The Top 3 Tiny Tips for Gathering Building Materials or Buy a Damn Good Barn

Ron standing behind Shiny Tiny Mansion giving the TINY gang sign!

{You might notice that all of the videos are unavailable. That is because in the earlier days of blogging, we were told we would be sued because of the music (labeled fair use) we were using in the videos. Being newbees, we immediately took all of the videos down. So…they are not available. : ( } –updated 1/20/23

This will be our first “Tip List” for when you are still in that dream stage about building your own Shiny Tiny Mansion. Everyone tells me lists are a big deal here on the interwebs, but first, a little background about our personal experience with this. You can watch our video here to see what happens after 20 years of collecting and storing – improperly! (Don’t judge too harshly since this is our first video and there are plenty of mistakes to go around 😉

Top Tips for Realistically Gathering Materials for Your Own Shiny Tiny Mansion

Tip #1 – Only collect what you can get REALLY cheap and will use within 1 year ~Don’t over collect just because something is free or a great deal –  just buy it new when you need it and save the time and hassles ~ Here’s why~~~ Unless you already own a Damn Nice Empty Dry Barn/Garage, whatever you try to store under tarp or ark will start to go sour and rot. Wood does not like moisture, so if you are “reclaiming” wood from tear-downs or dumpsters, think about how long it’s already been sitting there before you target it. Inspect every piece carefully. If you see mold, black, or soft spots, for God’s sake ~ DON’T TAKE IT!! On top of that, reclaimed wood can have bugs living within it. You really should have it kiln dried after reclaiming it to kill all critters and varmints that could be lurking within. We only use kiln dried, wood on all my reclaimed furniture, and that’s why. I have seen little piles of powdered wood dust lying under “reclaimed” furniture, and that’s not a pleasant surprise. You sure as Hell don’t want Powder Post beetles or termites partying in your walls when you can’t see them! {Sue interjects–unless you happen to have a bunch of tiny party hats}  You take your chances when you try to save money 😉

TIP #2 ~ Things like vinyl windows, gutters, sinks, or PVC pipe are plastic, and will be OK if covered well.
~~~~It’s OK to collect stuff on the cheap that won’t rot like plastic, vinyl, or porcelain – metal will rust and copper will oxidize. Don’t think metal won’t rot – it will! {We know first hand.}

One downside to reclaiming is the inconvenience and time in the labor of retrieving, cleaning, pulling nails, checking for bad spots, bleeding, hauling, stacking, storing~ the list goes on and on. But if you don’t count all that stuff, you can save a lot of money. In all honesty, we have 3 or 4 gorgeous, crank-out, vinyl, casement windows in the shed that retail for $600-$800 each. I bought them at the Mt.Hope auction about 8 years ago (same auction I just took our collection to) for $15 each! They were brand new. I plan {He said “plan” not planned.  Maybe there is still hope for my tiny kitchen : )} to use them in Sue’s new tiny kitchen some day, but in the meantime, they take up a lot of room, and more than once, I have thought about selling them.  If you don’t count the retrieving, cleaning, checking for bad spots, bleeding, hauling, stacking, storing. . . you remember? ~ they were a great deal and have been cussed at more than once a week for 8 years now.

Tip #3 ~ Look for stuff at your local hardware in the discount bin. If it’s marked down or a floor model, ask for an even larger discount.
~~~I have bought tens of thousands worth of stuff over the last 30 years for hundreds, just by asking or finding really good deals on closeouts and discounts. You may think that there is no reason for us to still do this “budget searching,” but you would be incorrect Sir and/or Madam!

Just last week I was at our local hardware, Keim Lumber, which happens to be one of the largest in the US and maybe in the world. They have a “Bargain Bin” larger than many local hardware stores. After 8 years of hard use, our 50 cent, auction find, main doorknob had seen better days, and we needed a new one. So I went fishing around in “The Bin” and found a very expensive, (over $100) hand wrought black entrance knob that was simple, clean and HEAVY! Perfect! It was closed-out and marked down to $14.99! Trouble was, it didn’t have a latch or strike plate (the little curved plate that mounts on your door jamb and catches the latch), so it was basically useless. I asked Andy, my Amish buddy, if maybe they had the piece behind the desk. He looked with no luck, and then we scoured the shelving together and came up empty. He said he would mark it way down if I took it, but after years and years of buying stuff like this because it’s such a great deal, and then never finding the parts to use it, I declined. It used some weird latch that I had never seen before, so I couldn’t even sister it together with another latch. I asked him to hold it for me though until I contacted the manufacturer to see what I could find out about getting the missing pieces.

I took a picture of the item number and contacted Acorn Manufacturing, who makes some really great quality, hand forged, heavy stuff. I have used their strap hinges on some old timey pieces in the past. Yes, this is a blatant, honest, no commission, endorsement of them. After a few emails back and forth, Phil, from Acorn, found the missing pieces and asked where to ship them. I told him how grateful I was, but needed to know how much it would cost before I said “YAY! I’ll take it.”   This is his actual email to me ~

“Ron, those ST5BI sets are discontinued from our line and we no longer have them available. I’ll send you the parts to you as factory replacements at no charge to you. They’ll be at the post office in about an hour. Have a great day! Phil”

OMG!Talk about customer service!
They have a customer for life whenever I need that style of hardware. This is the old-timey customer service that we all long for now-a-days, but never find.

Sorry, didn’t mean to write a soliloquy here! Anyway, we now have a gorgeous new, main doorknob. Andy marked it down to $5 and Acorn wins an unasked for endorsement and a life long customer!

In closing, on this far-too-long third and final “Collecting Materials Tip” ~ Always look for bargains and always ask for a better discount ~ even at Lowes and Home Depot. I have gotten great deals with them just by asking. The worst you can do is be told NO, or better yet be laughed at 🙂 I love when that happens because it gives me a reason to laugh with the clerk, and sometimes that will get you the discount you were after in the first place. If it doesn’t, who can’t use a good laugh with your new lumberyard or hardware friend. Just remember ~ WWAD ~ What Would Andy Do ~ Why~ old Andy will give you a discount if you ask!!!

Cheers until next time and don’t forget to be nice and share (:>)~   Ron
PS. For any comments you don’t want to post on the blog, feel free to contact me directly and privately at

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