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DIY & Home Renovation: Storing Building Materials to Avoid Waste (Guide)

Storing building materials properly is important to preserve their quality and reduce waste. When tackling a home improvement project you often end up buying more building materials than you need. This is just part of the reason why 30% of landfill waste is attributed to construction and DIY materials.

While it may seem logical to keep all leftover building materials together, it’s important to realize that the different materials may require their own storage methods to maximize their shelf life.

Storing each of your leftover materials in the most optimal way will both save you money and reduce the amount of negative environmental impact that your home improvement project may cause.

Let’s take a look at the best ways to store several of the most common materials used in DIY and home improvement projects:

Storing Building Materials: How to Store 6 Common DIY Construction Materials at Home

The following materials are commonly used in home improvement and DIY projects. By storing building materials properly, you will be able to reuse them in the future or sell them to be used by someone else.

In doing so you’re reducing waste and limiting your losses from excess materials you have paid for.

Here are some easy ways to store and preserve your leftover construction materials:

1. How to Store Wood and Lumber

When you’re storing building materials and you have leftover wood, it needs a fair bit of consideration when it comes to storing it over a long period.

Lumber is particularly liable to warp if left in a damp area.

Warping means that different parts of a wooden beam absorb water in different quantities. This misshapes the beams and makes them ineffective for use in a building project as they will not be able to slot in together in a flush way.

To stop your lumber from warping it’s important to make sure that your piles of wood are kept in dry areas. You could use a climate-controlled storage unit, or create a physical barrier protecting the wood, such as covering it with a tarpaulin sheet.

Uneven pressure is another issue that could impact the life of the wood being stored.

By placing an equal balance of weights, such as bricks, over any barrier or tarpaulin that is covering the wood you can ensure that moisture won’t concentrate in a specific part of a wooden beam and cause that area to warp.

As well as being kept in a dry area, your lumber should also be kept in a formation that allows for some space between the individual pieces of wood. This is because lumber needs to “breathe” to stay healthy and stacking beams tightly together will prevent this from happening.

Storing Building Materials - Stacks of neatly piled wooden planks indoors. The pieces are laid out so there is breathing room between each layer and the planks are supported so they don't sag or bend

If you plan on storing wood for more than a year, we’d recommend paying a little extra to get your hands on cured wood. This wood has been treated in a way that prevents moisture from getting into it so it can be stored for longer without the risk of warping.

2. How to Store Bricks

When you are storing a larger quantity of bricks you should keep any piles smaller than 6 bricks high. Any higher and there is a risk of the piles toppling over and damaging other bricks around them.

Bricks are robust but when it comes to storage but they must be kept in a dry area.

Bricks can be liable to chipping if kept in constant contact with water, so if you are keeping bricks in a wet area they should be elevated off the ground. You can achieve this by stacking them on a wooden pallet.

Storing building materials - small stack of red bricks piled on a wooden pallet

If you do store them on the ground you should ensure that the bottom layer is protected from buildups of water. Building a gravel dam around your pile of bricks is one way of doing this and is a good option if you plan to store spare bricks in your garden rather than in a storage unit.

3. How to Store Cement

Storing building materials that react to moisture, like cement, can be tricky. Cement is prone to deterioration when kept in a moist environment.

A bag of cement that is stored properly can have a shelf life of around 3 months, if not longer.

Make sure that the bag is tightly sealed, even after use. This will help the cement stay free of unwanted moisture in the air.

It’s also a good idea to keep a bag of cement off of the ground for the same reason. Moisture may get trapped underneath the bag which will eventually find its way into the cement inside.

Cement should also be kept well away from other building materials, particularly paint and primer. These liquids may leak or exude fumes that could also unintentionally impact the life and quality of the cement.

If you will be storing cement for a long time, this video by UltraTech Cement details how best to store cement to ensure that it does not get any moisture or turn lumpy over time:


4. How to Store Paint and Primer

It may seem obvious that any paints or primers should be kept in secured pots or containers. Each time you open and use one of these materials you should also ensure that the container is securely resealed each time to ensure that the pain does not dry out.

However, paint and primers can also be impacted by temperature and so it’s important to make sure that these liquids are not stored in an area that exceeds 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Storing building materials - used paint tins with the lids on

Heat or air warmer than that will mean that the liquid may start to decline. If you are storing these materials in a humid area you may eventually find that a metallic tin or container may rust and spoil the paint or primer.

You can place a layer of plastic wrap or a silicone cover over the top opening of a pot or container before putting the lid back on. This will help keep the liquid protected from both moisture and debris.

5. How to Store Tiles and Roof Shingles

Tile and roof shingles are designed to face all types of weather, but like many other materials, it’s still essential that they are kept properly in storage long before they are installed on a roof.

Once again, temperature control is required for the proper storage of tiles or shingles. Ideally, they should be kept in a suitable area where the temperature won’t exceed 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature does exceed this then tiles or shingles are more likely to crack.

Storing building materials - small stack of roof tiles on a wooden shelf

Much like bricks tiles and roof shingles should be kept in storage in small piles. Having a pile higher than 3 tiles high could result in the stacks falling over and getting scratched or worst still broken. You can also wrap them in bubble wrap to help further prevent any unwanted damage.

6. How to Store Glue and Glue Gun Sticks

Glue must be kept in a securely sealed pot or container. Each time you use the glue it’s important to properly reseal so that the glue doesn’t dry out.

The glue will also be impacted by the temperature at which it is stored. It’s advisable to keep glue stored in a place where the temperature doesn’t exceed 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Smaller pots may even be kept in a fridge.

Storing building materials - various glue pots pots and bottles

If you are using a glue gun and still have some of the glue stick left you can store these unused sticks inside a sealed plastic bag. The bag should also be kept in a temperature-controlled area that is under 65 degrees and ideally contain rice or a silicon gel packet, which will help remove moisture from inside of the bag.

Reusing Construction Materials

If you are unable, for whatever reason to store building materials for later use, an environmentally friendly option is to try to reuse the leftover materials.

Here are some ways that you can reuse common building materials:

  • Excess wood and lumber can be taken to organizations like Habitat for Humanity. These organizations resell excess home improvement materials to construction professionals and DIYers. So long as the wood in question is in a usable condition they should be able to take it.
  • Extra bricks can be sold to local contractors. Construction professionals are always looking for good condition bricks, especially if they are available at a cheaper cost than new ones. If you put these on craigslist or the Facebook Marketplace you should find takers in no time.
  • Some thrift stores are happy to take leftover paint so long as the tub is more than (roughly) two-thirds full.
  • Roof shingles can be a pain to replace like for like, so are easy to sell on platforms like eBay.

In Conclusion

Whenever you have extra unused building materials leftover from your home improvement project you should be looking to safely store them away for future use.

Don’t just throw money away and waste perfectly good materials. Storing building materials properly keeps them safe and secure and protected from elements around them. They can be kept for a long time and could be useful to you in the future.

About the Author

Storing Building Materials - Image of the AuthorVolodymyr Barabakh is the owner and Project Director of the design and build company Fortress Home.



Frequently Asked Questions

Can I reuse old building materials?

Yes. If construction materials are stored correctly, they will last a long time without their quality being compromised. You can safely reuse them or sell them to someone else to use. Selling them or reusing them yourself prevents pollution and keeps them from going to waste and keeps them out of landfills. Check out the full guide more info on how to store materials correctly.

How do I stop wood from warping when it is stacked?

Wood will warp if it dries out (either as it ages or if it gets wet) if it is not stored properly. To prevent warping, store it in a dry environment and stack it in a way that allows for air circulation between each piece. Make sure the pieces are supported evenly and there is no space for them to sag if they get wet. Check out the full guide for more on how to store wood and lumber correctly to prevent warping.

How do I stop cement bags from going hard before I use them?

To prevent cement bags from hardening or going lumpy, store them where they will not get wet from rain, excess humidity or condensation and do not stack too many bags on top of each other, which compressed the cement inside the bags. Check out the full guide for more detail on the best way to store cement to prevent it from going hard or lumpy.

References and Useful Resources

Curtis Lumber and Plywood: How To Store Lumber To Prevent Warping

Pro Builder: The Value of Proper Building Materials Storage

SFGate Home Guides: Storing Roof Shingles Safely

The Screed Scientist: Storing and Handling of Cement and Aggregates 

True Value Projects: How to Store Leftover Paint


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