How We Found $5,000 – $7,000 in Reclaimed Construction Materials

Many people have asked us the question “How do you make money to support your homestead and homebuilding project”? The answer is not completely straightforward, but our financial strategy is layered and one of our strategies includes being open to jump on great financial opportunities when they come up. Most recently, we had the opportunity to salvage a bunch of reclaimed construction materials from a home just days before it was demolished, which we estimated was between $5,000 – $7,000 in value.

In more detail, here is what happened: We were at the laundromat one day, well into our second month of our homesteading journey, when I decided to check Craigslist in the “materials” section to see if anything was available that we were in need of. I saw an ad for a bunch of metal roofing for $300 for someone who was willing to disassemble it themselves. It looked like the roofing was on an older home and barn, and while the home and barn were clearly uninhabitable, the roofing looked just fine in the photos. We called the poster of the ad immediately and scheduled a visit to see the roofing first thing in the morning.

When we arrived, we were blown away at the amount of roofing that also happened to be in pretty great condition. The man also let us know that the house was going to be demolished in just two days so if there was anything else we wanted, we were free to take it. Anything in the house and barn were fair game, including all of the lumber. We paid the man his $300 immediately and went back to the house to get our tools. We had many other projects that were underway (such as our septic installation) and needed our attention, but this opportunity wouldn’t be available if we didn’t take it now, so we were forced to re-prioritize.

finding reclaimed construction materials - metal galvanized roofing
Here you can see the roofing on the lean-to barn, and the house is in the background to the right. Perfectly good roofing!

We will go into detail on what we all we were able to salvage from the demolition below, but in a nutshell some of the salvaged building materials include: a bunch of metal roofing, cedar 1x12s, cedar posts, doug fir 2x4s, 4×4 posts, firewood, and more.

The Reclaimed Construction Materials We Collected in Detail

When we arrived at the demolition site, our first priority was salvaging all of the roofing as that is what we paid for, and was likely the most valuable resource. Metal roofing is extremely expensive and since we knew we needed to roof an entire house and barn (not to mention other structures on our homestead), we knew that every panel would help us out.

how to find recycled materials for building - metal roofing
Here are most of the panels that we were able to salvage. It was so much labor to get them off!

Taking apart the roofing took a full two days, but at the end of the second day, the contractor let us know that he could give us two extra days to find reusable building materials… score! We were so thankful for this opportunity!

Come day three, we were pretty exhausted from the first two days, but we put our best foot forward and worked hard for two more days, salvaging everything we could. While we started each day with a high-protein breakfast, cold pizza and sugary coffee got us through the rest of the day. Having our portable generator on our tailgate to run our power tools was a life saver.

Under the metal roofing were beautiful cedar boards used as sheathing, and those were on top of cedar post rafters. We had to salvage it all, and we did by the skin of our neck!

finding repurposed building materials - cedar roof sheathing
Look at this beautiful cedar sheathing! A few of the boards were rotten, but most were salvageable and have already been put to use on our homestead!
reclaimed cedar post rafters - reusable construction materials
We salvaged every single cedar post that were being used as rafters. We can’t even begin to imagine all of the fun ways we can use these around the homestead.

In the lean-to barn, we were able to salvage a lot of 2x4s that were in perfectly good condition (that is, for salvage construction materials). We didn’t get the entire barn disassembled because we ran out of time, but we were able to salvage enough to make a dent in projects around our homestead!

reusable building materials - reclaimed wood
Here are some of the 2x4s we were able to salvage from the lean-to barn.

Here is a list of the reclaimed construction materials that we were able to salvage and what these materials would cost to buy at Home Depot.

  • (70) panels of metal, galvanized roofing: $2,100ish
  • (40)  1x12x16 cedar boards: $1,500ish
  • (40) barked, cedar posts: $1,000ish
  • (40) 2x4x8s: $170
  • (10) 2×6 posts: $150ish
  • (10) 2×8 posts: $150ish
  • (10) 4×4 cedar posts: $200ish
  • (20) bats of insulation: $170ish
  • (8) barked, 6x6x12 cedar posts: $600ish
  • (1) barked, 6x6x16 cedar post: $100ish
  • (20) petina bricks: $30ish
finding used building materials - repurposing materials in our building
Here are just some of the goods! Talk about a hard few days of work!
demolished building - reclaimed construction materials
Here is what the house looked like post-demolition. There were many more usable materials in the house, we just simply didn’t have time to salvage them all. Homes are ending up in piles of rubbish like this daily, with nobody salvaging the materials.

The Real Reason We Were Able to Make $5,000 – $7,000 in 3 Days by Collecting Salvage Construction Materials: Time vs Money

One of the things we talk about frequently on our homesteading blog is the idea of “time vs money”. We are really trying to use our time on this journey to build wealth rather than working to earn money to buy things of value. There are many problems with money including the following:

  • You’re taxed 30-35% on every dollar you earn: If you use money to buy things rather than your time, more than 1/3 of it goes straight to Uncle Sam. This means that if you have a full-time job, you spend the first four months of every year working for the government, without pay, then you get to keep what you earn the other eight months. This means that if you want to spend $5,000 on materials, you’d actually need to earn $7,150 just to have $5,000 after taxes.
  • Many people can’t earn money on-demand and need a full or part-time job simply to make an income: The problem with money is that for most people, it can rarely be made on-demand. Most employers only want to hire people if they plan to work long-term, and if you want to work dollars for hour, it may be difficult to just go get a quick job to get the cash you need… especially a high-paying job. If you’re able to get a quick side-job at $10/hr, it’s take a really long time to make $5,000 (or $7,150 because 30% plus will go to taxes). This means you’d need to work full-time just over four months to get the $7,150. Because you’d be working full-time, if unique opportunities come up to make money with your time, you wouldn’t be available.
  • There are many opportunities to save money (or earn money in terms of collecting physical items or resources) but most people don’t have time to take advantage of them: The 40-hour work week is not an accident in the slightest. If you have or have ever worked a full-time job, you know that it can be extremely taxing on your body and mentality. Between working, preparing for work, winding down from work, running errands, preparing a somewhat healthy meal, spending a small amount of time with family, doing something for yourself, having a social activity once a month and getting sufficient rest, there is very little time leftover to do much of anything. To get an idea of how much time you really have to do what you want at the end of a day (or lifetime), watch this short YouTube video.
  • If you can always use money to buy things you may not push to learn new skills: Some people buy things because they don’t know how to do something themselves (or they don’t have time because they have a J-O-B). As using money may not be an option in our lifetime, we would rather learn the skills to gather our own materials so that we are always working on becoming self-sustainable. Between the two of us, we are a pretty handy team and are learning the skills of survival.

Some people remind us that time is money, and just because we used time to get something doesn’t mean we got a good deal. While this is true in some circumstances (so long as money as we know it exists), we got a heck of a deal with this demolition!

taking apart roofing - reclaimed building materials
I went to school to become a graphic designer… not take apart roofing. However, being a graphic designer for money wasn’t helping me to build wealth or my dreams. Even though construction is hard work, this is what I believe will help my family build wealth long-term and help us to create long-term happiness.

How We Use Reusable Construction Materials on Our Property

While we might not use the reclaimed construction material strategy for the building of our home and barndominium (we will likely be cutting down our own trees for those), that doesn’t mean that they won’t be useful and save us A LOT of money around the property. We needed these materials to winterize our portable RV garage, we’ll use the salvage materials to finish our hot tub deck and roof, and we’ll likely need to build some sort of structure to protect our building materials… none of which we want to buy materials for from Home Depot. We can even use reclaimed materials for smaller projects such as our DIY sawhorses.

Just days after the demolition we were able to put the reusable building materials to work when building an off the grid cabin! This cabin only cost us $300 to build when it could have easily cost us $3,000. This is what it looks like when you’re able to resuse construction materials.

repurposing construction materials
Just days after completing the demolition, we were able to use the materials we salvaged to build this cabin add-on for our RV carport. This would have cost us $3,000 if we were to buy the materials from Home Depot. We were out the cost of screws. Oh yea, we also didn’t go in debt over it!

Where to Find Salvaged Building Materials: How to Find a Demolition of Your Own to Take Advantage Of

We are not yet professional demolition finders, but we do have some ideas if you wish to do something similar. From what we understand, and from what folks around the internet have said, demolitions are happening every day but most of the perfectly-good materials are simply going to waste or are burned. Here are some things you can do to find a demolition to possibly take advantage of.

Tools We Used to Collect Reclaimed Construction Materials

In order to take advantage of a demolition, or to reclaim materials from an old building, you will have to a bit of disassembly and often, it’s easier to put things together than it is tearing them apart! If we would have found this opportunity just two weeks earlier, we wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of it because we didn’t have the tools we needed.

Every demolition may be different so tools you will need will vary. However, these are the life-saving tools we had for this particular demolition:

Summing it Up: Get Creative!

We know that this is a long post, but the importance of it isn’t in the demolition. The importance of this exercise for us is in being creative and using our time to get exactly what we need (at a fraction of the cost of buying it typically) rather than using our precious time to work dollars for hours to buy stuff (will most always overpay).

Try reframing your problem. It seems that nobody ever has enough money. Just try asking yourself the question “How can I get what I need without spending money?”
Try reframing your problem. It seems that nobody ever has enough money. Just try asking yourself the question “How can I get what I need without spending money?”

We are not opposed to using money, and so long as the monetary system as we know it exists we will likely never be completely free from the dollar, but we feel we are off to a great start in cutting out the middle man.

Get Involved!

How do you feel (or would you feel) about working to get the materials you need to build your home, rather than working a desk job to buy an overpriced home from the bank? What if the job is incredibly unsexy and uncomfortable at times? What if you’re forced to learn a new skill simply to salvage some materials? Let us know your thoughts!

how to make money while living off grid homesteading

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I am an aspiring homesteader on a journey to become self-sustainable and free. In my past, I've worked corporate jobs to make ends meet and get ahead a little; it didn't make me happy or confident in my future. Since taking the leap to self-employment and living a more simple life, my happiness levels have increased greatly and I've never felt more alive. I finally understand what I want in life and how to get there, and that is what this blog is all about.

Comments

  1. Heidi says

    I had ads in our local free ad paper for a few months in hopes that someone would have an outbuilding, barn or old house we could salvage from. We wanted to build raised garden beds, chicken coops, and compost bins (my dog almost died from eating chicken litter in the compost pile once so we needed it fenced to keep him out!) I even stopped at a few places that had falling down barns, etc. Unfortunately, around here at least, it seems people are too afraid of being sued if I get hurt on their property to allow anyone to come in and salvage. i even offered to sign a statement that I would not sue, to no avail. It kills me to see so much usable material just rotting away!! You got a great deal for sure. Here’s hoping for many more!

    • says

      I can definitely see people having that fear. People in our neck of the woods are fairly relaxed… when we were land hunting, the owner of one of the properties offered to let us stay in the vacant cabin on the lot we were interested in for the night, and even brought us coffee the next morning! Are you in a larger city, or on the outskirts of a larger city? That seems like bigger city mentality for sure. Have you tried reaching out to contractors directly, or demolition companies?

      • says

        I also worried about the problem of accidents and getting sued. I don’t think there would be too many opportunities in our area for barter for just that very reason. Such a shame as more and more good materials are going to waste. Many years ago my late husband and I tore down an old aircraft hanger and used the lumber to build our home. We also used a hundred year old barn beam to span the roof. We had exposed beams and a cathedral ceiling . Very little of our home was purchased new. All the windows, doors, lumber for roofing, stairs, floors etc., were all reclaimed. We used new wiring for the electrical as code dictated but anything else we could get second hand we did. Unfortunately, it seems that our local building codes don’t allow that practice anymore ???? they are afraid the materials are inferior…but in actual fact, the old 2×4’s were indeed 2×4 not the pared down version you get today. We built our house (Every nail, screw and saw cut done ourselves!!) almost 40 years ago and it is still standing and doing just fine. Unfortunately, my husband passed away a few years ago and I sold it and had a smaller bungalow built across the road. I have to congratulate you guys on your adventure, I envy your enthusiasm and your energy, I just wished I was a few years younger to undertake a similar project. Keep up the good work and I will continue to enjoy your journey through your posts.. God Bless you both.

  2. says

    Great post! My wife, daughter and I built our own off grid cabin and in fact, it’s become our primary source of income. We’ve also amassed 34K followers on Facebook who follow along on our journey of building out 20ft X 24ft solar powered off grid cabin. We love hearing about other people who are helping themselves as well as the planet by recycling, re-using and reducing waste/CO2.

    Great job :)

    Steve Barnes
    The Off Grid Cabin

  3. Thomas says

    No homestead yet but I can appreciate your economical scavenging. Your blog gives me great ideas for my homestead when I retire in a few years. Thank you!

  4. Brette Hale says

    Very nice Blog. My husband and I started out on our own journey of being self sufficient 3 years ago. We are slowing moving towards that goal and to being debt free. We are both tradespeople and travel across Canada for work on a regular basis. So we sold our house and bought a motorhome, living in that full time for the last 3 years, traveling around from job to job. This past spring we were able to purchase land in Saskatchewan and fast forward to now, we just finished building a pole barn to winter the RV in (took us about 2 months to complete a 20×30 barn). Anyway, it’s nice to read about others with similar goals and dreams and comforting to know that you are not alone in the uphill battles and the things that just fall into place. I look forward to following you and your husband on your adventure.

  5. Mona says

    I’ve always been one to watch the sides of the interstate when I’m not driving and would always comment on what I saw or tell my hubby to “stop, stop, stop!!!” when we’re out together and I’d jump out and grab whatever it was. Now, I’ve created a monster because he’s always coming home with something he snagged on the side of the road! We have pop-up tents, a new trailer crank, tie-downs and wheel chocks. He has become a roadside pilferer and I love it. We also do side jobs that sometimes yields unexpected “gifts” from the client.

  6. zan says

    170 dollars for used 2x4x8s, you can buy them new for 90!!!, most of these prices seem a tad inflated. If I was to make an offer on all that stuff it would be around 7 or 8 hundred tops

  7. Ty Tower says

    Just a tip , you may need it with all those holes in the sheets .
    The plastic noodle cups you throw away should be saved for containers but keep a few to dissolve in a few drops of acetone . It makes a rubbery type of ball that you tear a bit from and plug holes in tin . bit of a touch on both sides and let harden . Solid as a rock and leak proof top or bottom.

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