Being a vulture at the bargain bins

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Forum topic by Dave Polaschek posted 01-17-2017 12:26 PM 1928 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dave Polaschek

6230 posts in 1499 days

01-17-2017 12:26 PM

Topic tags/keywords: bargain shopping wood

I suspect I’m not the only one, but I routinely rummage through the bargain bins at the local big boxes and smaller lumber-yard that I frequent.

This weekend’s score was three very clean 2×4s x 30” long $0.49 each, and a piece of maple, 6/4×3+ x 70” that got ripped and cut into three 33” long 6/4 square stool leg blanks that are clean and have straight grain. The one flaw in the board is in the other piece which is now in my “useful scraps” bucket, and the chewed-up end that put it in the bargain bin got cut off and tossed. That piece was under $3 including the “please rip it in half for me” cut at the lumber yard the guys threw in for free because I spent a few minutes talking motorcycles with them.

The weekend before, I found a piece of walnut, 5/4×6” x 6’ long, but the last foot of it was all chewed up and gnarly. But there’s easily four or five feet of clear lumber there, and gnarly bit will make interesting accent pieces. It was $10 in the bargain bin, while comparable 4’ long pieces were priced over $20.

So does anyone else have any fun bargain-bin finds?

-- Dave - Santa Fe

13 replies so far

View Woodknack's profile


13522 posts in 3297 days

#1 posted 01-17-2017 06:01 PM

I grabbed a 2×12 for $2 the other day, only half is usable but for $2.

-- Rick M,

View jonlruss's profile


132 posts in 2030 days

#2 posted 01-17-2017 06:39 PM

I used to love going through the cull bin at HD before they changed the pricing. Used to occasionally find something pretty decent they’d marked 50 cents, and sometimes if the bin was still pretty full when they were culling the next week, they’d sell the entire bin (regardless how much was on it) for $5. Bought one of those one time and had a guy in the parking lot offer me $5 for a half sheet of 1/4 plywood that was on it. Now that they’ve changed it to 70% off it’s not as good a deal usually although when I was starting my tablesaw workstation i did find a full sheet of 3/4 oak plywood that had a big gouge in it. Was nice getting that 70% off.

I’d love to have a small lumberyard nearby to get some deals on hardwood like you have though.

View gailmo's profile


32 posts in 1955 days

#3 posted 01-17-2017 08:23 PM

I was building cedar adirondack chairs and went to HD looking for lumber. The cedar bin was almost empty and the lumber guy said they were not going to sell cedar decking any longer. They had about 14 boards 12 ft long and 6 inches wide. Each board was about $23 each and most of it was in excellent shape – straight with few gouges. I walked up to the desk and told the guy I would take it all and clear that bin out for him today—but only if it was 70% off. He said no—but I could have it for 50% off. I kicked the floor a bit and hemmed and hawed. Then the lady working with him said he should be nice to me, a female woodworker, he looked at her and said—-oh, OK. So as I recall, I walked out with a huge load of lumber for about $75.

I have learned to ask about things when I shop there. Many times I can snag some great “deals” if I manage to talk to the right person.

View gargey's profile


1013 posts in 1692 days

#4 posted 01-17-2017 08:51 PM

Pro tip: If you buy pencils and rip out the middle section where the lead is, you can glue them back up into nice clear lumber.

View DirtyMike's profile


637 posts in 1819 days

#5 posted 01-17-2017 08:57 PM

A really good find for me has been slightly damaged formica sheets.

View William Shelley's profile

William Shelley

609 posts in 2386 days

#6 posted 01-17-2017 09:57 PM

The policies on what employees at home depot will cull has changed as of a few years ago. About the time they stopped doing the color-coded pricing and switched to a straight % off the retail price.

Most stores are really REALLY stingy on what they cull now. But, I’ve had really good luck with simply asking an associate politely if they can cull something in the rack.

I worked for home depot for 6 years, and anyone who has worked retail will tell you that 90% of people are absolutely terrible to deal with. What you want to be is one of the 10% that doesn’t make the retail associate want to go home and drink that day. If you’re polite, if you don’t make a mess out of their carefully stacked units, and if you pull your own stuff or help them help you pull stuff off the rack, you can get away with a lot.

Remember that at big box stores, things like a sheet of plywood with a crunched corner are mostly unusable to a remodeling contractor who is likely going to be putting down full sheets. But when was the last time you needed a full 4×8 sheet of 1/4” birch plywood for example? Typically you’d be cutting it up into smaller pieces. Forklifts damage stuff all the time so don’t hesitate to ask for the cull price on sheet goods with a slightly messed up edge.

-- Woodworking from an engineer's perspective

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 4285 days

#7 posted 01-17-2017 10:17 PM

I asked a Lowes employee about a sheet that was damaged on a corner. He cut it in half twice, put one in the 4X4 section and one in the 2X4 section and offered me the damaged 2X4 piece for 50% off. That was 2 years ago and I have not been back in Lowes.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 4148 days

#8 posted 01-17-2017 10:28 PM

Every time I go to the lumber yard – yes, a real lumber yard, I check their discount bins. Selections are usually fairly thin except for poplar. Well, I use poplar to build face frames for paint grade cabinets. At 50% off the regular price, I will load up on pieces I can use.

The sizes vary in width and length up to about 42 inches long. On one visit, the shop guy had just finished filling the bins. I got a goodly amount that day. I don’t have a lot of room to store lumber or I could have loaded up. Then the sales guy inside side “Would you be interested in the entire inventory?” UGH. If only I could. Sometimes there is Red Oak, White Oak and a few other species, but not what I am looking for.

Once, after loading up a bunch of 4/4 poplar (10-12 foot lengths 5 1/2-8 inches wide), I had several of the cutoffs laid out on the table. The guy just chunked them in the truck for free and off we went. :-)

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View MrUnix's profile


8283 posts in 3116 days

#9 posted 01-17-2017 10:31 PM

Do construction site dumpsters count as a ‘bargain bin’ ?? :-)


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View Peccy's profile


6 posts in 2133 days

#10 posted 01-18-2017 12:05 AM

On my last trip to Atlanta I picked up 8” x 8 feet of 5/4 curly maple for $8 out of the scrap pile. It only had about 6” of the end chewed up out of 96”. So 90” of 5/4 for 8 bucks made me happy!!!

-- Woodworking minus patience equals firewood.

View splatman's profile


585 posts in 2316 days

#11 posted 01-18-2017 12:18 AM

Do construction site dumpsters count as a bargain bin ?? :-)


- MrUnix

More like Free Bin.

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 4285 days

#12 posted 01-18-2017 02:27 AM

Do construction site dumpsters count as a bargain bin ?? :-)


- MrUnix

I almost went to jail for doing that, site security was a real jerk.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

6230 posts in 1499 days

#13 posted 01-18-2017 12:57 PM

Hmm. I guess I’ll count myself lucky, but perhaps not as lucky as some. Siwek Lumber has two nice bargain bins, one inside the store that has pieces up to two feet long, and one out in the barn for longer stuff. They’re both split into hardwood and softwood sections, and I manage to find something in there every time I go. Maybe that’ll change as I continue to grab all the “good stuff,” but for now it gets me in the door more often than I really need to go.

And for big boxes, I spend most of my time in Menards, rather than HD or Lowes, and it sounds like that’s a pretty good choice, too. The bargain bin at Menards isn’t great, but if you need short bits of construction-grade lumber, it’s pretty reliable. If I don’t have the scraps I need to make a jig, that’s where I’ll head first.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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