Building with Salvaged and Recycled Materials

Get useful tips for buying recycled and salvaged materials for building a tiny home.

| October 2016

Microshelters (Storey Publishing, 2015) by Derek "Deek" Diedricksen explores the most creative, clever microshelters out there and what makes them work. Diedricksen also gives plenty of tips for supply scavenging, building and decorating a tiny home. This excerpt comes from chapter 7, "Budgeting & Salvaging." 

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Microshelters.

By now you’ve probably sensed a “subtle” theme that runs throughout my projects and designs: I like to build things with free junk. “Curbside culling” is a term I coined a while back, and it covers everything from yard-sale searching and word-of-mouth acquisitions to dumpster diving and back-lot browsing, all of which can make a microshelter much more affordable. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, using recycled goods can make your structure stand out from the pack — in a very good way.

There are, however, some ins, outs, dos, and don’ts of the trade, and I’d like to cover a few of the more common, worthwhile goods you’re going to come across when cruising the streets. You don’t have to wake up early to race the trash crew for prime pickings, and you don’t have to combat fellow “seagulls” (junk hunters) with your fancy moves. Just keep your eyes peeled any time you’re on the road. Don’t worry, it’s not brain surgery; you’ll do just fine.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and start some creative harvesting — and enjoy the process, the savings, and the eventual results.


These things are strewn everywhere. With increasing technological advances and insulation efficiency (R-value) standards, homeowners are ditching their old (perfectly good) windows at a darn rapid rate. For you and me, this is not a bad thing by any means. I can’t tell you the number of windows I’ve come across, grabbed, and later used in my own projects or just sold to pay for construction items I can’t find for free.

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