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Salvage a pre-owned door

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Choosing to purchase a salvaged door rather than a brand new one reduces the amount of new materials required to stop up that gaping entryway in your home. It may even save you a little money, too!

How to salvage a pre-owned door

There are a number of ways to find salvaged doors.

  1. Get vital statistics: Before embarking on a door shopping trip, make sure to take down a few facts about your door needs. For instance, measure your door opening (width at top, middle, and bottom, and height at the left and right). Also, note whether you want your door handle to be on the right or the left.
  2. Find a nonprofit salvage store. Organizations such as Whole Building Design Guide, Building Materials Reuse Association, and Habitat for Humanity facilitate the salvage and resale of building materials. These stores often provide good, job-skills training employment opportunities, too.
  3. Opt for buy, sell, or trade. Both online and print "buy, sell, and trade" companies exist worldwide and are a great way to find used building materials like doors. Check out craigslist (search under ‘for sale/material’) and freecycle to see if anyone in your area is trying to sell or give away a used door. If you can’t find anything in your area, you may want to purchase the 2007 Guide to Architectural Antiques and Antique Lumber Companies for a printed list of retailers selling salvaged building materials.
  4. Other used building materials options. If salvage stores and online buy-sell directories aren’t working, there are other options: Garage and yard sales, auctions, flea markets and rummage sales are all potential jackpots. Also look in your local Yellow Pages under “Building Materials – used, salvage, or surplus.” Often the best finds are hiding in the most unlikely places.
  5. Keep your options open and don't get frustrated. Being successful while shopping for recycled building materials is often a result of pure dumb luck. If your diligent efforts don't yield results, keep trying. The thrill of the chase and the eventual capture is part of thrift shopping's inherent appeal.
  6. Remove existing door and frame: Once you’ve brought your new door home, you’ll need to remove the old door and frame. Start by removing the trim, then the door, and finally the door frame. Refer to this handy DIY door replacement guide for illustrated instructions.
  7. Install new door, caulking, and trim: Insert your new frame into the prepared hole, followed by the door. Fill the space between your doorframe and the wall with expanding foam caulking, which will further help to prevent air from getting around the door and into the house. Next, apply the trim.
  8. Be sure door is properly sealed: After you’ve added the doorknob and lockbolt, be sure that the entire door system is sealed properly so that air doesn’t escape.

Find it! Salvaged building supplies stores

Choosing to use a salvaged door helps you go green because…

  • It reduces the volume of new materials required for your door, which in turn protects existing habitats.
  • It keeps useful materials from entering the landfill.
  • It supports a growing recycling industry.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently estimated that approximately 136 million tons of construction and demolition materials were sent to landfills in 1996, most of which came from building demolition and renovation.[1] This debris makes up between 25 and 40 percent of the national waste stream in the US.[2] In fact, a typical 2,000 square foot house produces about four tons of waste,[3] nearly 80 percent of which is recyclable.[4] Currently only 20 percent is recycled nationwide.[2]


Opting for a used door may take a little more time than buying new. The searching and shopping is likely the most time-intensive aspect of the process since the stock varies greatly from one salvage store to another. In addition, buying used sometimes means you’ll have to spend extra time and money working to restore your purchase to working order—like sanding and then painting or staining a salvaged door.[5]

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