Finding authentic materials when you are renovating a house can be a feat. This is especially true if your home is a historic property. So, what is a homeowner with a love of old houses to do? Luckily, there are plenty of places to find authentic materials for whatever renovation project you need to tackle. You just have to know where to look.

Contractors and Building Supply

If you are taking on a large project that requires professional expertise, such as a slate roof, start by talking to your contractor. Make sure you find one who specializes in these type of period projects. A contractor may have a supplier of authentic materials that they work with on a regular basis for similar jobs. If you are skilled enough to complete the project without a professional contractor, the building supply store should be your first stop. Even if they don’t have the period materials you need, they may be able to point you towards a local supplier. For example, if you are in need of unique doors, a local carpenter may be your best bet.

Online Shopping

The Internet has made finding authentic materials easier than ever. The powers of the world wide web can help you find local contractors and craftspeople. Websites for local businesses can help you determine if they are worth contacting about your renovations. But the Internet can do more than that. Online shopping has changed the world of commerce, and authentic materials for home improvement projects are no exception to this rule.

Auction sites

You can find just about anything for sale on sites like eBay. However, this works best for smaller items rather that are easier to ship, such as fixtures, etc. For larger items, you may want to use the feature that connects you with local sellers or try searching a site like Craigslist that will help you find sellers in your area. Remember to be cautious when meeting up with private sellers and arrange to meet in a public place if at all possible.

Specialty shops

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you are no longer restricted to brick and mortar stores in your area. Now, technology allows you to connect with specialty shops from around the world. Looking for historically accurate shutters? Yes, there’s a store for that. No matter what you are shopping for, there is someone somewhere who sells it and now, you can buy from them even if they are on the other side of the globe. Just remember always to do your due diligence when buying items online sight unseen. Check reviews of the store and their products before you make a final decision.

Local Options

Buying authentic materials can quickly get expensive and shipping costs add to the price. For projects that you have more time to work on, consider shopping locally for used items. You may be quite surprised at how many things you can find in your area when you know where to look. Not to mention how much money you can save by shopping for second-hand materials

Antique stores

When buying authentic materials used, antique stores are probably the most expensive option. However, they do tend to have items in better shape than some of the other options. Another advantage to antique stores is that the people who work there tend to have knowledge and information about the items they have on sale. What year is that light fixture from? What kind of wood is that door made of? Antique stores are likely to have answers to questions like these.

Sanford and Sons antique shop in Tacoma, Wash. is chock-full of furniture, decorations, and more.

Good morning! #sanfordandsonantiques

Posted by Sanford and Son Antiques – 3 Floors and 20 shops! on Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Just remember that antique stores don’t tend to keep a constant inventory. They may not have what you are looking for today, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get it in next week. So, make sure you check back often.

Architectural salvage

Architectural salvage yards specialize in fixtures, framing, furnishings, doors, windows, and other materials from older homes. Sadly, these items’ original homes were often dilapidated and either got torn down or updated beyond recognition. The photo below is from Ohmega Salvage, a sprawling lot in Berkeley, Calif. Chances are, there’s one near you (or at least within driving distance), try searching Google. For a list of architectural salvage yards by state, click here to visit the Old Houses Online website.

Looking for a new porch light? Look no further.

Posted by Ohmega Salvage on Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Thrift shops

Resale stores like Goodwill and the Salvation Army are another source of authentic materials that you don’t want to overlook. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. When people renovate their homes, they will often donate their leftover materials and the old items they removed to thrift shops. Check any local resale stores in your area, especially those that focus on building supplies. Like antique stores, thrift shops tend to have a high turnover of merchandise, so check back regularly for new items that may have come in since your last visit.

You never know what you’ll find in a thrift shop. The photo below comes from FIND Thrift Store in Jamestown, New York.

Posted by FIND Thrift Store on Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Yard sales and flea markets

Yard sales and flea markets can be a goldmine when it comes to finding authentic materials for your house. Like with thrift stores, people often decide to resell extra supplies after completing their own home improvements. People also sell items that have been lying around their attics and garages for years, and this “junk” could be exactly what you need for your renovation project. Don’t forget to make friends with anyone you come across who is still in the process of renovating their home so that they can contact you later if they have more items they think you might be interested in.

Auctions and estate sales

Keep your eyes open for estate sales and auctions when you are on the hunt for authentic materials to renovate your house. These are usually advertised in your local newspaper. Most times, the ad will give you an overview of what they have for sale but realize that every item won’t be listed here. Even if they don’t say that the items you are looking for will be up for sale, consider attending anyway if the house or other items listed are from the time period when your house was built.

The photos below show a sampling from a vintage auction by Norman’s Auctions in New South Wales, Australia.

A small sample of our Retro & Vintage Auction coming up on Saturday 27th May. Head to our website at for more pics. #retro #vintage #auction #antiques #finearts

Posted by Normans Auctions on Saturday, May 6, 2017

Renovating an old home is a daunting task and finding authentic materials for your house is one of the biggest hurdles you will face throughout the rehab process. Thankfully, technology has made it easier than ever to find the supplies you need to create the home of your dreams. Getting your hands on authentic materials can be time-consuming, especially if you are on a budget. However, it can most certainly be done if you shop in the right places.

Featured image: CC by A-SA 3.0 Unported, by Marx01, via Wikipedia Commons

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