One man’s trash is another man’s savings on construction costs, particularly if you know where to look.
Building in La Plata County is costly. While the national cost of construction averages just over $100 per square foot, local builders quote rates as high as $200 and above. But cost estimates can be lowered considerably by using recycled, salvaged or second-hand building materials.
Jared Ogden, owner of Black Canyon Builders, is renovating a home at West 2nd Avenue and West 17th Street using parts of the original structure. Built in 1888, the house was gutted, given a second-story addition and remodeled with some of the original beams and wood for furniture and ceiling details.
Ogden said by reusing the original wood, he saved about $12,000.
“Because the old lumber is much bigger than what they make today, we could use a lot of that material to frame the new window openings and put in beams,” he said. “We were able to use a lot of the old material. We just cut it down to size.”
When old wood can be harvested for a remodel or new structure, it’s a win-win for builders, who save money, and clients, who often favor older material for its aesthetic character and durability.
But sourcing discounted or free construction material, new or old, can otherwise mean a scavenger hunt for builders, designers and do-it-yourself homeowners.
“One of the best ways is to use social media outlets, which facilitate things being reused,” Alpenglow Building and Design owner Michael Carrier said. “If we have extra materials, we put it on Craigslist for pennies on the dollar. If people are looking for something, chances are someone has it. We see so much waste due to the lack of communication around it.”
Craigslist or local Facebook forums, like Durango Online Garage Sale, are hit-or-miss outlets to buy and sell, but the hits often mean major markdowns on building supplies.
Durango’s annual spring cleanup also brings loads of rubble to city curbsides each year to be hauled away. It’s not uncommon for foragers to go through the trash heaps, and when they’re lucky, they can come away with useable tile, scrap metal, appliances and lumber.
“It’s a shame because so much is usable,” Carrier said of the spring cleanup. He has collected piles of building materials over the years, scouted online sites for usable material and donates his excesses likewise.
“Reusing materials is a way to keep things out of the landfill and reduce production of new items; that’s our bottom line in our business,” Carrier said.
When it comes to simpler construction jobs, homeowners, decorators and builders head to Durango Salvage or the Habitat for Humanity of La Plata County ReStore.
ReStores, which have been opened by Habitat chapters across the country, are hubs for supplying interior and exterior housing material at discount prices. It isn’t the most practical or convenient option for finding a specific product, but if you’re willing to wait and check back frequently, you might end up with the right window frame, wood or bathroom fixture for 50 to 70 percent less than market price.
“Every once in a while, a million-dollar house is rehabbed and Sub-Zero appliances come in,” said Rachel Taylor-Saghie, executive director of the local Habitat chapter. “If someone comes in frequently to look for what they want, they can find it.”
Lumber isn’t as common, but the ReStore is awash in donated plumbing, flooring, appliances, sinks and light fixtures. Doors and window frames are the top sellers behind furniture, Taylor-Saghie said.
“We move about 85 tons of what would normally go to a landfill each year,” she said. “Especially in summer, I would say we bring in 100 windows and 50 doors a month.”
Donations typically come from higher-end builders, including Ogden’s Black Canyon Builders, while smaller businesses reap the benefits, she said.
“Quite a bit of our construction stuff comes from construction businesses,” she said. “On the customer end, we see a lot of people doing rehab projects for landlords and people building small plant nurseries and DIY projects.”