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You dream of building a homestead, but you’re flat out of money. Here are some strategies to get the materials and services you need for cheap or free.
In the past three years of building our homestead from scratch we’ve gotten pretty good at scouting out deals on building materials.
We’ve done the vast majority of the build for cash. To go with that, we don’t have ridiculously high incomes. We both worked varying degrees of full and part-time as teachers and freelancers in the course of the build.
Since we’re not exactly rolling in cash, we’ve figured out ways to get the materials and services we’ve needed for the house for way less than buying at retail. Here are our best tips and tricks for building the homestead you want, even when you have next to no money.
**When you’re done, be sure to check out the follow-up with SEVEN additional ways to save money on building materials (you might not have thought of) with some of our favorite reader suggestions!**
9 Ways to Get Building Materials Cheap or Free
1. Look for free and cheap items on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
This should be your obvious first stop on your quest to get cheap or free materials for your homestead. It’s relatively easy to find anything from shipping pallets to furniture, lumber to appliances in the free section.
Sometimes you’ll even find free items listed in other sections or listed along side of priced items within a single posting.
Aside from Free, your next best bets are Materials, Farm and Garden, General, and Household. Searching by category beyond that can be hit or miss, so be sure to use the search feature. Remember to search for multiple iterations of an item (i.e. laundry tub, laundry sink, and utility tub can all mean the same thing).
Looking for something in particular? Set up alerts in both Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to get notifications of new listings matching your search.
Related: See how we refinished our Craigslist clawfoot tub on the cheap
2. Find [online] auction houses.
There are plenty of these to be found in rural and metropolitan areas alike. One of our family members absolutely loves visiting country auction houses to find anything from vinyl records and antique toys to tools and farm equipment.
We’ve also had good luck with a local online auction clearinghouse that gets items from local businesses selling overstock or going out of business. My mom got a king-sized memory foam mattress for $100 this way. I’ve also seen loads of restaurant and food service items (so hey, if you need a giant stainless steel prep table for when you process deer…), cabinets, power tools, furniture, hardware, etc.
To get started, do a search for “auction houses near [your city]”.
Related: Financing Your Homestead (even if you’re flat broke)
3. Visit building reuse centers.
We’re lucky to live in an area with several building reuse stores. We have two local stores run by Habitat for Humanity, but there are a few other independent ones throughout the area. We’ve gotten things like wall tile, toilets, bathroom vanities, doors, and more from our local reuse centers.
Sometimes you have to keep an eye out for hidden gems. One of our favorites was run by an older gentleman out of the basement of an old elementary school building. We got two big, tall windows for our bedrooms there, among other things. We found his store through word of mouth and would gladly have kept shopping there had he not passed away.
4. Look for demolition listings.
These are listings from property owners who intend to demolish a house. Frequently, property owners will open the home to anyone willing to do their own demo work to get free or very low priced items. And often, this includes almost anything you can pry up in a home: flooring, trim, cabinets, doors, windows, railings, etc.
If you’re willing to put in some time and sweat equity you can walk away with thousands of dollars in materials for little or no money.
Related: 6 Reasons You Might Blow Your Construction Budget (and how to avoid it)
5. Estate sales.
We happened upon an open house estate sale one day and decided to take a look around. Once we waded past the mid-century furniture and shag carpet, we found a treasure trove of materials out in the back shed and the garage. There were loads of gardening tools, bags of potting soil, boxes of roofing shingles, paints, stains, power tools, and more. It obviously varies from house to house but estate sales can be a homesteader’s gold mine.
6. Yard sales and moving sales.
Similar to estate sales, yard and moving sales can be a treasure trove.
Whoever shopped my family’s yard sale before we moved out of my childhood home scored big. We sold practically everything, including my dad’s tools and everything from his shed. That included a nice Cub Cadet mower, weed eaters, leaf blowers, an old CB radio, camping/survival gear, and more.
Scout out sale listings in local classifieds and on Craigslist. Sometimes you also find virtual “yard sale” groups listed for your area on Facebook, so take a look.
7. Put out an all-call for materials.
Here’s where social media can work to your advantage. If you put it out there that you’re looking for particular materials or will be doing certain kinds of projects, there will often be people you know who are eager to get rid of things they don’t need while helping a friend at the same time.
When we were building our cordwood walls I mentioned needing bottles to create bottle bricks. All of a sudden I had friends saving bottles for us and giving us their stashes.
Even just having your friends know about your building project can be helpful. When a friend was tearing up their old paver patio to put in a deck, we managed to snag all of their pavers for FREE. Sure, we had to go get them, load them, and then unload them, but we got hundreds of dollars in free materials and he avoided having to pay to haul them away.
8. Barter and trade.
This works well for services as well as goods. If you have a skill set you can leverage or items that are valuable to someone else, you can barter or trade for what you need. Check with neighbors, relatives, and friends to see if they have any useful items they’d like to trade with you.
You can also check the Craigslist barter section for your nearest city. In the process of writing this post, I checked mine and found listings for American Guinea Hogs, a crane, a truck toolbox, and .6 acres of land!
Don’t count out your local big box stores just because you’re not buying full retail. We visit ours a LOT and often find lots of scratch-and-dent items sitting out for sale. They’ll usually put these in specific aisles towards the back of the store. Besides the usual fare of appliances, you can also find things like cabinetry, sinks, tubs, paneling, open box flooring, miscolored paint, and more.
Learn more about keeping your project within your budget here:
The Owner-Builder Home Planner
7 More Ways to Save Big Money on Building Supplies
Financing Your Homestead (even if you’re flat broke)
6 Reasons You Might Blow Your Construction Budget (and how to avoid it)
How We Live on Half Our Income to Build Our Homestead
Have you used any of these methods to get cheap or free building materials? Have any to add? Let us know in the comments below!
And if you’re planning to build your own home with all the great materials you find, be sure to download our FREE Owner-Builder Quick-Start Guide below:
Check out our homestead progress and find out more about our cordwood homestead project here. You should also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m always pinning lots of great ideas on Pinterest too! Thanks for reading!
Ridley Fitzgerald says
You have some great tips for getting building materials. A reuse store is a good idea, since the stuff there is probably full of materials that will last. Using reclaimed wood is on of my favorite things to do, so other materials wouldn’t be any different.
Don’t count out the expensive luxury stores. There’s a few shops in my town that have the most insane clearance prices on tiles that come out cheaper that the sale price at the big box store or the restore. The quality is much higher and for a lot less money than the cheap stuff. I’ve done really well at auctions and often have taken a risk in a great deal which when I didn’t use it I sold it on Craigslist for a decent profit that covered my other purchases.
All excellent points! Thanks for sharing!
Dan Abbott says
Also Check local construction sites as they have to be very particular of say 8ft 2x4s or any wood….if it has a bow or twist they cannot use….or if there’s extras they will often give to you I’ve gotten windows lumber plywood lots just if you see new home going up stop and talk to the foreman
Farmer's Wife says
Hey Emily! It’s the Farmer’s Wife over at Farmhouse From Scratch. I have read your blog for awhile since we are doing a similar thing. Thanks for all the great suggestions. One thing I would add is for people to not be afraid to make offers or ask for discounts. Even in the big box stores I have made offers on clearance items and they just want them gone so they almost always say yes. Same with craigslist- especially if the ad has been up for awhile, people just want it gone so they are willing to accept much lower prices. I hope that’s helpful!
Hey! I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while too! Yes, those are super helpful tips. There are so many great ways to get free and cheap materials if you’re willing to put in the work and ask for what you want. Thanks for sharing!!
Very true. I was looking at a white memory foam bathmat that was on clearance for $10. It had a smudge of dirt on it, and I was thinking I could probably wash that out, when a woman came up and said, “I can let you have it for $5.” I took it home and washed it, and it came out spotless!
We love crafting and DIY home decor. I asked at the company where I bought my granite if I could have their scrap plywood and they said yes! If I had a truck I could have gotten almost full sheets. They throw away a lot.
Michael Robinson says
I like your idea to look for free things on Facebook and Craigslist first. My mom is a pro at using these two sites to find really neat things, and I think that this could be used by contractors as well. Just like you explained, you can even set up alerts on both of the websites. Thanks!
Jerry johnson says
I use louvered closet doors for display shelving and a great resource are the Home Depot stores. If they receive closet door sets WITHOUT HARDWARE they will almost give them away, if not free then certainly huge discounts.
That is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing with us!
Deb Pearl says
My husband loves creating and making things, but we don’t have a lot of money to purchase supplies. Thank you for all the tips on how to find building materials for cheap. I would have never thought to look for an online auction near our city. I think that would be great! We will have to look around.
You’re welcome! I hope some of these tips can be really helpful to you!
Cheryl Xavier says
Look in new homes magizines and look for signs that tell you where they are building new homes. You can take some of the shorter pieces to make the perlines to go in between the 2x4s on the walls. I went to subdivisions there they had just started building homes. I walked into the office and talked to the supervisor. He gave me a note to show the builders that i could have the scraps of any thing I wanted. In 5 or 6 months I jad enough wood to build me a 10×12 storage shed. With plenty of wood to spare. So please do this. And good luck on the new buildings!
That’s so awesome!! I really wish we had thought to do this. Could have saved SO much money. Thanks for sharing with us!
Just wondering . . . where do you find the demolition listings? thanks for the article and the great tips!
I see them listed on Craigslist all the time, but also tend to see them on gas station/grocery store bulletin boards or in the newspaper classifieds.
Thank you, I appreciate your response!
No problem! Happy to help!
Monica Kelley says
Thanks for great tips! When we Completely renovated our kitchen, we got basically free brand new cabinets cabinets. The company was doing a huge school job with a tractor trailer load of cabinets. They added our order on for only an 1/8th if the price. We also free hard wood flooring for free from an old school and a church.
I Enjoy reading your blog!
That’s so awesome! Glad you were able to snag an awesome deal. Thanks for reading! 🙂
I got my dishwasher and fridge out of an apartment complex dumpster they were remodeling. That was 2 years ago and both are still going strong. Also they had sinks and cabinets in that big construction dumpster that we didnt need. I got my countertops off the side of the road and they look great. Got my doors from a friend that does remodeling work. He salvaged them for us.
This is a great site I stumbled upon. I am in the process of purchasing 5 acres of land.
I need help finding a construction or office building. I will convert to a off grid home. Any suggestions where I should look?
Thanks 🙂 I’m not sure I understand the question. Are you planning to convert a construction/office building into an off-grid home, or are you looking for someone to help you build an off-grid home? Or are you looking for some kind of kit home or something similar? Let me know so I can help!
Roger Harris says
I purchased a family home next to mine and spent what money I could on gutting it and have purchased a lot of materials to remodel it with but am out of money. I am trying to remodel this house for my daughter who is handicapped and am looking for anyways I can get more material to finish it for her. And by the way I am doing this all on my own I am not a carpenter so its a learn as I go process. I need vinyl siding, insulation, plumbing, sheetrock, cabinets, etc… I have checked with Habitat for Humanity and they aren’t currently doing anything in this area so it is my goal to get this accomplished for my daughter before something happens to me. I appreciate any suggestions or ideas you may have and have found this website suggestions very helpful.
God bless you for helping your daughter like that. It’s a monumental task. One of the biggest suggestions I’d have for what you’re doing is to make connections with people who do those kinds of jobs. Maybe you have a friend who is a plumber or a family member “knows a guy” who does X,Y, or Z. Sometimes, just knowing those people and asking questions opens doors you didn’t have before. Sometimes, those people will say, “Oh yeah, I’ve got a mess of extra PVC fittings and pipe you can have” or even, “I can take a day and do your sheetrock at cost”. You never know. Our excavator friend became our friend based on a recommendation from a family member because he did their basement foundation, and his help and recommendations alone have likely saved us tens of thousands of dollars. I think all of the suggestions in this particular post will be super helpful to you, as well as the recommendations in the follow-up post with another 7 ways my readers suggested to me, but making relationships with people and being able to tap into a network of skilled individuals will go a LONG way. People want to help. Here’s the link to the other post I mentioned in case you hadn’t seen it yet:
Michele Cook says
Just a heads up, the pin to this article has been stolen.
It’s a great article and I love your blog name.
Nataliya Ramsay says
Very well written article. I believe it is really important that you keep an eye on the quality of material you are getting. My husband always gets the construction material from MP Moran, they have quality material in affordable rates.