Free-IY: How to Find Free Materials for Your Next DIY Project

A man cutting wood with an electric circular saw

Most DIY-ers don’t realize there is a lot of free stuff to be had, and I’m not talking about junk or garbage either. You’d be amazed at how many “diamonds in the rough” get thrown out each day. Don’t believe me? Follow these tips to find free materials for your next DIY project.

Websites/Social Media

Searchable websites like Kijiji and Craigslist boast a “free” section where you can find various items to use for your next DIY project. Things like patio stones and bricks, scrap wood, pallets, topsoil, gently used furniture, and other household items can be turned into your next masterpiece. The items are usually out on the curb, so get ready to drive over and deal with a “first come first served” basis. Also, look through Facebook and Twitter for groups that are specifically designed for swaps and trades. You can find gardeners willing to give away or exchange plants, “tool share” groups, or DIY-friendly pages.

Neighborhood Renovations

If a neighbor is doing a renovation and you need some scrap material, ask if they would be willing to give you what would otherwise go into the landfill. Old fence boards can be salvaged and made into various “shabby chic” looking projects. An old shelf might need a pastel coat of paint and voila, you have a new place for your balcony plants. Oftentimes, people are getting rid of items that are in good shape but just don’t fit their décor. Don’t be shy about asking, it usually benefits both parties to have items re-used.

Garbage Day

Green trash can with garbage bag inside

Taking a ride around your neighborhood the night before or on garbage day can sometimes lead to unknown treasures! Old chairs, planters and pots are common items that can be re-used or re-purposed. You might find vintage mirrors, shelves, and broken furniture that you can give new life to. Just remember to wear gloves when sifting through a box or garbage can, only take stuff that’s out on the curb, and be aware that this practice may be illegal in certain cities.

Local Stores

Big box stores tend to throw out a lot of merchandise that is either gently used, dented, or slightly brokenanything that isn’t sell-able by their standards. Check out the back of these buildings and you might find half-used paint cans, wooden pallets, or items that can be refurbished to meet your vision. If you are unsure as to what’s fair game, talk to a manager to make sure a little dumpster diving is above board. Smaller companies tend to have less rules regarding their unwanted items and may be happy to part with the things they cannot sell.

Construction Sites

Contractors would rather not have to pay the gas and surcharge of doing a “dump run” on a constant basis. If you notice a site that has a lot of scrap wood or other materials that you could use, ask the lead contractor if you would be able to take some of it away. It’s a great way to get free, used lumber as long as you are willing to load most of it yourself.

With a little time and effort any savvy maker can source out the next perfect piece or material for your next DIY project. Free stuff is all around youyou just have to know where to look.