Save Money With Used Building Materials

With these used building materials, you can minimize waste and add character to your next building project.

  • Used Building Materials
    Habitat for Humanity uses reclaimed materials for many of its construction and renovation projects, such as the house shown above.
    Photo courtesy HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

  • Used Building Materials

The construction of an average-sized home (2,000 square feet) usually results in 8,000 pounds of construction waste. Add that to the waste generated by demolition, and the figures are astounding: Every year in the United States, 136 million tons of construction and demolition waste are tossed into landfills. This debris amounts to more than half of all landfill waste — but if handled properly, much of it can be diverted and reused. Here are several ways you can locate reclaimed and recycled construction materials:

Freecycling”  is an easy-to-use Internet service for people who want to trade things locally. Membership is free, and after a quick registration, each local group allows its participants to post messages for objects they want to unload or request items they need. Although it is not limited to construction materials, there are plenty of building treasures being swapped by more than 1.3 million members in about 2,700 communities. Also try for lists of similar organizations across the country. Internet auctions such as those on eBay frequently include construction materials. The trick with eBay is to make sure you actually are purchasing a recycled product, rather than a new one.

Another good place to find used building materials is your own neighborhood. Your neighbors who are remodeling probably will be thrilled that you want to take that old bathtub, shower door or fireplace mantel off their hands. Houses set for demolition also are gold mines for materials, especially wood, hardware and fixtures such as sinks and cabinets.

Habitat for Humanity operates retail outlets called ReStores that sell used and surplus building materials at a fraction of their regular prices. The proceeds from ReStores help fund construction of Habitat for Humanity housing. Local construction companies and salvage yards often are willing to unload their “waste” onto eager takers. Look up “used,” “recycled,” “salvaged,” “antique” or “junk” in the Yellow Pages.

The technology to reconstitute many construction waste items into new products is rapidly progressing. Many states recycle drywall, and a few recycle carpet. Several kinds of glass can be made into new windows. Cardboard, paper and agricultural fibers can be turned into lightweight home insulation or particleboard. Rastra building blocks are made from recycled plastic foam and concrete.

Some professional builders are making it easier than ever to reduce, reuse and recycle when building or remodeling a home. Many contractors and companies will use reclaimed or recycled materials whenever possible. Visit the Green Building Professionals Directory for a list of resources near you.

Andrew Pennington
2/2/2011 9:39:18 PM

I have read this, and checked out the links to the webpage. I also share the same opinion, they have tons of ads, they are crude, and have little info to offer. I noticed this trend among almost all green building webpages and services, and I also considered just how you could you ship these items?? And basically..... You cant. So I came up with a solution... Its like a craigslist style classifieds service for salvage and surplus building materials. The materials can be located by type, and then once you click on your type, you browse by state. It is a pretty complete service. CHECK IT OUT !!

Melanie B
12/17/2008 1:16:54 PM

The is the second "article" I read that has a nice title, but not much sustenance (the one on make your own toys wanted you to buying new "Hefty" paper plates?). I went to and - they have not much info about Used Building Materials -- but a WHOLE LOT of ads. Neither have locally available materials listed. So, are we supposed to ship this stuff? How sustainable is that? And, why doesn't this article mention I'm not sure I'll spend any more of my time on this type of "journalism".

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