Five Things You Should Know About Shopping For Salvage
Let’s rewind 12 months… I was living in East London and house hunting in Margate. I had big dreams of renovating a beautiful seafront townhouse and filling it with fabulous salvage which I lovingly hunted down and perfectly restored. The reality is… it’s not that easy. As someone who has spent years shopping for vintage clothing and bric-a-brac, I really thought shopping in salvage yards would right up my street. I don’t want to shatter anyones dreams, but there is a few things you should know first!
It’s Not That Cheap
I’m such a homebuyer cliche! I totally remember an episode of Grand Designs where a man basically built a house and bought practically everything from a salvage / reclamation yards. It was sold to us viewers as a wonderful way of buying beautiful materials at an affordable price. Turns out, it was a pretty old episode of Grand Designs and over the years salvage has become pretty damn popular and has a new found price tag to reflect. Whilst I wouldn’t call salvage expensive, it’s deffo not cheap. It’s basically the same as vintage clothing, at one time you would have found a beautiful designed and crafted vintage dress for a fraction of the price of a modern high street version, these days, the prices are much the same. On my travels I have seen some bargains, but I have also found some over-priced tat! The phone box in the photo above was about £2,000… just saying!
You Might Have to Join A Waiting List
I wish I was kidding, but I’m not! Many Salvage / Reclamation yards have a waiting list for desirable items. If you have your heart set on a round marble top table, English Oak flooring or Victorian Double Front Door, you might have to ask for assistance and ask to be put on a waiting list. You might be waiting a week for the call, you might be waiting a month, but if you have workmen booked in to fit the items, you might need to search round some other salvage yards or look for a modern option that you can buy in case you can’t get it in time. We tried to order 40 square meters of reclaimed pine flooring for the extension and the waiting list was 8 – 12 weeks. We made a few other calls and managed to get the wait time down to 6 weeks, but even then, it was too long to wait as ideally you need an additional 4 weeks for the wood to acclimatise to the building and shrink / expand as it needs. Tip: Ideally you should give all wood floors (new or old) some time to ‘settle’ before they are fitted, if you can manage 2-4 weeks, that’s the best!
Radiators & Electrical’s
Wow! I sound like a real killjoy in this post… please bare with me! I really wanted vintage radiators in our house as they are absolutely stunning. However, they are quite problematic as they tend to be less efficient to heat rooms and the parts needed to fit them can be super hard to source. It’s likely your plumber won’t be interested in tracking rare parts down from ebay / specialist suppliers. Yes, you could do it yourself, if you know what you are looking for, but if you are anything like me, you will have no idea what you need. It’s for this reason I ended up buying vintage style radiators from B&Q, I’m not gonna lie, they were a lot less effort and they look great. Electrical’s are easier to work with, just factor in a little extra budget to get them rewired by an electrician. It won’t cost a fortune, nor take too long, but it’s something to consider. Also, it’s very tricky to find multiples of items, so if you want the radiators, lights and doors to match, salvage might not be for you and instead opt for stand-alone items like a front door, coat hooks or even a suit of arms!
Unlike B&Q, you can’t tick the ‘Next Day Home Delivery’ button at a salvage yard! If you don’t have a big enough car / van, you might have to hire a van to transport the item back to your house. If the salvage yard is far, consider using Anyvan.com, it often works out much cheaper than a regular man with a van (van drivers use this website to find jobs which are en-route if they have a half filled van or they have an empty van on their return journey).
So, you have your dream 1920’s sink, the perfect victorian chandelier and stunning 1950’s bathroom tiles. Amazing! They took weeks to source and cost a small fortune, but who really cares! The final thing you need to do, is get them fitted in your home. This is *not* the time to get your cousin’s mate in on a cheap days rate. You need to find skilled workmen who know exactly what they are doing and treat your treasures with the respect they deserve. The reclaimed items won’t be perfect, which is part of their charm, however, you want the tradesmen to be highly skilled to give you the perfect finish and willing fit non-standard items. This isn’t your average flatpack furniture, it’s a little more specialist!
Find your local Salvage / Reclamation yard online and pop along to visit, make sure you ask plenty of questions, take photos and ask prices. Don’t buy anything big on impulse, instead, go home, think about it and consult your builders first. That amazing stain-glass window that would look dreamy in your hallway, might not even be the right size for the window!