Marble tile, granite countertops, wood flooring and kitchen appliances at half the cost of retail. Reusing items that would otherwise end up in a landfill. That's the premise behind auction houses and centers that peddle donated and salvaged home materials, such as Murco Recycling Enterprises, a La Grange Park, Ill.-based company that auctions off home parts just before a property is demolished. But shopping for materials in this environment isn't the same as shopping for them in a hardware store. It requires much savvy and selectiveness. Here's what Jodi Murphy, Murco's owner, and other experts say you should know before buying salvaged goods. Chicago Tribune Risky business
The secondhand home-goods business comes in two forms: auctions (eBay) and brick-and-mortar stores (Habitat for Humanity ReStores). As evidenced on Murphy's new reality TV show, Total Wrecklamation (it premieres on the Planet Green network this fall), auctions are risky: fast, competitive, emotional. They can draw bidders into paying more than budgeted — or worse, more than the object's retail value. "That gently used stove you should pay only $100 for, you could very easily end up paying $300 for," says Dawn Tuskey, owner of IHM Remodeling Repair Contractors.
Walking in blind will get you in trouble. Bring as much information as possible regarding your space: measurements, photos, blueprints, swatches of paint, fabric or tile. Bring tools, especially to demolition auctions, where you may have to excavate the materials yourself. Bring money, because items sell fast. And come with the means to take home items that day. Be savvy
"There are some items you don't want to get if they've been used before, because you'll just be inviting more problems into your home," Tuskey says. On that list: drywall, ceiling tiles, HVAC equipment and appliances more than a couple of years old. "With the amount of electricity required to operate certain older appliances, you could buy yourself a new model within six months," Tuskey says. Ideal for reuse: cabinets, tile, wood flooring, molding, doors and decorative architectural elements.
Snag an expert
Sure, the cost of hiring a contractor to shop with you can cancel out the savings gained from buying reused materials. But without one, the potential for wasting money may be greater. Invite friends or family members who work in the building, remodeling or contracting business. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (nari.org) also is a great resource for vetting remodelers or asking questions about the validity of a reused material.