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Free Materials For DIY Projects: Where To Get Free Pallets, Barrels, Landscaping Materials & More!

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By Joshua

Free Stuff For Indoor & Outdoor DIY Projects

Want free materials for DIY recycling projects, arts & crafts, gardening, landscaping projects, etc?

This pallet furniture is a creative way to use reclaimed pallets. You can find free pallets and other materials near you.

You’d be surprised how many DIY crafting and recycling items you can get for free — but you’ve got to know where to look for them.

Believe it or not, even in this day and age where it seems that it may cost money just to breathe (I’m not kidding!), there are still plenty of ways you can score free materials for crafting art projects, finishing DIY home improvement tasks, and beautifying your garden.

Still don’t believe me? Well, read on…

Free Pallets

There are several ways you can get free pallets — you know, those square-shaped wooden frames with slats used for transporting large amounts of merchandise and other goods via a fork lift or pallet jack.

Wood pallets aren’t usually made with the highest-quality wood (and many times they’re made from wood that’s been treated with chemicals), so do your research before you just go picking out any pallets, though.

If you can find some wood pallets that aren’t too badly damaged and aren’t made from pressure-treated lumber, then you can use those pallets for anything — from making pallet furniture to making your own container gardens from wood pallets!

There are several great ways to find free, reclaimed wood pallets.

But I urge you not to help yourself to wooden pallets laying behind stores, warehouses, or other places that use them. That is stealing. You’d be surprised at how many people think they have a right to back a pickup truck behind a store at night and haul away wood pallets. Many stores pay deposits for these pallets and they’ll be charged if the pallets aren’t returned. (Buying and selling pallets is actually serious business!)

Here are a few proven ways to legally obtain free wood pallets:

  • Ask store and warehouse managers if they have any unused pallets and find out if you may have them for free. Since larger companies usually have a process in place for dealing with their waste materials, think small businesses — they usually don’t have the resources to unload all of their scrap materials.
  • Check out online trade sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Freecycle. There’s almost always somebody unloading free or reclaimed pallets in those places.
  • Stop by a store that’s going out of business — they’ll probably have plenty of pallets you can have for free. (Just ask first.) The easiest way to find stores going out of business is to use Google Maps. Or use an app like Targetron, which is free for a list of up to 50 businesses.
  • Some construction sites have plenty of wood pallets and other scrap wood. Again, talk to the site manager first. Not only is it (usually) a felony to trespass or steal from construction sites, it just isn’t right, period. Walk up to the foreman or workers on duty, and ask. They may be happy to let you have some pallets or other scrap materials. Most times, these things are discarded anyway.

Some of the best stores & warehouses to find free pallets are:

  • Furniture stores
  • Facilities that deliver large amounts of paper products
  • Garden stores & nurseries
  • Power equipment stores
  • Motorcycle dealerships

Free Lumber

If you want free materials for your DIY projects -- such as wood -- here's a list of all the places to check!

Need a 3-foot length of 2×2 and don’t want to waste money by paying full price for a 6-foot or 8-foot length of lumber?

Maybe you just need a few short pieces of 1×2 for staking out where you want to plant some trees in your yard.

Next time you’re at a big box home improvement store or lumber yard, check and see if they have a bin of cull lumber scraps.

Cull lumber pieces of wood are:

  • Odd-length leftover scraps from large orders
  • Wood pieces the store hasn’t been able to sell
  • Damaged pieces of lumber

I’ve visited many home improvement stores and lumber yards where this culled scrap wood is available for free.

I’ve also been to a few places that charge for cull lumber, but they still provide steep discounts on the scrapped wood (usually 70% to 75% off).

Cull lumber is something that woodworkers and hobbyists alike are always looking to score for free.

I suggest calling nearby home improvement stores and lumber retailers to find out who’s offering free scrap wood and how you can obtain it. It sure beats paying full price for an 8-foot long 2×4, when all you need is a piece that’s 30 inches long for a simple home repair!

As seen in this next video, you might also want to scout out some demolition sites near you. There, you can find everything from old reclaimed barn wood that can be used as flooring… to scrap metal pieces that can be used for craft projects. Demolition sites typically don’t mind if you take a few scrap pieces of building materials that you happen to find… for free. (Obviously, check with the site foreman first. And don’t visit the site after hours.)

Free Barrels

Empty 55-gallon wood barrels, and wine barrels, and 55-gallon plastic or metal barrels are fantastic for DIY projects!

They can be used for so many different purposes:

Wood barrels, plastic barrels, and metal 55 gallon barrels can be found for free -- if you know where to look for them. Start here!

It seems to be getting harder and harder to find free barrels these days though.

For free 55-gallon plastic barrels, think of places that tend to go through a lot of liquids in their facility (like beverages, liquid cleaners, and other chemicals). Be sure to thoroughly clean any free barrels you receive — because many have contained fluids that are toxic to people, plants, and animals.

The demand for empty wooden barrels has increased to the point where many places that used to give them away for free (like wineries, breweries, and distilleries) are now charging for them. If you’re lucky, you can sometimes find old wooden barrels for a nominal cost of $5 to $10 — but still not free.

Here’s a summary of the places where you can count on picking up free barrels:

  • Beverage and bottling factories
  • Craigslist
  • Auto dealers
  • Food processing plants
  • Car washes
  • Yard and garden stores
  • Feed stores
  • Auto repair shops
  • Liquid processing plants
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Homebrew supply stores
  • City and county governments

Before using any reclaimed barrels, be sure to ask at the place where you got the barrels what they were used for. They will usually be upfront with you — so you can know, ahead of time, if anything hazardous was stored inside.

Free Dirt, Rocks, And Stones

Filling in some holes, ditches, or trenches in your yard?

Want some stones for concrete projects or water garden elements?

Well, you’re in luck… You should be able to find plenty of free dirt, rocks, and stones for your yard and DIY garden projects!

Start here:

  • Free fill dirt is often offered by contractor companies that are hauling away dirt from retention pond developments or roadway construction projects, for example. You could also stop and ask if you can have some free dirt at any construction site.
  • Smaller stones and pebbles are used for everything from cement aggregate and concrete finishing to decorative landscaping (instead of mulch) and beds in water garden ponds. Check with local construction sites, as well as neighbors who are working on their own DIY outdoor projects to see if there are any stones or pebbles they don’t want.
  • Larger rocks are perfect for yard decorations and landscaping projects. These are usually revealed only after some serious digging has been done on the property. Construction companies and contractors involved with excavation, dredging, and filtration may have large rocks that they’ve pushed to the side or piled up. The only way to know if you can have some free rocks is to ask them in person. Be sure to check with construction firms that dig holes for basements, pools, septic tanks, and underground pump systems, as well as any stone quarries in the area.

Once more… Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Freecycle are also great places to check for free dirt, rocks, and stones.

Before using any of these materials in your yard, you’ll want to make sure they aren’t polluted with hazardous materials from waste or toxic dumping

With dirt especially… Be careful of broken glass, rusty nails, bottle caps, and other forms of trash or litter.

You may even want to have your free dirt and rocks tested for hazardous materials and chemicals prior to using them in your yard.

Free Mulch

Mulch is great for gardens and landscapes because it can help retain moisture in the soil around your plants and give your yard a finished, manicured look.

The place where my dad works (a major zoological facility in Florida) gives its employees free mulch made from fallen trees and recycled wood used in the park.

There are many places to get free mulch for your landscape:

  • Check with local tree-trimming companies — they often supply free mulch from the trees they chop down and grind up.
  • Contact your local city or county government — they often provide free mulch for local residents. You can also check with the public works department or the environmental services department.
  • See if your local garden or home improvement stores are offering free mulch — sometimes they have more mulch on their hands than they can sell and will offer surplus for free.
  • As always, Craigslist, Freecycle, and Facebook Marketplace are good places to go for free products — including mulch.

Free Trees & Plants

Nothing beats getting a free tree! See a list of all the places you can find free trees and shrubs.

Ah, who wouldn’t want to spice up their landscape with some new trees and shrubbery?

Not only do plants provide us with oxygen, but they also remove carbon dioxide from the air, provide shade, entice wildlife into the yard, and help beautify the landscape.

Of course, you can spend $15 on a 3-gallon shrub or lay out $100 for a tree, but why do that when you can obtain trees and plants for free?

Start here:

  • The Arbor Day Foundation is well known for giving away free tree seedlings. These tiny trees are bundled in packs specifically chosen for your region of the country, ensuring the best opportunity for your little saplings to grow nice and tall without becoming invasive against other local species. You receive 10 free trees (and a magazine, a local planting guide, and tree & shrub discounts) simply by making a small donation of any size.
  • Local city and county governments also give away free trees and plants during events — such as Arbor Day and Earth Day.
  • Online gardening groups often have “swaps” — where you can trade some of your own plants for those from other members. These swaps sometimes include other free materials (like dirt, mulch, wood, and more). You can find such swaps via the website, the free plant swap app, and free plant swap groups.
  • Finally, check Craigslist, Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace, and your local classified ads in the newspaper or community circular for free trees and shrubs.

Free Holiday Craft Items

Looking for free holiday crafting items — such as pumpkins, Christmas trees, or flowers for wreaths, scrapbooks, or for pressing?

Pumpkins are sometimes given away for free late in the fall when they're no longer in high demand.

Knowing where to get these free materials depends on what you’re looking for and when in the year you want these items.

Want some pumpkins to decorate for autumn? Visit a local farm, fall festival, grocery store, or home improvement store on the day of Halloween or the first week of November, when these places are trying to get rid of remaining pumpkin inventory.

Flowers are often in surplus during the days immediately following a holiday — such as Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. Sometimes florists and grocery stores that sell flowers will give away flowers or sell them at deep discounts immediately after each holiday. These flowers are great for pressing — and dried flowers are perfect for other craft projects, such as centerpieces and wreaths!

Christmas tree lots and farms often give away free trees during their last day of operation -- on or near December 24.

Many Christmas tree lots give away scrawny trees for free. They also give unsold trees away (or sell them for a dramatically reduced price) during the last few days before Christmas. Some people even enjoy looking through the Christmas tree recycle piles organized by local cities in the last few days before Christmas, hoping to score a decent-looking tree that’s already been discarded! In addition, some generous Christmas tree companies give away free Christmas trees to veterans and others who are dealing with unique circumstances during the holiday season — but you’ll have to submit your request early to be considered for this one.

Need some inspiration?
Here are 4 fun ways to turn free materials into awesome DIY projects:

  1. You can make signs from pallets
  2. Repurpose everyday items as DIY projects
  3. You can make furniture from pallets
  4. Find clever uses for old things