With society’s ‘throwaway’ mentality, it’s not surprising that a person should be able to locate where to find free scrap metal. In this article, we go over ideas you may not think of to keep yourself busy creating all sorts of projects or even scrapping for extra cash. From welding to forging and metal artwork there is free metal laying around somewhere just waiting for you to find it.
Free scrap metal can be found at 1) local construction sites, 2) metal fabrication shops, 3) local landfills, 4) Trade schools, 5) online ads, 6) Facebook market places, 7) Industrial sites, 8) Apps like iScrap, 9) garage or estate sales and more.
Don’t forget to ask first especially on construction sites or even discuss how you like to make things out of scrap metal as a conversation starter.
In this article, I will give you some great ideas on where you can strike the metal mother-load for your welding, forging, and art projects. Sometimes the locations to find scrap metal are so obvious that we overlook them. It takes an informative article like this one to point you in the right direction.
There are a lot of basic art designs of nature, animals, and others on the internet readily available. We try to take a different approach and provide unique projects for CNC machines that you can’t find any old place.
Local Construction Sites
It doesn’t matter what country or city you live in there is always construction happening. You will find residential and commercial buildings being built year-round. These are great locations for you to find some scrap metal. They are also great places to find out about other sites you can visit as well.
Before you start picking through a dumpster or picking pieces of metal up off the ground, it is recommended you talk to the workers on-site to find out who the foreman is. Ask the foreman if it is okay to salvage scrap metal or if there is somewhere he/she can recommend to get free metal. Once you have the foreman’s permission you can then talk to the other workers about taking home some scraps.
Visit a residential construction site for scrap
(Meaning houses) and get in touch with the Plumbing and Heating crews to see what kind of scraps they can offer up. You might luck out with some copper pipe, sheet metal, and galvanized steel depending on what is going into the new home build. Watching a home in the beginning stages of being built is important. The workers installing the beams at this stage of development may have access to large pieces of metal and could point you in the right direction.
Commercial sites offer a treasure trove
(Such as office buildings, mall developments, etc) and you might just hit the mother-load if you are persistent in returning to the site throughout the different phases of construction. You can potentially find different materials such as copper, black iron, steel, and more. On commercial sites, there are job trailers where the different trades are set up with tools and materials for the long job ahead.
Introduce yourself to the people at these large trailers and explain what you are looking for. You might be pleasantly surprised at just how willing they are to help. If you just show up and start poking around in the garbage disposal bins without saying anything, the workers might not respond as well.
Something to consider for these sites is that the material being used has been put into the companies quote when they bid on the job. This means the materials are paid for by the investors of the site. This also means that the trades-people might not care to bring any smaller pieces of scrap metal back to their shop if they have no immediate use for it. In other words, these people are not giving you materials at a cost to them so don’t feel bad asking.
Another thing to consider when approaching these and other types of construction locations are that there is always an occupational health and safety issue if you are not dressed in steel toe and sole boots as well as a hard hat. Some sites might go as far as having all workers wear a safety vest so everyone is highly visible at all times. Be respectful of these things and your vehicle will be filled with scrap metal every time you go out searching for it.
Visiting demolition sites is an excellent way to help yourself and the environment all at the same time. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle as the saying goes. Typically in this day and age when a building is being demolished a portion of the materials are saved and brought to ‘reuse it’ stores. These stores will pay a small amount for the materials and then sell them to the public.
There are so many different metals to be found at demolition sites. Again, as with any construction site, make sure contact the foreman or someone in charge. Explain what you want scraps for and you might find these workers more than happy to help. If the materials are not ear-marked already to be salvaged then you’re in luck!
If you can talk to any heavy equipment operators like backhoe drivers, etc., these guys/gals will see lots of large pieces of metal when pulling down the structure of the building. They might help you out by pushing aside beams, piping, and other materials. Remember to scout it out first, ask around if you know anyone locally that is working there or do a little asking around to see who is in charge. The last thing you want to do is go barging into a demolition area unannounced!
Metal fabrication shops
It could be worth your while to search online for local metal fabrication shops. These businesses weld and forge metals for many different purposes. They might meltdown and re-use some metals, however, other types might not be possible to re-use and those are the pieces you hope to get for free.
If they turn you down it doesn’t hurt to ask them if they know where you might be able to find some free scrap metal. These companies deal in metal so it is worth checking with them.
Finding Free Scrap Metal Online
With the internet, you can find free metal online without leaving your home. Some larger pieces of metal, like steel bed frames and old washing machines, can sometimes be hard for people to dispose of. If they don’t have a vehicle to drive it somewhere or are elderly, for example. This works out to your advantage if you are able to pick it up from them.
If you scour online ads on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist or other apps for selling used products you are bound to find something. I would take it one step further and post ads online that you will pick up any scrap metal for free. Whether the person has the ability to dispose of it themselves or is just lazy, you will most likely be contacted by someone.
Freecycle.org is a good website where people are posting items for free that can be recycled. One tip regarding these types of sites is to be ready to go pick up the metal as soon as possible. If you tell someone you want their metal, make arrangements to get it right away, as they likely don’t want it laying around and someone else could beat you to it!
Ok, let’s face it sometimes you are just going to have to open the wallet and buy some metal depending on the size of your project. Check out our post on different places you can buy metal online and locally for steel you can’t find when just scrounging around.
Yard and Garage Sales
In addition to the previous section about finding scrap metal online, you can also identify where any local yard and garage sales are happening. Go visit them even if they aren’t advertising that they have free products.
Go strike up a conversation with the owners and tell them what you are you are looking for. You might be surprised when they tell you they have some old bed frames or channel iron from bracing the basement sitting in the back yard. You could also leave them your phone number in case they think of something you can have at a later date.
Your Local Landfill (Dump)
A few times a year I have to fill up my truck and head down to the dump to drop off unwanted items. At my local landfill, there is a designated section for metal. This includes everything from small appliances to steel doors and even posts and beams.
The dump workers will typically recycle these items, however, you would again be surprised at how easy it is to have them give you the okay to take a few large pieces once in a while.
Of course, this will depend on the people working at your local dump and the rules and regulations in place. Their hands might be tied for fear of losing their jobs. You should also ask the workers there who the companies are that drop off most of the metal, to see if it is worth your while contacting them. You could potentially save that company a trip to the dump if you go to their location to pick it up.
Bonus Tip For Extra Landfill Scrap
Go on the weekends and get there early before they open (30 minutes or so). There usually is a lineup at the gate with people waiting to get in to beat the rush. Oftentimes people are dropping off all kinds of scrap that may be of value to you and the welding projects you do. Get out of your vehicle, walk around while waiting, and check out what people are hauling. Startup a friendly conversation, you never know what tip you may get on more scrap.
One type of landfill I know of (where it is easier to take these items) is the dump in cottage country or near large camping areas. These sites are usually not monitored so you can come and go as you please. Keep in mind that there might be large wildlife (like bears) nearby because of the food thrown away so be careful!
Rural locations and Farms
If you are close to the country then how about going for a drive to see what you can find? If you visit a small rural town coffee shop once in a while you can build relationships with the locals. Doing this will gain their trust and willingness to help you out.
Once the small-town folk knows who the person is that likes to make artwork out of scrap metal your truck will be full every time you visit. You might just make some really great friendships as well.
If you get in good with farmers and ranchers then free horseshoes could be in your future. Once horseshoes are replaced, the horse’s owner has no further use for the old ones. There are seemingly endless projects you can do with horseshoes, just look on Pinterest for ideas.
If you don’t mind making some phone calls or dropping into some renovation businesses, the people that work at these places are always finding metal when there are out doing the demolition. They aren’t in the business to recycle, they just want to tear things out and replace them. So if you tell them you would be willing to come to get metal from their sites, you would be saving them a trip to the dump.
Drive around on Garbage Day
If you have a vehicle then you should be out driving around on garbage day. It’s amazing what people will put out by their garbage bins in the hope that someone will drive by and pick these items up.
Free Scrap Near Garbage Bins
You can find all kinds of items like aluminum chairs, bikes and so much more. Even office buildings will place items beside the large garbage bins that they know should be donated and not thrown away. They also put these items beside (not inside) the bins so you will take them.
A lot of the items you find beside garbage bins might be smaller. For instance, you could find metal wrenches and items like that. These items can be forged and poured into molds so you can make something with them.
Want a ton of free copper? Carry a pair of wire snippers with you and when you are out checking the curbsides for metal don’t forget to snip off all of the cords you come across. Whether the cords are on old vacuums, toasters, or maybe even an old extension cord, take them and strip the copper wire out of them. This can be melted down and forged into something useable or it can be sold to a metal scrapyard and that money used for purchasing better pieces of metal.
Leftover Scrap from Property Management Companies or Building Caretakers
Property management companies and caretakers deal with residents that move out and leave things like bed frames and other items behind. Let these people know you would be willing to pick those metal items up when available.
iScrap App for all things Scrap Metal
If you really want to be in touch with the whereabouts of metal scrap yards, laws around scrap metal and so much more, download the iScrap app. After downloading you enter your city or town and you will be introduced to all of the local scrapyards and more.
If you have scrap metal you can use this app to tell you the current prices for your metal. It’s great if you need some extra cash. If you get in good with someone at one of these locations maybe you can work a great deal to purchase your scrap metal at deeply discounted pricing,
Other Locations to find Scrap Metal
You are only limited by your imagination and mobility when it comes to finding scrap metal. Get out and pound the pavement and you will find plenty of metal to keep you busy.
- If you know someone who works maintenance in a large government building you could potentially get access to metal from cabinets, desks, renovations ETC. Government will typically send these objects to a salvage yard as that is usually what is mandated however if you know someone on the inside you can get these items for next to nothing.
- Vehicle junkyards are another excellent place to find scrap metal. You might have to purchase some pieces however most parts in the junkyard are negotiable so you should be able to get metal for cheap. Government vehicle salvage yards are another good place to check.
- Any place that takes donations of home furniture and items could be a gold mine. If these places have a drop-off area some people will take advantage of this and leave drop items that really don’t belong there. These items could be large pieces of railing or anything else.
- Appliance repair and used appliance and furniture stores are worthy of checking. You might have to take pieces apart to get what you want but it is free after all.
- Muffler shops could be an option. They use new pipe that sometimes get cut down and they always have scrap mufflers and other metal pieces to throw away.
- Another location might be a fence builder. Even if they specialize in PVC fencing there is a metal post used that is driven into the ground and then a squared PVC sleeve slid over. If you chat with someone from the business, maybe they will keep pails of scrap for you to pick-up after each job.
As you can see, the places to find scrap metal are endless. If you are not outgoing, you might have a hard time finding scrap metal. If you don’t have a problem talking to strangers or even calling them up to talk about what you are looking for and why then you should have enough metal to last you more than a lifetime! For those not as outgoing, there are still online ads, or simply ask friends and relatives that you know who might have connections to break the ice for you first!
If you have a great idea or tip on where you get your scrap metal from please leave a comment below. Good luck on your scrapping!