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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
- Post a flyer around town: If you’re in a small town, try posting a flyer where you’re allowed (think a local building supply store), advertising that you’re looking to salvage materials from demolitions. You can even offer to pay a little cash because that could be a win-win for a contractor that wouldn’t otherwise receive additional cash to tear down a structure.
- Call around to contractors and demolition companies: We’ve heard of other people simply calling demolition companies to see if they can get in on the deal before the house is turned into a big pile of rubbish. You may get a lot of no’s, but someone just may give you a ring if you can put the materials to good use.
- Search on Craigslist: Since we’ve lived in Idaho, we’ve seen dozens of buildings available for reclaiming. If someone is selling just the roofing (as is what happened in our case), ask them if the building is being demolished and see if you can’t reclaim some of the lumber. If you search “demolition” on Craigslist, you might not find anything, but you may find hints of a demolition in the “materials” section. Often, folks might not tell you the whole story because they may not think that anyone is interested, or it simply isn’t worth their time to advertise.
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:
- 3000w generator: Many older buildings and homes may not have any power nearby, which means if you plan on using power tools, they won’t work! We took Honda Handi 3000w generator with us as well as a few extension cords and we were able to run every power tool that we needed, wherever we needed. We love that ours is 3000w because we are easily able to run multiple power tools simultaneously without it being too hard on the generator. We also love that it’s both lightweight and portable so that we can drag it to where we need because if we left it in the truck, our extension cords wouldn’t have been long enough! Check out our Honda Handi 3000w generator review.
- Extension cords: We had a few extension cords with us which came in handy in the sizes of 25’, 50’ and 100’. For the most part, we were using the longer extension cords as we were on top of the house which was a ways from our generator.
- Hammers: While we don’t use a hammer much on our homestead, this was our primary demolition tool! This house wasn’t built with screws… it was built with nails. We had to hammer and pry, hammer and pry, until the boards came loose.
- Milwaukee Sawzall (recipcocating saw): Once we started taking off the roof sheathing, we realized that a hammer and cat’s paw wasn’t going to do the trick as it was exhausting, the boards were coming off in pieces rather than in full, and we were tired! While the Sawzall does take some muscle to control for long periods of time, they’re able to cut through both wood and metal (provided that you have the correct blades) so cutting through nails was a breeze. With this, we were able to rapidly disassemble the sheathing and rafters.
- Cordless drill: Some of the things we disassembled were simply screwed together. We brought this Black & decker cordless drill with us but it has since kicked the bucket, so we are now working with a Makita cordless drill set that we wish we would have invested in from the get to.
- Hard hat: This isn’t something we wear frequently when we’re working, but anytime you’re in a house that is being demolished, it’s not a bad idea to protect your noggin! Jesse was frequently cutting boards tied to other boards above me, so while it didn’t seem anything would fall (otherwise I wouldn’t have been in the building), you just never know and I’d rather be safe than sorry.
- Nail puller: This is really better to get tough nails out than a hammer is. With a hammer and nail puller, you can get many nails out that are fairly embedded within the wood.
- Gloves: This demolition absolutely destroyed our bodies and hands! We both had tender spots on our hands when the job was complete as well as blisters. Make sure you have a sturdy set of gloves (or even two sets!) to protect you hands.
- Ladders: We had two ladders on this particular job; a 10′ and a 12’ step ladder. The main reason we needed two was because we had two people working. We did need the taller ladder, however, to get on top of the roof of the house where the shorter ladder would have limited our access points.
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).
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.
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!
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