Top drawbacks to salvaged fixtures

Some items violate building codes, are health hazards

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Last time we paid a visit to the architectural salvage yard — a place where, if you’re diligent, you can find quality building materials that are cheaper and greener to boot. Today we continue the shopping list with more potential bargains, though they may require some careful vetting.

Structural items: Many salvage yards stock a plethora of materials such as brick, wood and steel beams, sheet metal, structural hardware, and the like. If you happen to find exactly what you’re looking for (or, more likely, something that’s close enough), you can save a lot of money — often 50 to 75 percent over lumberyard prices. Occasionally, you may have to massage your plans a little to make use of a real bargain, but that’s the nature of buying anything recycled.

Lighting fixtures: In general, older lighting fixtures are of much higher quality than modern ones, with heavier parts and more durable finishes. However, you should expect to rewire all vintage lighting fixtures, since their old-style cloth insulation becomes brittle with age and can cause short circuits. Professional rewiring can add appreciable cost to a "bargain" salvaged fixture, but the added expense is still usually justified for a top-quality vintage fixture. If you’re reasonably handy with things electrical, you may also be able to do this work yourself.