You may have used sources such as Craigslist, Freecycle and thrift shops for your day-to-day needs such as clothing, toys and even furniture. But did you know you could also use them on DIY home improvement projects?
As an example of this, I recently read about a woman who used Brazilian cherry laminate flooring to replace two floors in her home, along with the moldings in both rooms. She did the whole project for $186 using flooring she got through Freecycle, along with some DIY skills and rented tools. She was pleased with both the money she saved and the fact she had done something good for the environment as very little of her flooring went into the waste stream. She even Freecycled the old carpeting to a man who was going to use it to re-upholster his pet furniture.
Thrift shops for building materials
There are not-for-profit building supply outlets in many areas. This includes both independent shops and brands such as Habitat for Humanity Thrift Shops. Both individuals and builders donate materials to these stores from new construction or renovations and get green building “points” or tax breaks.
New home buyers
If you purchase a new home and decide to immediately upgrade the builder-stock appliances to more expensive models, you can donate the new builder-stock appliances. If you do so, you can get a very nice tax deduction and the appliances will be hauled away free.
If there are big innovation projects going on in your area of apartment buildings or historical buildings and you need a specific item, be sure to watch the building supply thrift stores carefully and check back from time to time. You might not find that item the first time you shop but if you keep after it, the odds are good you’ll get it.
The best buys
Do you know what your best buys would be in these outlets? They are usually antique fixtures, builder standard items such as bright white outlet covers and appliances and builder bathroom vanities, mirrors and covers.
Go to your local Craigslist and look for “for sale” listings, especially under the “free” category. Homeowners who can’t easily dispose of an item, especially bulky items, often list them here. However, to take real advantage of this you have to have a large vehicle and need to be able to pick up the item in question fairly quickly. You might also create a RSS feed for the search term of the item you want, which eliminates the need to check back every day.
As a general rule, the best items you’ll find on Craigslist are surplus flooring or tile (for a small space project), windows, cabinets, doors, plants and garden items, and plumbing fixtures.
To get started, you should find your local group on Freecycle.org and join its email list. If you’re not familiar with Freecycle it’s a network of people who share items they no longer require. Plus, it’s a great way to get rid of items you are removing. You can post both items you want and items you are offering but they all must be for free. What you are most likely to find on Freecycle are items that are hard to dispose up or move but have too much value to put in the trash. To take full advantage of Freecycle, you should subscribe to the ‘daily digest.” Be sure to often check your messages and promptly reply with your contact information and when you can pick up the item at the earliest. Be sure to follow all message posting requirements as these boards tend to have very strict rules.
Don’t forget rental stores
You can save money by renting tools instead of buying them. This includes tools such as a skill saw, table saw, tile cutter, laminate cutter and air compressor. You should be able to rent any of these easily by the half-day or day from any home-improvement shop or rental agency and at very reasonable prices.