One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and who doesn’t love free stuff? As the cost-of-living increases, and people are trying to find more ways to eliminate expenses, DIY projects are awesome ways to use your own time and skill to make something out of nothing.
With free sites like Kijiji, Craigslist, and listings on social media forums, there has never been more free stuff for the taking. With some time and a little skill, you can source a variety of free things for some DIY projects we absolutely love. Read on for tips and projects for ways to decorate your home for free.
1. Concrete Blocks
Also known as cinder blocks, these heavy rectangular pieces of concrete are often used in exterior building projects like foundations or retaining walls. If people are demolishing or rebuilding, these blocks are often offered to take away for free, as long as you pick them up.
Some people may deliver for a fee, if you don’t have transportation.
They can be used for interior projects, since they are strong, sturdy, waterproof materials that are able to support a number of different applications. You can paint them, stack them vertically or horizontally, or mismatch them to create unique formations.
Stack four or five horizontally on two ends to create legs to support a desk. All you need is a flat surface to put on top, and voila, you’ve got a cool DIY desk with ready-made storage in the holes of the blocks.
If you want something smaller, stack vertically for instant shelving that works great for holding plants, pictures, and anything else you might want to display.
The options for furniture are endless: think TV console, coffee, and end tables, or stack them outside and fill them with dirt to make unique planters out of the inside holes, or arrange them in a square to make raised garden beds. Pair with long wooden slats to make an outdoor bench or create a neatly bordered fire pit.
2. Wooden Crates
Wooden crates are another item you can easily find for free. Unlike cinder blocks, they are generally not as sturdy, but this makes them more useful in other ways. They can be used in many similar projects as concrete blocks, but also have the versatility of being screwed into walls for different kinds of ideas.
This can be helpful if you want to get shelves, desks, and storage off the floor, making use of wall space instead of floor space. Like the cinder blocks, however, crates can easily be stacked on top of each other to create some similarly neat DIY furniture.
Crates have larger areas for storage inside of them, so stacking them to make end tables or to hold up desks gives you a great place to store books, cords and wires, gaming accessories, and even clothes. Or, use a couple above the desk or bed as a storage space by screwing the backs of them into wall studs.
Longer shelving can be run along the tops of the crates so you can display plants, pictures, and other tchotchkes. They are instant plant stands, with options for smaller plants inside and taller ones on top.
With enough of them, you can create a privacy wall between rooms or a full bookshelf.
Wooden crates can add a shabby chic, farmhouse feel with a modern twist. Paint them to help a room pop, or integrate their distressed look and cool slogans. The possibilities are endless.
How I love free pallets, let me count the ways! Wooden pallets are used to ship a lot of different things and can be found next to garbage bins at the back of grocery, and hardware stores. Big box stores will always have a ton of wooden pallets outside of their warehouse, but make sure you ask for permission from a store manager before you go rummaging.
Smaller, local businesses may not be as hard to strike a deal with because of their abundance. Often companies will list their surplus on free sites, so check there first to see what you can source. They aren’t likely to deliver to you, so get your transportation in order.
A cool way to use these ready-made structures is to combine with an item we already talked about: cinder blocks. You can create a really cool outdoor dining table completely for free with just these two items by stacking the blocks and laying one or two pallets on top. If there are too many spaces in between the boards, you may want to take some out and re-position them closer together.
Some people have even made complete outdoor furniture sets with pallets, including the coffee table. Use them to create a privacy fence or trellis for plants, or think bigger and redo your whole fence with them.
Pallets are also great foundations for mattresses that have been laid on the floor, allowing for more airflow while providing a solid base. Just make sure that you use similar size and weights so that you don’t get any awkward dips and transitions.
Pallets are also really cool to use as wall art, especially the smaller ones. Add other pieces of wood to create shelving, or use them to hang small pots and planters.
Or, dissemble the wooden pieces and take out the nails to use the distressed pieces of wood to make a headboard, or an accent wall.
4. Repurpose Wood Furniture
There are so many pieces of perfectly good furniture out there that you can find for free, as people update their homes and throw out good quality pieces that just don’t fit their design. Dressers, bed frames, shelves, wall units, cabinets, desks – and all of them for free!
This can be a better option for people who don’t like the look of repurposed construction materials, and even better for anyone with a little refinishing experience. A lot of these old pieces just need some TLC to return them to their former glory.
Sanding and re-staining, or painting an old desk or dresser can end up giving you a high-end luxury item that someone else wasn’t willing to save. These older pieces may be in rough shape, but often their bones are made of quality wood and better craftsmanship than the cheaper throwaway products from big box and online stores.
If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, you can even turn a profit by flipping old furniture that’s been transformed into a work of art.
5. Reupholster Couch or Chair
Similarly, old couches and chairs are often left curbside waiting to be picked up on garbage day. These old gems often still have a lot of life left in them, and how cool is it to be able to keep them out of landfills?
By learning how to re-upholster couches and chairs, you can save yourself thousands of dollars of what a living room furniture set would cost. While you may need to invest in some fabric, you can often find this sold cheaply at fabric stores and outlets, or even second-hand stores.
Fabric is another item you can source for free, as well, especially if you have a creative eye and don’t shy away from bold patterns others may pass on.
Yup, people give plants away for free. Incredible, right? When people move, they don’t always want to take their plants with them, especially if they are large, or can’t be transported safely. Indoor plants are hot commodities these days, so you’ll have to move quickly on any listing you might find.
Gardeners like to get rid of extra perennials that have overtaken their garden, and will gladly split them for others to take. Trades can be a great way to get something you need, or offer to do some garden work in exchange for them.
Hostas, lilies, hydrangeas, and raspberry bushes are just a few examples of plants that often multiply quickly, and which gardeners are happy to part with.
7. Patio Materials
Patios can add a great spot for outdoor dining and entertaining, and aren’t as complicated as a deck, especially if you can source materials for free! There’s almost always a listing giving away free fill from a building site, which may be useful if you need to level your space or fill any holes. (Always remember to slope patios slightly away from the home!).
The second most important part of your project is patio stones, of course, and again if you aren’t picky, there are often stones and bricks free for pickup. They may even be new if they were leftover from a job. Since most homeowners just want to get rid of them, they’ll list these gems for free.
8. DIY Fire-pit
A patio may be a bit daunting of a project to take on yourself, but you can try a smaller project instead by making your own fire pit out of free bricks and stones. Fire-pit kits sold in stores can cost anywhere from $100-$400, depending on their size, but you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to make a safe fire-pit, nor do you need any construction experience.
Simply place whatever bricks or stones you may have to make a circle and layer them on top of each other to give some height. The weight of them is enough to support each other, but if anything feels wobbly, add another layer on the outside.
You can dig into the ground if you want, but that’s not necessary, either. If you can find some free gravel, these small stones make an excellent base, or seating area when spread into a larger circle.
As an added bonus, once your fire pit is ready, free firewood is often listed, as well. If homeowners have taken down a tree for whatever reason, they may want to get it off their property. If you can pick it up, it’s usually yours.
They usually ask that you take it all, so be prepared to have to store a lot of firewood, and to wait until it fully cures.
While stumps may be difficult to burn, they can be used as seating or as tables if there is a flat surface. Use them as legs for sitting benches, or decorate your garden with them.
Gnomes and tiny figurines have been used to create little fairy nooks with stumps and interesting looking pieces of tree branches, which could be a fun DIY project to do with your kids.
10. Free Wood
If you type in “free wood” in the search section of websites, you’ll be amazed at what you can find! If you have a particular project in mind, you can find some or all of what you might need to complete it, and if you are looking for inspiration, seeing what’s out there might spark your imagination.
Full sheets of plywood, lumber off-cuts, railing or deck segments, and full sections of wood plank floors can all be found from construction companies or homeowners who have recently done a demolition.
Many of them just want the material off their property, and if someone else can take it, it saves them a trip to the dump, which costs money and takes time.
There’s also an eco-friendly aspect, as some folks would rather see good material go to use. They may even be willing to deliver if that’s their prerogative.
People have built complete tiny homes with most of the wood sourced for free.
11. Holiday Decorations
Around any holiday season, people start to panic and want to get rid of their old decorations in time for events. While there tends to be more available for Christmas, look for Halloween, Hanukah, Diwali, Easter, and other popular holidays.
Some people get rid of things before they move, or when it comes time to decorate, they decide they want something different, and instead of throwing out perfectly good items, they’ll list them for free. Don’t turn your nose up to outdated holiday decor, but be leary of lights – make sure they work before taking them, and either plug them in yourself or ask for proof that they turn on.
If you only get half sets of bulbs, use them to ornate a door wreath or garland along rails and fireplaces. Otherwise, mix and matching old-fashioned ornaments and garlands can make a traditional holiday look that never goes out of style.
Tip: this is a great way to find free Halloween costumes, too.
When you're looking for free stuff, always check the source of any materials you are scrounging, and make sure nothing is contaminated. Do furniture checks (a smell test is important), and don’t take any contaminated landfill. If you aren’t in a rush, make it a habit to check listings a few times a week.
If you need something ASAP, you may have to travel farther to find the free stuff you want. Make a day trip out of it, and have fun sourcing out your next DIY project. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll see there are tons of ways to decorate your home with free stuff.