I have had a few articles published here on WooDesigner about getting low cost or free lumber. This is definitely a hot topic here, because lumber comprises of the biggest bulk of a project most of the time. So if you can get it at a low cost, or even free, then you will do like me and jump on it. So here are some additional pointers to what I have discussed already.
There are many places where you can locate free reclaimed lumber. By knowing where to look, you can find salvaged timbers that are free for you to take. Here are some ways that you can get free recycled wood, to use in your woodworking products.
Old Buildings and Barns
Old mills and barns can be an ideal location to find high-quality virgin timber. But how do you get the barn owner to give you the wood from their barn? This is fairly easy. If a barn is dilapidated, the owner may be happy go give you the barn, if only to get it off their property and get the area cleaned up.
You can start your search by posting a classified ad in your local paper. For example, you can write:
We Want to Recycle Your Old Barn
We will remove your barn and clean
the site in exchange of the lumber.
The number of responses you receive from an ad like this will surprise you. Many landowners have barns that have been neglected for many years, and sometimes for decades. When the barn roof goes, it doesn’t take long for the rest of the barn to fall into disrepair. The wood beams will rot, the framing may buckle and the barn might slip from the foundation. Soon you have a building that is a liability. When a barn reaches this state of dilapidation insurance companies will not insure it. The building has not only become a blight, it is also dangerous to be around.
There are many reasons a person would happily give you their old barn or building for recycling. You’re saving them from a major problem. The clean-up service you provide is worth many times the value of the wood to the owner of the barn.
When a farmer or developer needs to dispose of a building on their property, the first business they contact is an excavation company. By contacting these companies beforehand, you can open yourself up to many opportunities to pick up free reclaimed lumber.
Let the excavation company know that you recycle wood from old buildings and barns. Give them your business card and ask them to contact you before they demolish a structure. You want to get to the site before demolition so that you can look at the building and reclaim as much wood as possible before the excavation company does their job.
This offer will appeal to the excavation company. After demolishing a structure, they have to dispose of the wood. If you take some before the demolition that means they have less work. They may even offer to let you do a complete reclamation. Then, you get the wood and all they need to dispose of is the junk material.
An ideal situation would be that you could bring a trailer to a location and when you return in a few days its full of reclaimed wood. Well, that is a possibility. Here’s what you’d need to do.
Contact some local remodeling contractors. Tell them that you will haul away any wood that they tear out of the house. A contractor will happily give you wood and other building materials, including antique building elements. A contractor would otherwise have to pay to have the wood disposed of. This would work best in communities that have a large number of old homes.
Make sure the contractor understands that you only recycle wood. They must understand that you will not take other construction debris, such as drywall or insulation. You only take wood, but nails in the wood are okay. If you find that a contractor is giving you lots of debris with your wood, start charging for disposal services.
All of the wood you receive from this method will not be usable. There will be junk wood and scraps. That’s to be expected. When you get pieces of wood you can’t use, tie them in bundles and use it in for heat, in a wood stove you can put in your shop.
Networking and Ads
Let people know you recycle wood. Place local classified ads. Tell your friends and family. Share this information with people you meet. Make sure everyone you know, understands that you recycle wood of all types. People will help you as best they can. Eventually, you may end up with more lumber than you need.