The price of lumber has put many home and craft projects on hold in recent months — but home improvement stores aren’t your only option when you’re looking to buy the wood you need. Reclaimed and recycled lumber can be rescued from scrap bins, roadsides, and garages more easily than you might think; and repurposing odds and ends or reusing good quality wood can save you money and keep waste to a minimum.
Recycle castoffs from retail shops
For low-cost smaller pieces, many cabinet and commercial wood shops or local hardware stores keep bins of scraps to sell at a discount. In some cases, the off-cut pile could even be free to whoever is willing to haul it away. It’s also worth looking into the recycling or dump schedule for your area shops because they may have certain days and times during which their scraps are readily available. It never hurts to ask what they do with their scraps or off-cuts. You might be pleasantly surprised.
For larger boards, a lumber yard will often have what amounts to a “slightly imperfect” section with bundles of new lumber that may not conform to commercial standards, but may be perfect for something like a home shelving project. These are usually larger and generally don’t come with a delivery option, so having a plan to transport your lumber is important. These items might need some sanding, but are generally in new condition.
In many places, there are also lumber yards that specialise in reclaimed materials. These companies disassemble or scrap older structures and furniture to reuse the lumber they are made from. You can also sometimes find fixtures and hardware at a place like this, so the savings can be significant for a home repair project. Most of the time, boards will be priced by the foot, so keep this in mind when you’re browsing.
Another really great place to look for deals on lumber is neighbourhood yard sale or free groups. One advantage of this approach is that if you’re looking for something specific, you can write a post in search of the type of material you’re looking for and neighbours with matching materials can respond. These groups often generally have offers, sometimes by category, so you can also browse or search for items you need.
Fallen trees and branches
If you have the tools and the transportation, downed tree limbs can be a great source of lumber. People will often give away wood for free for the service of having it removed from their yard. You’ll need a chainsaw and a large vehicle for hauling the wood, though. In addition, you need to make sure that the fallen branches aren’t near any power lines or in danger of crushing anyone.
This method for gleaning lumber requires some skill, so it’s not for novices; however, some people will sell rounds from downed trees or rough cut sections of branches or trunks for cheap. That can be a good option if you’re not confident wielding a chainsaw.
The side of the road can be a source of free lumber — if you know what you’re looking for. Pallets, old furniture, and scraps can often be found by the side of the road and can be reclaimed just by disassembling and cleaning up the parts. Sometimes, even broken pallets have good boards still in them, and all you need to get to them is a hammer, pry bar, and some elbow grease. A piece of furniture may not be in great shape overall, but it might have legs that are usable or shelves that can be repurposed. Some creativity and a bit of work can yield good lumber for free.
Enjoy your spoils — safely
Finally, it’s important to think about safety when you’re using reclaimed materials. Make sure to wear gloves and check for contamination, such as lead paint. If there is a lot of dust and debris involved, safety glasses and a mask are recommended. And be sure to be aware of your surroundings and take care not to overload yourself or your vehicle.