Salvage tips for restoring your old house

By: Shannon Lee , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Home Improvement Tips, Historic Preservation

Searching for the ideal wood flooring, windows or simple accents for your old home can lead you to many interesting places. There are the antique stores where old molding is stacked in a dusty corner. There’s the auction house where you can find that perfect door–at a staggering price, perhaps, but perfect nonetheless. There is the warehouse or junkyard where it appears whole houses were taken apart and then left out in the elements until someone came along to find that perfect replacement window, door hardware or intricate wrought-iron railing.

A salvage shop. Image credit: 1912bungalow.com

Anyone who has innocently walked into a salvage yard and come back out with a massive case of sticker shock knows that the best things for your old house aren’t always free. But there are some tips for salvage that can save you a bundle of both time and money.

Where to find the best salvage for your old house

Before you go to the high-end warehouse shop to find that rare flooring or lighting fixture that your old house simply must have, try these budget-friendly options:

  1. Yard sales. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and that was never more true than at a yard sale. Look for tag sales in rural areas, older neighborhoods and those with multiple families participating. If you stumble upon a very nice door or other item at a reasonable price, inquire about what else they might have for sale.
  2. Flea markets. Though flea markets might be a bit more expensive than what you find at yard sales, there could also be a larger selection. Some flea market vendors bring only a small portion of their wares, so if you see a vendor who has a nice collection of what you might need for your home, feel free to ask if there is anything behind the scenes. You might be able to strike a deal.
  3. Private owners. Plenty of people try to sell items through online message boards, such as Craigslist. Though you might have to wade through a wide variety of useless posts before you strike gold, it pays to keep an eye on the possibilities.
  4. Internet auctions. The good news is that you can get plenty of old-fashioned elements for your old house at a cheap price. Savvy shopping and bidding can keep your costs down. The bad news? Shipping can kill any savings you might get.
  5. Estate sales. These sales are often large events that last for a few days. The high-dollar items tend to go first, so keep that in mind if you choose to bid. Estate sales can often yield a fantastic deal on rare items, but you must be patient, check out all the offerings and be ready to pay cash on the spot.
  6. Antique shops. Some of the best deals I have ever made came from antique shops. I scored a beautiful stained-glass window for under $100 and the perfect chandelier for less than $50. Remember to take your time and be ready to negotiate a deal.
  7. Reproductions. As home restoration has become more popular, coveted items have become rare. As a result, sometimes the original restoration of a part of your home can be more expensive than the house itself. In that case, reproductions can be the answer. Though they don’t have the antique pedigree, some of them are so good that only you will know that little secret.

From the perfect doors for your kitchen cabinet refacing to the ideal antique fixture to highlight your front porch, these salvage tips can help you find what you need at a price that your pocketbook can handle.