More Green For Less Green

Living more eco-friendly for less money


Habitat for Humanity ReStore: Highs and Lows

We hoped to get as many supplies as possible for our basement remodel from Habitat for Humanity ReStore. ReStore is like a thrift store for building supplies, selling  new and used building materials at 50-90% off retail prices. In my area, we've got the  Habitat for Humanity ReStores of Northern Virginia in Chantilly and Alexandria, VA as well as the Manassas ReStore.

Here are the highs and lows from our ReStore visits...

The last day of 2012, armed with an end-of-the-year 20% off coupon, my father-in-law's van (plus trailer), a list of supplies and specs, tile samples, and baby Elden, we headed to the Chantilly ReStore. We were particularly interested in their large tile selection, which we'd scoped out on an earlier visit. We also hoped to find a vanity, medicine cabinet, light fixtures, and whatever else could work.

These stores are not luxury stores. They can be cluttered, smelly, overly hot or cold, etc. While the deals are amazing, you have to be prepared to work to unearth some of the gems. It is very much a self-help environment and you do have to know what you are looking for and pay attention to details. If you have a smart phone or tablet, bring it so you can look up any needed details (e.g., a user's manual for a dishwasher, if the lightbulbs that a old light fixture needs are still made, etc.) Looking through the tile was tedious work. We spent about 45-minutes moving boxes, looking through stacks of open tile, scrutinizing thickness and color, and making calculations.  

While we love incorporating our kids in all kinds of projects, we were glad that Vaughn was hanging out with his grandparents for this part. If sorting through tile tested my patience, it definitely would've tested the patience of a toddler. On the other hand, Elden was in a wrap and pretty happy as long as I kept bouncing.

Thank you, Kindercoat, for keeping us both warm! The store was chilly with the big bay doors open.

We ended up finding a close match for the tile we brought in with us (scavenged from the shed of random things that conveyed with the house) and managed to gather up about 80% of what we needed.

After the tile hunt, things moved faster. We found a medicine cabinet that had some retro appeal as well as enough door handles for the entire basement. While brass doesn't fit in with what we have in mind, these have some style to them. At a mere $2 a pop, we can afford to spray paint them to create the oil-rubbed bronze finish we're planning.

As we walked around, we were struck by the idea of a deep bathtub (with our without jets). Dave loves a good soak and our beloved turquoise 1950s tub on the main floor doesn't quite cut it in terms of size.  But, in a house with a mere 1,100 square foot footprint, a big tub doesn't really fit. We hemmed and hawed.  We moved tubs out of the way to get to other tubs.  We measured. We squabbled. We walked away. We walked back. 

Finally, we agreed on a small Jacuzzi tub that is a standard length, but is a bit wider and deeper than a normal tub. With our coupon, it would cost us just $64 (down from $80). At that price, we wouldn't be out much if it didn't work out.

After paying our tab (about $110), we loaded up and headed out. Victory was ours!

The following weekend, we borrowed the van and trailer again and visited the Alexandra ReStore. The big thing at this store is cabinetry. There is tons of it. We found several things that we sort-of liked--a bathroom vanity as well as cabinets to create a small wet bar (i.e., green cleaner creation station) but neither had a counter top. After much debate, we decided that we were not up to dealing with obtaining those on top of all of the other decisions we needed to make. So, we walked away empty-handed, which was deflating. On the up-side, we had both boys with us for that trip. Vaughn had lots of fun being worn on Dave's back and trying to saw anything he could reach with his toy saw.

For our trip to the Manassas ReStore, we decided to forgo borrowin the van and trailer since that adds at least an hour. Late one Friday afternoon, we packed up the kids in the Matrix and headed out on a whim. We figured if we found something we liked, we'd send out contractor back for it within 24 hours. The Manassas store is really well organized and the staff and volunteers were exceptionally friendly. This is a two-level store. The main level is all kinds of things: cabinets, lights, vanities, etc. The basement is flooring and doors. There was loads of modern looking, new, in-the-box tile--enough to do a whole small project. There also was loads and loads of  plain 4x4 square tiles. Unfortunately for us, there was nothing that matched the other elements we'd already selected for the bathroom. So, we passed. But, someone else is going to be thrilled with those finds. We saw several folks carrying around things that we would've bought, had we been just a few minutes earlier to snag them first. We got there only 30 minutes before closing time, which was very stressful. This is the kind of store that I like to have lots of contemplation time in (let alone time for making calculations, measuring, etc.). Plus, it was almost dinner time and our boys were melting down.

The days we walk away empty-handed are a bit deflating, but as with any secondhand shopping trip: you win some and you lose some. That said, at prices with that huge of a discount, it is worth an attempt (or two, or three). Inventory at these stores changes rapidly, so we know to keep on checking back. We also follow the various ReStore locations on Facebook because they post a few pictures of new items each month.

If we end up with a free day to drive up to Baltimore, I'd love to check out Second Chance, which has an impressive 200,000 square feet of architectural salvage retail space. Baltimore has so many old homes that they get in really unique things as well as modern stuff.

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At January 28, 2013 at 11:34 PM , Blogger Emma said...

I used to live in Baltimore. Can't remember if we ever actually bought anything at Second Chance, but it is an AWESOME place to just look around in. Tons of interesting salvage.


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