Want Cheap Used Building Materials and Supplies?

by ziggy on February 3, 2012 -- 2 comments -- Follow

It’s that time of year where I am beginning to really hoard building materials and supplies for the upcoming construction of our new straw bale house. We struck gold last weekend at a local auction — a building supplies business had recently shut down, and everything in their shop and warehouses was up for auction. Wow! That included lumber, windows, doors, metal roofing, hardware, and much more. We had a bit of a spree.

Getting a Deal at Auctions

Day one consisted of smaller items, including new tools and nails, screws, bolts, etc. Not super exciting, and not many great deals to be had that day. On day two, however, the big guns came out in the form of all the lumber, roofing metal, etc.

There’s something to understand about auctions. They can be really exhausting, first of all, and they are full of idiosyncracies, between the auctioneers who run them, and the people who come to bid. Sometimes things go for almost nothing, and other times, things can go for a lot more than they are worth. It’s confusing, and hard to understand at times. But anyway. Generally speaking, auctions are excellent opportunities to stock up on building materials. Especially on used building materials and lumber.

Used Lumber Deals at Auctions

Something I learned, too, was that a new and clean 2×4 is way more valued than an unused and dusty 2×4. What the heck? My only guess is that people really do base value on the looks of things. Personally, I find new lumber pretty offensive (in a number of ways… including the cheapo factor of the soft wood typically used, and actually, the cleanness is actually kinda off-putting, too). I was specifically after used and older lumber at this auction, and it paid off.

I was literally able to get entire piles of wood for mere dollars. In one case, I got a huge stack of 2x4s, and 2x6s (dozens of linear feet of the stuff) for $10. In another case, I got a stack of old barn siding (pretty cool stuff, actually) for $1. Roofing metal? How about over 200 linear feet of it for $65 (including a bunch of brand new 20 foot long pieces)! Tongue and groove flooring? $27.50 for another big pile.

It turned out that a lot of lumber that I thought was used was actually just really old, having sat in a warehouse for god knows how long. Regardless, both the used and dusty (old but unused) lumber was a steal at this particular auction. I suspect that is probably true of many auctions.

I gotta say, I was pretty spoiled by the prices at this particular building supplies auction. What we didn’t pay in cash we definitely made up for in sweat, having spent hours loading and unloading the materials after the close of the sale.

Totally worth it, though.

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  • well having spent the better part of the last two weeks trying to clean up my free scrap wood from Craigslist, which consisted almost entirely of REALLY filthy wood (auto repair shop moved location), mostly already put together with various stripped screws and tons of industrial staples, I am drooling at the thought of cheap unused dimensional lumber. It is way harder than I expected to make things when every piece of wood is a different shape and size. Now I know!
    What I want to know though, is where are you keeping all of your wood so that it doesn’t get damaged before building?

  • Rachael: Unfortunately, I don’t have indoor storage for lumber. Instead, I keep wood stacked outside, up off the ground, with stickers between each layer so that things can dry out and breathe. It’s not the worst option, although it’s true that you cannot store wood this way indefinitely.

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