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- Photo: Recylcling the Past
Tips for Buying Salvage
When shopping for salvage materials, stay open to both potential and possibilities. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you go sleuthing for salvage:
1. Be proactive. If you’re building or remodeling, don’t wait until the last minute. Go find the salvage materials you love and then let the contractor craft to fit. It’s much harder if the contractor first cuts a hole and you then need to find something you love that will fit.
2. An item may not look great yet, but much can be restored. “There are a few people that I can take into my warehouse, and I’ll pull out something with a hundred years of pigeon doo doo and they’ll say ‘That’s it!’” says Noreene Parker of Pinch of the Past. “You might find a deal on a chandelier for fifty dollars, but you’ll need to understand it might cost another two or three hundred dollars to get it restored with new wiring and sockets to bring it up-to-date. But everyone that walks into the house will think it’s to-die-for and you’ll have something really special.”
3. Measuring is critical to ensure that a piece will fit and function as you need it to. “Mantles are gorgeous, but they often won’t fit around new fireboxes, which are more long and narrow,” says Don Short of West End Architectural Salvage. “You’ll also want to measure that any piece you’re buying will fit through your doors and into the space you have in mind.”
4. Get the most bang for your buck by beginning with focal-point purchases like an antique front door or a dazzling entryway chandelier.
5. Make sure you are working with people who appreciate salvage. “Don’t even bother if you don’t have a supportive contractor,” says Elizabeth Scalice, owner of Architectural Salvage of San Diego. “Find those who understand the joy of repurposing to create something special. A lot of people trust when their contractor says something isn’t possible. Make sure you’re hearing the truth.”
6. Beware of reproductions, especially with items like marble mantles, stained glass, and iron work. If a price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
7. Look around for interesting porch, deck, patio, and garden finds. “Tap stone pottery and garden antiques to see whether they sound solid and do not have cracks,” says Matt White of Recycling the Past. “In cold weather, water inside cracks can freeze and cause damage.”
8. “Retro tubs can be a steal,” says Short. “I sell cast-iron claw foot tubs for $200-$500, whereas a new cast-iron tub is about $2500.” Even with the cost of refinishing the tub, you’re still dollars ahead. Installation requires common plumbing techniques, and any old faucets will need to have washers carefully repacked. “Old faucets can be used, but they generally require special maintenance because they have more joints that develop leaks,” Short adds. “If period authenticity is not critical, you might consider well-made reproduction faucets instead.”
9. Antique doors are beautiful for exterior or interior usage. Check that they have no rot on the bottom and that there is no warping. Heavier, more solid wood doors will function better than lightweight doors, such as pine.
10. Many salvage pieces are ready for a different second life. Antique doors can become room dividers; porch posts can be cut down to make lamp bases. “I remember the first time I saw Bob Vila on TV, he was walking around a salvage yard and was really on the forefront of getting people to think about salvage,” White says. “One of the items in that salvage yard was a red English phone booth that I thought was pretty cool.” So cool, in fact, that White went to England years later to buy one that he is planning to turn into an outdoor shower.
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