Home improvement projects can be a lot of fun, yet also costly. Using recycled materials is not only cost effective, it’s also good for the environment!

In a recent act of bravery, I launched into yet another “home improvement” project, which we all know usually turns out to be much more expensive and time consuming than first imagined. My friends joke that I'm becoming like the Winchester Mystery House woman who kept adding on to her home (http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com). Of course, I’m not quite that extreme, although I do have a deep-seated need to continually improve my surroundings. This time it entailed enclosing the front porch. For over 10 years I have patiently endured winters with a front porch that provides little refuge from pelting rain, winds, and severe snowstorms. With my old dog, Bella, growing older, and concerned for her comfort, I decided it was now or never to enclose the porch. When I began pricing materials for the project it quickly became clear that I was going to have to shop around to find the best prices. I spent countless hours researching efficient porch designs and price-matching everything from French doors to concrete sealant. I phoned multiple hardware & lumber stores, asking every question I could imagine. After weeks of preparation and research I mentioned to a friend my concern that the prices were much higher than I’d anticipated, and he recommended I check out our local Habitat For Humanity “ReStore.” The next day, equipped with measuring tape, clipboard and my old dog, who loves to ride along, I arrived at the ReStore not really knowing what to expect. I was overjoyed when I found almost all the materials I was searching for to complete my dream porch, available at bargain prices! Habitat ReStores offer quality used and surplus building materials at a fraction of normal prices while helping to fund Habitat for Humanity house construction. They are outlets that accept donated goods for resale. While every ReStore is a little different, most focus on home-improvement goods—furniture, home accessories, building materials, and appliances. These donated goods are sold to the general public at a fraction of retail price to help local affiliates fund construction of Habitat homes within their communities. Materials sold by Habitat ReStores are usually donated by local retailers, contractors, and individuals. ReStores provide an environmentally and socially responsible way to keep good, reusable materials out of the waste stream and simultaneously provide funding for Habitat’s community-improvement work. For more information about Habitat For Humanity, go to http://www.habitat.org. To find a Habitat For Humanity ReStore in your area, or if you or your company has materials to donate, go to http://www.habitat.org/cd/env/restore.aspx.