Better Options for Leftover Building Materials

Here’s how to reduce, reuse and recycle the extra materials from remodeling projects.

| May 15, 2008

Building materials

Use precise measurements to learn how much material you'll need, and then reuse or recycle any leftover material.


So you’ve just finished fixing up the old deck, redoing a room for a new baby, or remodeling a bathroom. Now what do you do with all of the old materials? Most of them can be recycled or reused; your leftovers can become another’s treasure. Many options are available, so don’t just throw the items on the curb.


The first step in most projects is deciding exactly what you’re going to need. You can decrease the amount of leftover materials you’ll have by correctly calculating in the beginning how much you will need. Measure the area to learn how much drywall or lumber you’ll need, and do not buy much extra. You can always go back and get another piece. A paint specialist can help you decide exactly how much paint to buy.


If you end up with extra materials even after careful calculation, consider saving them for your next project. You can also create smaller projects such as birdhouses or window boxes from leftover wood.  If you only have an inch or two of paint left in the bottom of the can, store it properly and use it for later touch-ups. A lot of extra paint usually calls for storage, using it on another project or using it as an undercoat or base coat in another room.

Neighbors also may be able to use leftover materials or even those that you’ve removed. An old sink or door may be just what they need to finish their own project. Craigslist or eBay are online options to find someone who could use your old materials. Freecycle is another organization that will connect you with others who might take your extra or old materials. You could also donate the materials to local churches, charities or high school drama departments. Be creative. Many organizations always need things such as paint or wood.

Nowadays, many companies are buying and selling leftover building materials. See what is available in your area. Habitat for Humanity can also use doors, windows and other materials for their projects. Their ReStores sell reclaimed or reused products.


The third option is to recycle your leftovers. Earth 911 will give you a list of places in your area where you can recycle materials. Contact your local household hazardous waste site to find out how to properly recycle or dispose of paint or other hazardous material. Steel paint cans are recyclable, and paint can be reprocessed or reblended.

7/17/2009 11:43:55 AM

M T Nester – You’re right, thanks for pointing that out. We’ve clarified the language about Freecycle. - Mother

jeremy holt
7/16/2009 10:40:06 PM

When filling a wall with scrap pieces of osb board I use short 2x4's (2' to 3') to run between the studs to meet the edges of the osb board. Sure it takes longer than using standard store bought pieces but how long would it take to work for the money to buy thousands of $ in new materials. Then stuff that wall with scrap pieces of free insulation. You'll be twice as warm if the wall is 2 2x4's thick that's 7" of free scrounged insulation.

m t nester
7/16/2009 2:18:50 PM

For those who are not familiar with it, Freecycle is not an organization that takes your old building materials off your hands. Instead, it is a network that allows people who HAVE to find people who NEED and help them make a connection. Their objective is to keep usable items out of the landfills. Their philosophy is that you should make at least one offer for every request that you post so some are not always begging with their hand out. There are branches in all areas of the country, so try going to and plugging in your state and region. You might want to check it often--offers and requests change constantly and you never know what you might find. It's a great place to get rid of extra clothing and yard-sale leftovers too.

2/18/2009 8:01:31 PM

We offer a free service to sell your excess material. One the flip-side, we're a great resource to look for used material to save on costs. Our website is

roy pfz
11/5/2008 10:40:08 AM

Other thing to think about in planning is to try to design the project around standard sizes. If you are building a building try to plan around standard dimensions. I built a building this summer 16x24, I had zero drop on sheeting and the interior the most drop I will have is 16" (it is a double 2x4 wall) and I can use 16" pieces easily else where. Also make the ceiling height 8', they get more studs out a tree that way and you save on energy not heating that extra 2'.

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