This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in June 2012.
Some of the best garage sale purchases we’ve made over the last few years haven’t been in the furniture or decor departments – they’ve been simple tools and building materials. I’ve been able to acquire many items for a fraction of the retail price, giving me access to products that are constantly coming in handy and allowing me to save a few extra dollars.
It’s that wonderful time of year where homeowners are embracing the spring cleaning spirit, so if you’re needing to supplement your work bench, now’s a good time to start.
1. Screws and Nails.
Many homeowners start projects, over-purchase basic materials, and don’t know what to do with the leftovers. I’ve been lucky to pick up those leftovers, things like deck screws, wall anchors, and roofing and finishing nails for a dollar or two. If you have some experience buying big boxes of screws at hardware stores, you’ll know this is easily a $10-20 savings. Maybe even more, depending on what you’re buying. And if you have an organized way to store them in your workshop, it’s always convenient to have spares on hand, because you never know when your garage roof is going to blow off or when you’re going to want to save a few dollars while you install new baseboard trim.
2. Screw drivers.
As far as I’m concerned, screw drivers are as handy as can be, and whether you’re a renter or a homeowner, you need them in your arsenal. There’s a set in my kitchen tool drawer. Two of each at the basement workbench. A set in the garage. A set in the shed. A set in my car. One randomly laying on the coffee table. They’re plentiful at garage sales, and they’re not a product that gets damaged easily, so buy what you find used, and invest the few dollars you save into your next DIY project.
Whether it be a post level like the one shown below (a 50-cent garage sale find that made installing our deck posts in cement infinitely easier), or a more common box beam level, if you can find one that seems to be in good shape, buy it up. Test it out at the sale on certain things you would assume to be square (a doorframe, the edge of the seller’s house). They’re always handy.
We bought a huge roll of aluminum foil HVAC duct tape for $3 at a garage sale a few years ago, the kind that according to our local store would retail for $33.00. I see partial rolls at garage sales still from time to time, presumably from someone who patches their dryer vent and then doesn’t need the other 74 yards of tape on the roll. If we didn’t already have so much in our stash, I’d be buying more. Keep an eye out for it, it’s DIY homeowner gold.
Bench plane, box plane, whatever model it is, it’s always nice to have one in your collection. It’s not every day that you’ll use it, but that one time you need to shave a little bit of wood off that doorframe, you’ll be happy you have it. Bonus: many at garage sales are antiques, made really well, and nicer to have in your workshop.
More than just a quick triple letter Scrabble word. All I can say is, you never know when you’re going to need one, but you’re going to be happy to have it while you dig enormous shrubs out of your yard or want to break up some firewood. Ours was 25-cents because it was dull. Whaaaa? Right. I brought it home, sharpened it right up, and now we have a great little tool.
7. Gardening Claw.
If you don’t have a tiller, or you don’t have a big yard to be weeding and churning, this hand-operated gardening claw will make you a happy person. Mine was free (I love that free bin!) and has served me well for years as I loosened soil for planting vegetables and flowers in the yard.
Still in the gardening theme, don’t overlook shovels. Our little orange garden spade was a great find (also free, if I recall, we’re lucky like that). Keep in mind that if the wooden handle is in bad shape or broken, you can usually replace that inexpensively and make it like new.
Handsaws are plentiful, and you should probably have one on hand even if you have an arsenal of power tools too. Ours was just $3 (the sticker’s even still on the handle) and works great in a pinch, like when you’re trying to make raised planters in the backyard and the circular saw doesn’t quite cut deep enough.
10. Drill bits.
More so than standard bits, I’ve come across a fair number of specialty bits at garage sales like this one for drilling glass. Maybe the homeowner bought two and didn’t need both? In any case, my win.