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3 Ways to Get Reclaimed Materials for Your Tiny House

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So you want to find reclaimed materials for your tiny house project because paying upward of $20,000 for a one-hundred-something square foot home just doesn’t seem right. Fortunately there are people who have built their little houses for less than $10,000 using some of the tips in this article.

Finally, there’s Dee Williams, who you are likely familiar with. She built her humble house for around $10,000 after leaving her big house.

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5 Strategies for Acquiring Reclaimed Materials

How to Find Reclaimed Materials for Your Tiny House ProjectPhoto Courtesy of Nicolas Boullosa via Flickr and Faircompanies inside Jenine Alexander’s tiny house

3 Easy Tips on how to get Reclaimed Materials for your Tiny House Project

1. Be on the lookout for structures around you that are going to be demolished

2. Find the nearest Habitat For Humanity Restore nearest you

3. Use Craigslist and Free Cycle to look for free and cheap construction materials

Simple enough? I hope so 🙂 Here are some more tips I can leave you with…

Sometimes life is simply a numbers game. If you’re not willing to do the hustling, nobody’s going to do it for you. Well, maybe.. But I wouldn’t count on it!

So if you want to find recycled goodies and you’re serious about it- begin contacting at least three people every day whether you find them in person or through the Internet.

And don’t be afraid to ask for referrals when you don’t have any luck. One person who can’t help you may lead you to the chosen one if you simply ask.

Also- be willing to labor away for your materials. Sometimes you’ll have to take the time to dismantle a barn or an old chicken coop. Who knows- just be willing to do it!

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Besides that, do you have any tips you can share from your experience on attaining recycled materials? Type away in the comments below and I’ll reply ASAP!

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 29 comments… add one }
  • January 7, 2012, 1:47 pm

    The biggest no-brainer: find a local fence company – they have to remove old fences to install new ones and they are often in good shape, just weathered.

    • January 7, 2012, 1:56 pm

      Great idea, thanks for sharing Victor. That’s what Matt Wolpe did (I’m pretty sure) for his siding.


    • Laura
      April 25, 2016, 10:24 pm

      you are absolutely right, Victor, that is the best no-brainer, but i didnt think of it due to the area that i live in. I am sure there maybe only one outfit that does fence within a 100 mile’s around the lake that makes up our county, up in the hill’s. if they don’t recycle the wood themselves, they most likely sell it. It is still a great idea that i will use. In this area you would find more old home’s and mobile home’s being torn down. That is how i have salvaged plenty, when my husband was alive and i was stronger. Another super salvage place in my area is at the “Dump”, i have seen truck and trailer full of scrap’s from construction site’s that are in to much of a hurry to put a free add in the Craigslist. but instead of the cost and work of taking to the dump, most do a free add hear. hope that helps someone living outside of the city life.

  • Ryan
    January 7, 2012, 7:53 pm

    Reclaiming materials is definitely the way to go. It’s like treasure hunting, and there are plenty of resources available out there. The challenge is holding out until you find the right stuff, and making the house aesthetically pleasing, but it can definitely be done. Great article to get the wheels turning.

    • January 8, 2012, 10:44 am

      Thanks Ryan glad you found it somewhat useful. I like what you said about finding the right stuff although you should always keep an open mind, as well, in case you end up finding something that would be awesome (but you end up missing out because you weren’t open to it).. Hope you get what I mean. Alex

    • GenGen
      September 3, 2014, 6:03 am

      Thanks! You’re encouraging! 🙂

  • Teezie
    January 7, 2012, 7:55 pm

    Thank you soooooooo much. I was just talking to someone about my dream tiny house. And how I was going to figure out how to go about getting re-claimed materials. This was so on point! Thanks a million!

  • Kevin
    January 8, 2012, 8:56 pm

    Don’t forget to check the BIG Box stores around contractor entrance areas for what’s usually called “Cull Lumber” packs. These are bundles of odds and ends lumber and other materials offered at a significant discount. Most of the time the lumber is warped or damaged in some way but if one plans ahead they can easily save hundreds by utilizing them. Most projects require turning larger boards into smaller ones anyway. I have saved and stockpiled thousands of dollars worth of this material for future projects.

  • Patrick Hennebery
    January 10, 2012, 12:06 pm

      Used building supply stores are all the rage in urban centres. Expensive but an impressive selection. Garage sales are also great sources for building materials and if you wait till Sunday afternoon, the stuff is free. Never worry about the things you missed. Sometimes it was just not meant to be. Lumberyards always have slings of weathered grey lumber for sale cheap. Take 2 or 3 and they get even cheaper. They look bad sitting out front and the sales people are always glad to see them gone. Lumber wrap is the covering that lumber arrives in at the lumberyard. They have dumpsters full of it and have to haul it to the dump. 2 layers and it is almost waterproof, a great moisture barrier in small framed cottages and best of all….perfect for mixing cob. When I cob in Mexico, it is folded under the mattress of my teardrop trailer; about a foot thick. No lumber wrap in Baja. Recycle yards are full of appliances. Washers, dryers, freezers, fridges  and stoves and all have 3 sides of baked enamel steel that is 32″X32″. How about using them for large roofing shingles? Harvest gold and avocado  green are some of the more popular colours. Pallets are everywhere. You can pick them up by the truck load, free on Craig’s list. Pallets from the east can be maple and birch while glass from Asia, arrives on mahogany pallets. Screw them together to make a house and you can pack them with a straw/clay mixture and plaster them with a sticky clay/cob mix. Very cheap house.

    • Laura
      April 25, 2016, 10:42 pm

      Great advice, Patrick, thats a new one recycling the appliances as roofing shingles. YES! thinking that may be good for snow area’s? like pallet’s, I was thinking that the bed “boxspring” would be a good recycle also. what you think?

  • Joel
    January 17, 2012, 12:10 pm

    Good tips, but I would advise taking Craigslist to the next level with RSS feeds (links are on every Craigslist search page). Instead of checking Craigslist for bargains everyday, create 100’s of feeds for everything your looking for? Want a purple fire place with orange flowers painted on it? Eventually someone will be getting rid of just what you need and an RSS will let you know when it arrives.

    • Joel
      January 18, 2012, 10:21 am

      If your not in any rush, I could do a guest post for you, I learned a few tricks the hard way along the way.

      One more thing I thought to suggest, find out what they do with old stop sign posts in your area. In my area they are made of good quality clear cedar, they replace them when the bases wear out but the rest of it can be either trimmed into 2 x 4’s for decking or just used as posts. I’ve bought truck loads of these for $1 ea.

      • Alex
        January 18, 2012, 3:23 pm

        That’s a genius idea for 2 x 4’s. Thanks for sharing. I’ll include that tip somewhere in a future post!

        Anytime you wanna do a guest post just get in touch with me via email through https://www.tinyhousetalk.com/contact/ and I’ll get right back to you. Thanks for offering!

      • marie
        March 13, 2012, 10:12 am

        Has this guest post happened? I’d love to learn how to set up RSS feeds to search sites for land and materials. Thanks!

  • Laura
    April 19, 2012, 12:01 pm

    After checking craigslist for three weeks I found amazing, new, triple glazed windows filled with krypton on craigslist – 10 windows for $400!!! Even though I haven’t got a trailer, a place to park the trailer nor any kind of building experience, I just had to get those windows! Now my building project has clearly started and I will design the house around the windows. Oh, and yes, I won’t need all windows. About four of them will end up in another trailer – for my son -next year.

    • October 26, 2012, 11:27 am

      Congrats Laura! Glad you were able to get such a sweet deal on those windows. Let us know how it’s all going whenever you get a chance. Thanks!

  • MsDawn Burton
    August 21, 2012, 8:39 pm

    I found 2 houses on a back road to tear down and answered an ad on craigs list for a 3rd. I am almost done with 2 of the houses and plan to start the 3rd in Sept. We got a ton of good lumber and are saving the nails too.
    I got two awesome heavy doors and wainscotting and LONG thick good quality wood molding from a restaurant remodel dumpster. I always grab wood pallets and scrap lumber when I see them out for the trash.
    I have scored all kinds of stuff at yardsales and off craig’s list and my local free cycle yahoo group.

    I plan on rebuilding an old 10×40 mobile home, an old camper and building a guest tiny house out of 90% recycled materials.

    • October 26, 2012, 11:25 am

      Thanks for sharing MsDawn, hope your projects are going well and glad you were able to get all of those reclaimed materials!

  • Anne
    June 12, 2014, 6:36 pm

    Chances of getting anything free are slim to nothing. Anytime something is offered for free greedy people grab it all and then resell it on craigslist or at a yard sale. People grab everything whether they need it or not and that leaves those of us who really need something without it.

  • Charles Nash
    June 13, 2014, 10:19 am

    My daughter and her husband live in Texas and want to built a tiny house.
    I remember reading about a person in Texas that has built and teaches how to get and used reclaim materials. Do you have his info? Thank-You for
    the great job you are doing helping educate us.

  • Casey
    May 20, 2015, 9:20 pm

    Great ideas and resources for collecting materials, thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to embark on my tiny house journey!

  • scott
    December 28, 2015, 5:51 pm

    check out any and all auction places in your area

  • May 27, 2020, 11:01 pm

    I’ve found a 1200 square foot “free house” on Facebook Market Place. The catch was that the house had to be moved off of the property or taken down. So, I took on the project in March 2019 and finished the house demo in September of 2019. I was able to recycle much of the building materials for a tiny chapel project that you will see on my Facebook page, TinyQualityHomes page and the group page as well. The old house was built in 1961 and had lots of old oak lumber and old wood floor planks. You’ll see much of these materials in my tiny chapel on the floors, walls and ceilings. I’m nearly finished with the project and the biggest cost was obtaining the “shell” that I’ve found on Tiny House Listings site.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      May 28, 2020, 1:25 pm

      Wow! Michael that’s so so cool. I’m going to check it out right now. We’d love to do a feature on it.

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