stores that get a small but steady supply of pallets.
The best places? Small Garden and Hardware Stores, Motorcycle Shops, Lawnmower and Power Equipment stores.
These stores seem to get inundated with pallets and shipping crates – and in many cases struggle to get rid of them. They are usually nice and clean because they are transporting brand new equipment in them. Most of the power equipment stores receive their equipment and parts on pallets, or small shipping crates – which are great for re-purposing. We have a small motorcycle and lawn equipment store nearby that always has a pile of lumber waiting to be scrapped.
5. Where To Find Misc. Lumber and Framing Material Scraps
New home builders and small business construction sites.
Ever drive by a new home building site and see that little fire going in the side yard? Well,that is what some builders do to get rid of scrap lumber not used on the job site. If not in the fire – it usually ends up in their dumpster. Usually a simple walk up to the crew and they are more than happy to let you rummage through the pile. You can usually find a nice supply of 2×4, and 2 x 6′s in short but very usable lengths. For a desk or table – remember – most legs are between 28 to 30″ high. Another great find at these places can be nice supply of short plywood pieces - great for projects of all types. Again – you will have much better luck with small time builders.
New Business Openings.
Have a new business coming to town or going into a strip mall or store? How do you think they get all that product in to start the store? That’s right – on pallets and in shipping crates! When you see a new store coming in - stop and ask once again – many times – the store is so concentrated on getting open and running – they are more than glad to give you as much as you can take. Just last week – we stopped by a new store ready to open and asked – and were greeted with a YES! please take them – you will save me from having to get rid of them.
6. Use The Power Of The Internet
Look For The Free Salvage Materials On Craigslist or your local Facebook Community Pages.
Okay – so beyond the pitfalls and the horror stories you here about buying things on Craigslist. If you use common sense, and some basic personal safety rules – it’s a great place to find materials for next to nothing or even free! In our case – within just the last year we have found an old barn, 1000+ paver bricks, and a huge load of crates and pallets – ALL FOR FREE. We concentrate on the “for free” and “General” and “Materials” tabs – making sure to give a quick glance every few days to see what’s out there. On the being safe side – we never ever pick anything up alone, always pick up during daylight hours and stay mostly with businesses that have items to unload.
Also – don’t be afraid to put out a notice on Facebook for what your looking for – you would be surprised to find people that may have something that has been sitting in their garage waiting for the trash. Also – many local areas have Facebook Community Pages set up to look and ask for items for free, for sale or trade.
So there you go – our tips and tricks of the trade in picking up great building materials on the cheap! If you want to receive our weekly DIY and Gardening Tips each Tuesday – be sure to “Like” us on Facebook or sign up to follow us via email on the blog.
- Jim and Mary