It is easier than you think to score free wood (or almost free wood) for #DIY projects!
Living right outside of Omaha I am literally minutes away from industrialized areas. Warehouses surround me! I get giddy when I pass by and see pallets near the dumpsters of my local hardware stores. My husband loses his mind when he searches Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace and finds free wood pallets up for grabs.
I can’t begin to tell you how much money I save for when I want to do small wood projects. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy going to Menards, Lowes and Home Depot; but, that can get expensive super quick. Besides, it makes sense to get as much free wood as possible to lessen my costs.
These tips are great if you are creating something from scratch…it may not cost you money from your pocket; but, it will cost you in some of your valuable time and energy:
Become Friends with Your Community
Contact your local paint stores (i.e., Sherwin Williams, Ace hardware, etc). We have one located near our home and they always have wood pallets by the dumpster. It’s always best to contact them first to be sure it’s okay to take them. Some business do not like for people to go into their dumpster area because of the possible liabilities and you don’t want to be charged with trespassing or anything.
In my experience, they’ve been only too happy for someone to take them. One of the employees actually put them to the side for me and when I came by, he loaded them into my truck for me. I thought that was pretty nice of them and the next time I went there, I brought them some coffee. There is also a NAPA auto parts place nearby as well that always has a lot of pallets. The best thing about these places is they tend to have very clean pallets as well.
Craigslist is another good choice. You can do a simple search in the Craigslist search box for your area (type in pallets or free wood under the “free stuff” link – don’t forget to adjust for your area) and who knows, you might get lucky.
Finally, Facebook marketplace is another good option as well. I don’t find pallets all of the time, here. But, there are times when I will find something similar that I can use. It’s always worth a shot!
But, what about dumpster diving?
Admittedly, I do scan the tops of a dumpster for furniture – I hardly ever find good, quality wood pieces. If I find any, they’re usually damaged and full of nails, etc. It’s amazing what people toss in there! I don’t go full body diving in there. But, if you’re going to go checking out the dumpsters, here are a few rules of the road:
Usually (check first), if it’s next to the dump or out on the curb it’s probably fair game.
There are some places that are only too happy to have you come and take the stuff by their dumpster or on their curb. It’s less that they have to worry about. However, some places might view you as trespassing and may feel inclined to call the police. But, the safest way to go is to call the business and ask first.
Make sure you have a good, strong tie down system in place before loading!
We do not want traffic accidents or tickets. I have actually seen items go flying out of truck beds because they were not tied down properly. I keep ratchet tie down straps in my car because I almost always see something in our neighborhood that I can use.
If you’re picking up multiple wood pallets or free wood in general, try not to do it alone.
Wood is not the lightest thing in the world; although, I have had those really long heavier pieces. Picking these up with a partner will lessen your chances of injury because you can use the buddy system while lifting.
I do not recommend actually going into a dumpster.
I learned this from experience while in college. As you know, dumpsters are not the cleanest places. In fact, they are disgusting and can be downright dangerous. Now, I did learn that there are different levels of dumpsters, haha. You have your restaurant dumpsters, your retail dumpsters, your outlet dumpsters, the list goes on and on. Besides, you have the legal thing to think about. I did a quick Google search and came across this website called Freegan.info. They state that:
“If a dumpster is against a building or inside a fenced enclosure marked “No Trespassing,” you could be questioned, ticketed or even arrested by the police.”
Always, always, always err on the side of caution!
Finally, DO NOT LEAVE A MESS!
As I stated previously, businesses are generally happy to help whenever and wherever they can. But, it will leave a bad taste in their mouths if a mess is left on their property. I get that it’s a dumpster and everything. But, I can tell you from experience as a family that owns a business, the dumpster is as much a part of the business as the business and consumers actually do look there. So please, clean up when you’re done!