CONTEST and “40+ Ideas- Dumpster Dived/Free items to build/decorated/craft your home with!”

glass dinner plate

by Derek “Deek” Diedricksen

Hey All,

I just had a little fun shooting this one-take DIY-idea video on using free and salvaged goods for decorating and construction, from windows to wall hangings, and while some of the ideas might be ultra-bizarre, others might be practical enough for your needs, or better yet, might spark another new idea in YOU.

Below, for readers, I’ve also added a few more photos of examples that the video DOES NOT cover (and believe me, I have about 100 more, but the video is long enough already!).

Building on a budget is something I always make sure to cover in the workshops I host for Tumbleweed, and the ones I host/set-up on my own, in fact, our April 26th-28th build/3-day workshop with Steven Harrell in North Carolina, will not only incorporate A LOT of hands-on building, but a good deal of free-form design, salvage construction, and recycled material problem solving- ALWAYS fun! We do have a few slots left, but not many at all, and some INCREDIBLE guest speakers and demos planned! Check out the flyer below for a full listing of our AWESOME guest teachers- its more or less a “Tiny House Convention” at this point. Just crazy…

North Carolina Workshop

Aside from this new video….here are a few photo examples and their explanations. Some are taken from my book “Humble Homes, Simple Shacks“, while others are brand new shots which might end up in the next book.

Some of you will see this video, or these photos and think “Bah, this is pure rubbish, hogwash, and tomfoolery- with a dash of nonsensical illogicality ta’ boot!” (as you then re-don your monocle in a huff) , but you’re missing the point….I’m just attempting to get people to see beyond the face value and widespread and definitive use of any given object that might be in front of ’em. ‘Nuthin more….and hopefully you at least walk away from it with one or two new ideas.

If you have any great ideas, post ’em below, and the one or two with the best recycled usage concepts, just may get a nice new tiny house book from Lloyd Kahn (“Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter“), or Gerald Rowan “Compact Cabins“, mailed to ’em. Heck, maybe I’ll even film a little video on it, credit you, or even invite you to be part of the video for my “Tiny Yellow House” youtube fire away and good luck!

-Derek “Deek” Diedricksen


Dehydrating apple slices

Dehydrating apple slices on a junk screen window, over a wood stove safety “cage” built from scraps (to protect the kids). The screen is aluminum, hence the dish towels under the fruit to space the edibles away from it.

freebee bowl

A freebie bowl (originally from Ikea) that I connected to the floor of my video-toured “Wolfe’s Den” Tree House in The Catskills. You can’t see it in the photo, but a bird feeder hangs beneath this bowl-window, so that you can watch birds beneath you, through the floor (they usually can’t see you above, so you can get inches away from ’em).

scrap art

Scrap art paintings on left-over wood hunks n’ blocks- just for fun…

glass-bowl-style windows

Another example of glass-bowl-style windows, set and caulked into scrap plywood rings, which were then sealed and attached to this tree house that I built way out in Vermont a couple years back.

washing machine window

Washing machine window on my little cabin “The GottaGiddaWay” (also for sale- $500)- here, a little girl peeks through it at a eco-convention we displayed the structure at down on Cape Cod. Photo is from my book.

pressure-fit, bookshelf

Weird, pressure-fit, bookshelf, made from pipe fittings, and a few stretched bicycle inner tubes. Good for boating perhaps, as those books won’t fall out easily.

 thin-strapping trim work

An example of thin-strapping trim work (all from leftover lengths) in my side foyer. Even if you buy this type wood, its about 1/8th the cost of linear foot trim you’d otherwise have to use. An eight foot piece is less than $2.00.

rustic maple branches

Poly-coated lengths of rustic maple branches help support a small portion of my tiny house book collection. FREE, and I love the look.

recycled and free items

Loads of recycled and free items in a tiny guest cabin I’ve been working on. This cabin is where some guest of mine end up staying at the MA workshops I hold (among other structures on my property). Its a mere 8′ by 8′ by 8′ in size. We’ll have a video tour of this when its done. Still LOTS of work to do.


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Molly - March 3, 2013 Reply

I LOVE your creativity! Thanks for sharing with us 🙂

alice h - March 3, 2013 Reply

I keep finding bundled wood bed slats in the alley, they’re a great source of 1×4’s for little projects. My current favourite junk treasure from the thrift shop is a couple of little copper vase sort of doodads that I set on top of a bunch of bamboo poles to keep them together for making bean teepees in the garden. Tres uptown. Sometimes I raid the blue bins on garbage day for useful plastic containers to make self-watering planters. If I see crapped out suitcases or golf bags or whatever in the alley I cut off the buckles and various hardware bits to use in the sewing room. One day there was a seriously ugly waiting room type couch out there but the frame was all solid oak so I dragged that home and took it apart. My granddaughter is collecting nuts and bolts and interesting metal stuff to make a robot statue so we go on alley walks together. I can’t believe some of the stuff we find – enough tiles to cover a coffee table, a double laundry sink (only needed a bit of mending), bike wheels to make carts, a bunch of granite and marble samples that we now use for trivets, and it just goes on and on. Even found a gorgeous cast iron garden bench that just needs new wood parts. I now have enough old wooden gates to make a new compost container and an old scratched up plastic skylight to put a top on it to keep the rain and raccoons out. I found some big chunks of scrap copper flashing in the trash at one construction site so we’re making decorative stuff for the garden with it.

Debra - March 3, 2013 Reply

I love you! you…..are….crazy….

My most awesome dumpster dive find was a humongous mirror on a door. I put trim around it, and propped it up beside my bed for the longest. Now I am in a tiny house and it had to earn its right to survive…….I put hinges back on it, screwed it to a frame made of rough 2 x 6 shelves I made, and now it lives happily alongside other hard working dumpster dive finds. You can check it out here: Dumpster dive find

Leigh - March 4, 2013 Reply

All my friends know to call me whenever they find mirror glass of any kind, even broken. I use it in random pieces fitted tightly together in mosaic table tops, counter tops etc. i used a lot of it with other bits of glass & ceramic to completely cover a wing back chair. First I ripped off the upholstery and replaced that with bendable plywood, then covered it all with the mirrors & mosaic while making sure there were no sharp edges. Sold it for $1,500. The next one I did was stolen before I finished it. Now I am accumulating enough mirror to completely cover my garage wall facing my house to make the tiny garden between them look bigger and make the cinderblock garage wall camouflaged. My latest “find” was a beat up shed elk antler that made a great pot rack hung from the ceiling with 2 lenghts of chain and bits of heavy wire bent to make the pot hooks.

BOB HENRY - March 4, 2013 Reply

As absurd as it is raiding a dumpster is theft. After 2 brushes with the law I gave it up. I will however browse the trash at the curb for useful items. Vacuume sweepers for the 20 + foot cords for 12 volt wiring. Ironically many of the beater bar type simply had strands of carpet fiber pack into the roler bearings to the point of frying the belt. A new $3.00 belt and a cleanout and a drop of light oil and mant were good to go. Some I sold some I gave a few to needy friends but the salvagable ones always found homes after they were repaired. I have been blessed with terrific friends who call me about finds and often deliver the goods. Let me present a few. A truck load of youngstown steel cabinets. A truck load of left over parts from a pop up stripdown. Yep converters cabinets drawers upright coolers lp furnaces water storage and delivery equipment sinks Lift mechanisms and on and on. Even trailers headed to the scrap yard were offered for free to avoid the hassle of hauling them
( yes I gratiously accepted them) Tossed out house plants have found loving care and shelter in our home. I can not count the number of bookcases, shelving units and desks I have repaired and repurposed. My most recent project was offering free haul away for old heavy clunky projection TV’s. I wanted the fresnel lenses they all contain for a few solar experiments. I was offered 8-10 but gave up accepting after 4. These netted plexiglas for table top protecters casters 5 pounds of screws and fastners various metal tracks and channels and 3 very nice mirrors. These all were absolutely free and everyone was very happy. Some to see them go and others like me to get them. Recycle, repurpose, and reuse !

Teal - March 4, 2013 Reply

My brother is one of the guys with the monocles who uses words like “tom-foolery”. He recently changed the mainsail on his yacht (yes, really) and because I am a textile artist who re-purposes fabric for purses and such, he offered me the sail to “see what I could do with it”. Being the non-yacht-owning type, I had no idea just how much fabric we were talking about. It’s huge! So now I am designing a yurt – the sail is perfect as it’s already water resistant and storm-ready. I have a 320sqft cabin in northern Ontario, and the yurt will be guest accomodation. There may even be enough left for a few purses! I have now been offered as many sails as I want as the yacht club members change them regularly. Perhaps I could build a village!

Wehaf - March 6, 2013 Reply

I turned an old wooden futon into a porch gate! It looks awesome and saved me a ton of work.

russell - March 9, 2013 Reply

I find things on the side of the road all the time. I found a end table with all the coners smash. Wood putty and contact paper. I still carry it for over 15 years. Found a twin headboard with a rose on it made it into a kid toybox. Found a set of coffee table and ends that where glass. No glass, I sanded down, put tile slabs in the cut outs, new paint. Look great. Find old carpet, Cut it to make runners,shapes rugs for yoga mats. I take old shutters, make cabents out of them.Old door= tables, workstation.

sabrina mantle - March 9, 2013 Reply

Take the round lids you get when you open a tin can and ‘shingle’ something. Saw this on Pintrest both covering a wall and a table and it’s quite beautiful. I plan to use a variation of this for a sculpture I am doing for Ecosculpt 2013 here in Cincinnati. See pic here,

Charlie - March 9, 2013 Reply

I love dumpster diving,when you can access them anyway. It’s amazing what people throw away!
On another note, does anyone know where I can get a subscription to Tiny House Magazine? I’ve looked online, and in the magazine section and can’t find a copy anywhere that might have a subscription card in it. HELP!

Tonita - March 9, 2013 Reply

Great post. While my tiny house was built with mostly new materials the inside is filled with many free items found at garage sales, on the street, and also in garbage piles. My latest find was a beautiful vintage trunk in EXCELLENT condition for it’s age which I use in one loft for storage. I also scored big when my neighbor moved out and left what he called ‘garbage’ behind. I got an old vintage high boy dresser and used the 2 top drawers to make a mini dresser for my other tiny house loft. I used old chair legs from free chairs to make a foot board for my bed. I used a wooden desk top from a curbside find to create a head board. I created a fireplace mantle from and old chippy painted door I found. I uncovered a huge set of vintage wine glasses that are beautiful and worth quite a bit if I wanted to sell them but I don’t. You can look at my blog to see different ways to up cycle free items.
Here is a good site to give you more info into finding treasures in the trash.

Kathryn - March 9, 2013 Reply

Very creative and talented. I love the style and usage you get from all these items.

Angela - March 9, 2013 Reply

Great post! I acquired a piece of steel that had been discarded after disks were cut from the original sheet. I cut a piece from it for the floor entry in my 136′ tiny house and ‘grouted’ in the circle voids with Milestone (polymerized concrete). Best pics can be viewed on my Photo Album page at under headings, ‘Some Interim Progress’ and ‘The Next Big Move’. Also turned an antique iron trivet into a coat hook on my door and used a rusty, old wood stove door for a cook fan vent cover.

Lynde - March 9, 2013 Reply

I am a paper freak. I get boxes of card stock (old sale signs they change every week where I work) and the resulting first sculpture got 2nd place at an art show. I make jewelry from the scrap paper and cardstock that seems to flow magically to my house from friendly people wanting to see what I will do next. I now have it mind to start building furniture from paper after seeing some and the idea of it being light weight is good. If a guy can build a working paper bike that will hold 400lb human and houses can be built of it, why not. The oldest paper house I have found is called, “The Paper House” of course.

    Judy - March 9, 2013 Reply

    The link above shows a basket that I wove using reed and raffia on a Fallon deer antler that I found in my yard from a self-shedding deer.The antler makes a great handle and the feather was also found discarded from a bird a few months earlier. My next natural recycle/restore project will involve a shed snakeskin that I found.

Eryri the Eagle - March 10, 2013 Reply

I love it! I wonder of you have used or know anyone who has used opened out food tins as shingles for tiny house exterior walls?

Shell - March 10, 2013 Reply

Wow…wow…wow….the ideas you come up with as well as the people on this page. Amazing…My head hurts, I can’t keep up, but I am impressed and so inspired. Thank you : )

Rochelle Earp - March 19, 2013 Reply

I love up-cycling items! Those key-plates, I would reuse them with old fashioned keys – a simple wire brush, coat of poly, super-glue the key onto them for hooks in the bathroom or mud-room. I also reuse silverware, GREAT for bending and manipulating for hooks/kitchen decorations that have purpose! I think it’s fun to find multi-uses for anything, my best fin was 3 interior window cornice boxes, I flipped them upside down, gave them a fresh coat of paint and poly on the inside, drilled a few holes covered by used coffee filters, attached them to my shed – filled them with potting soil – voila easy miniature garden! Still use them!

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