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If you think you can’t afford to remodel or add on to your home, THINK AGAIN! Despite the high price of building materials, if you’re willing to shop around you can complete your project for a fraction of the cost you’d otherwise spend.

When my husband and I added a bathroom to our basement, I got everything, from the wallpaper to the toilet, from various second-hand sources (though not everything I bought was second-hand. The toilet and the lighting were brand new). The entire project cost about $750. If you’re willing to shop around, you can save a bundle.

Check out these sources of discount materials:

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity sells used building materials in most major cities. Builders and individuals donate new and used materials from building and remodeling jobs. All proceeds go back to Habitat for Humanity. Examples of the kinds of things you might find: sets of doorknobs, doors, all kind of plumbing fixtures, lights and appliances.

Recycling Centers

Recycling Centers that accept used building materials also resell them to the public. Expect to find racks of windows, plumbing fixtures, boxes of ceramic tile and the occasional pieces of furniture.

Architectural Salvage

Architectural salvage centers rescue items from buildings that are being torn down. From gargoyles to garage doors, you might find it here. Old wood flooring, Victorian “gingerbread” trim, and ornate iron fencing can be found here.

Building Supply Houses

In addition to new materials, many building supply houses (as well as plumber’s and electrical supply houses) have “scratch and dent” sections where they mark down discontinued items, specials orders that were never picked up and the like. You might find paint, a jacuzzi tub, or special lighting in places like this.


People give away truck loads of free building materials on Freecycle everyday. Examples of items I’ve seen offered recently: a working washer and dryer, a kitchen sink, fencing and stove pipe. If you’re looking for something specific, post a request on Freecycle. You might receive just what you want for free.

Craig’s List

You can score big discounts on kitchen cabinets, appliances, tile, wood and laminate flooring, lighting and many other items if you monitor the Craig’s List listings in your area. I’ve seen complete designer kitchens and high-end flooring offered for a fraction of the cost by people who were remodeling or who had changed their minds about redecorating.


  • Keep a list of items you need, along with measurements. Carry a tape measure with you to check sizes on used building materials.
  • Be willing to dig through a lot of trash to find the treasures. Check back at your favorite sources often, and let the people there know what you’re looking for and how to contact you. You might get a call when a likely item comes in.
  • If you don’t own a pickup truck, be prepared to rent or borrow one, or to bribe someone to help you. Most used building material suppliers don’t deliver.
  • Remember that paint is your best friend – you can restore a scratched door or make a mis-matched set of cabinets match with a couple of coats of paint.

This has been a guest post by Cindi from Bailey, CO
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