“You get all your materials donated, don’t you” is a comment I regularly hear from volunteers. I usually respond that we are like any other builder buying our materials from local building suppliers, but that is not the whole story. Like every other Habitat for Humanity affiliate in the U.S., we have access to donated materials worth thousands of dollars per house.

A new Habitat house in Orange County costs about $78,000 for labor and materials. That figure does not include land purchases, infrastructure development, or staff costs. Building at the rate of about one house a month for many years, HHOC no longer receives significant gifts of materials locally. In fact, during the downturn in construction, we have been a steady customer for local suppliers and subcontractors. We are still fortunate to have monetary support from many sources, but our donated materials come mostly from six corporate partners.

Whirlpool Corporation is probably the most well-known partner. Since 1999, Whirlpool has donated a refrigerator and a stove to every Habitat house built in the U.S. These Energy Star appliances save us about $870 per house. Whirlpool also sells other appliances to Habitat at a discount. Homeowners often purchase microwave/range hoods and dishwashers though Whirlpool, and we install them. Globally, Whirlpool has donated $72 million to Habitat for Humanity.

Schneider Electric (formerly Square D) provides 181 products to Habitat. We order meter bases, load centers, circuit breakers, and other equipment worth nearly $1,500. Habitat’s volunteer Electrical Crew orders and installs this equipment, saving additional thousands per house. Dow provides a number of building materials that improve energy efficiency.

The ubiquitous Blue Board foam sheathing is seen on Habitat sites everywhere. Dow also donates spray foam, construction tape, housewrap, and flexible flashing tape. All these donated items save us nearly $1,000 per house.

We need somewhere to store all our tools and equipment, and Mobile Mini, Inc. provides three metal storage containers to us. These are ideal for construction storage because they are very secure, roomy, and mobile. We save over $2,500 per year in rental fees with the Mobile Mini donation.

When families move into their new Habitat house, they appreciate the miniblinds already hanging in the bedroom and bathroom windows. Hunter Douglas provides these blinds, worth about $400, and sells blinds for other rooms at a discount. Each mini-blind is custom made for each window.

We use approximately 50 gallons of paint per house by the time all painted surfaces are coated three times. Valspar donates all interior and exterior paint and saves us about $1,200. Valspar also supports the growing A Brush with Kindness (ABWK) program in which affiliates perform painting and exterior repairs for existing homeowners living near our new construction projects. As we increase the number of ABWK projects, the paint donation will allow Habitat to serve even more families.

Since 2002 HHOC has installed fire safety sprinklers in our houses. Nearly all the pipe, fittings, and sprinkler heads, a $1,300 value, have been donated by three manufacturers: Tyco Fire Products, Viking, and Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co. Volunteers led by Bert Liverance and Dave Morgan, including many local firefighters, have installed the sprinklers. In addition, Milwaukee Electric Tools has supported the Sprinkler Crew with the donation of two heavy-duty right angle drills.

Just as we rely on the donation of labor by our volunteers, we depend on the generosity of our corporate partners. All of the materials listed above are shipped to Habitat at no charge, and each company has customer service agents designated to assist Habitat affiliates.

Each donation allows us to build houses that are more energy efficient, comfortable, and safe than if we had to purchase the materials outright. For instance, it is unlikely we would have started installing sprinklers without the donated materials. Together, the materials are worth over $6,000 per house, a significant contribution that is frequently overlooked. I will remember to mention our corporate partners the next time I am asked.