Building material seconds can save you money

Using Seconds on Building Projects

by Rich Finzer

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Let's face it, outdoor building projects can morph into genuine wallet busters. Whether it's building a concrete paver patio, a garden planter or a raised bed, the cost of building materials represents a significant cash outlay for the enthusiastic homeowner with ambitions of improving his/her property. But there's a tried and true method of saving as much as 75 percent on the cost of basic building materials. It takes a bit of work, but the results are well worth the effort. Seek out building material seconds or hit the scrap pile. Let's look at the details of the three example projects.

Paver Patio: After a recent home remodeling project, the War Department (Mrs. Finzer) asked me to build a small patio off of our rear entrance. I thought it was a great idea, but before I cruised the orange or blue home improvement stores (you know the ones), I visited a local concrete fabrication outfit. The company manufactures a variety of pavers, stepping stones, garden benches, and the like. I skipped right past all that stuff and headed directly to the back lot where the "seconds" were located. After a bit of searching, I found exactly what I sought. I found first quality pavers. I located 40 to be exact. So what were first quality materials doing in the seconds pile? Simple.

Concrete fabricators generally make production runs of 50,000 items or more, selling most in bulk to contractors or smaller retailers. What do they want with the last 40? Nothing! It's too small a quantity to appeal to their bread-and-butter markets, so the pavers I found had been consigned to the seconds pile. List price for pavers of similar size was $5.99. I bought the entire lot of 40 for sixty scoots, and the outfit was glad to be rid of them. I saved a cool 75 percent.

Garden Planter: Once I'd finished the patio, the War Department asked me to build a wooden planter for her newly acquired hostas. My first stop was a local lumberyard. And sure enough, out back was a quartet of slightly-warped, six-inch pressure treated planks. I bought all four 12 footers for a grand total of $8. The yard also threw in the pallet the planks had been laid upon, the stringers of which were pressure treated two by fours. Fat city! About two hours of work and a few deck screws later, I'd fashioned a very nice planter, which could have cost me about 35 clams for first quality lumber. The best part is that the hostas don't seem to mind their second class surroundings.

Raised Bed: Shortly after I'd fashioned the planter, it was politely suggested that I build a raised bed garden for growing vegetables. And guess what I did? Yep, I revisited the concrete place and purchased second quality concrete blocks for 32 cents apiece instead of $1.10 a whack at the home improvement store. In truth, the blocks won't pass our local structural building code, but they're perfect for a simple outside project laid only two blocks high. My savings amounted to nearly $70, but in fairness, my frugality has resulted in unintended consequences.

Now, according to the War Department, my next project is to build a mini-greenhouse using salvaged triple track storm windows for illumination. The job will require more stuff than she realizes and some of it will be pricey, so where do you suppose I'm going to go shopping first?

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