5 tips for finding junkyard treasures

July 29, 2015

Your local junkyard could be a goldmine for second-hand building materials. Follow these tips to sort the trash from the treasure.

5 tips for finding junkyard treasures

1. The possibilities are endless

  • Virtually any kind of cast-off item that fits in the average family car can be taken from a junkyard.
  • Look for sinks, baths, window frames, doors, skirting boards, mantelpieces and old-fashioned bathroom sinks.
  • Most small items are likely to be broken. Large items, such as lumber and roofing iron, are often severely damaged.
  • Be wary of materials in need of extensive repair. You may end up returning them.

2. Get permission

  • Keep in mind that scrounging from junkyards is frowned upon by most municipal authorities.
  • It may be worth discussing your needs with the manager of the junkyard and, if possible, arranging for particular materials to be set aside for you.
  • While this approach may not be practicable in the city, it could work in rural regions.

3. Curbside finds

  • Much of the material that finds its way to junkyards comes from people's curbs.
  • Check the local regulations on this activity and, as a courtesy, ask the relevant house owner if they mind you taking what's in front of their property.

4. Demolition deals

  • Keep an eye out for demolitions carried out by volunteer groups, such as local service clubs.
  • Redevelopment sites can be a good source of lumber and even household fittings.
  • This can benefit all parties. The service club sells the materials to raise money for its projects, the developer avoids the costs of demolition and you manage to purchase inexpensive goods.
  • Sometimes the developer will sell lumber and other useful, high-demand materials. You must be quick to inspect and purchase.
  • Bricks from a demolition job are usually sold directly to a second-hand brick supplier, who cleans them up and resells them.
  • Only those bricks bonded with soft-lime mortars (used in pre-1940s buildings) are recycled. Bricks bonded with cement mortar are too costly to clean because of the hardness of the mortar.

5. Stay safe

Remember that garbage dumps and demolition sites may contain dangerous and toxic materials, some of which you could accidentally pick up. Always wear a tough pair of gloves and sturdy footwear.

Junkyard finds prove that one person's trash is another one's treasure, but it pays to be careful anyways. Always get permission, always stay safe and always take only what you need.

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