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For Homeowners

Ways to Renovate—and Save—Using Recycled Materials

These days, it’s easy to get excited about a new kitchen update or bedroom renovation (thanks, Pinterest!).

The trick is not to empty your savings account in the process. Even small projects and upgrades can turn into pricey ordeals if you’re not careful. And meanwhile, many center around ecologically harmful materials, like unsustainably-sourced timber or chemical finishes that may impact the air quality of your home.

The good news, though, is that homeowners can often reduce renovation overhead just by going with recycled materials. Salvaged wood, upcycled furniture or even reclaimed concrete all make for a unique, visually stunning update—and do a lot for the environment, too!

Here’s how.

Buy Salvaged Wood from a Dealer

Anyway, you slice it, freshly-milled timber is expensive. High-grade lumber often costs up over $20.00 per square foot, whereas you can often save a bundle by opting for salvaged wood instead.

That’s especially true if you’re planning to install wood flooring during your renovation. Recycled flooring offers cost savings, but it also lacks the uniformity of freshly-milled boards, upping the character of your reno. And these days, reclaimed wood isn’t hard to get.

Some dealers offer salvaged and refinished wood, and many may sell species of hardwood, such as redwood, that can’t be bought new due to foresting regulations. To ensure the best quality, ask if the seller has removed old nails and is willing to first re-plane and kiln dry any lumber they sell you. That will guarantee that you’re getting a product that’s durable and sustainable.

Or Break Down and Finish Reclaimed Wood Yourself

Buying from a dealer makes sense when you have a massive construction project on your hands. But suppliers may expect you to buy in bulk, meaning their products may not suit smaller carpentry or woodworking jobs. A better technique, if you can manage it, is to break down cast-off furniture and wood pieces and salvage the lumber yourself.

Maybe you have an old solid oak door in the garage or know someone who’s about to demolish an ancient barn or shed on their property. This kind of wood makes the perfect fodder for a new kitchen table, shelving unit or-or headboard—although you should be careful to avoid anything made from particle board or low-quality lumber.

Play your cards right, though, and you can have a brand new piece of furniture virtually for free!

Coffee Table From Reclaimed, posted by at December 3, 2014. (credit: GetHouseDecor)

Creatively Upcycle Furniture in Your Home

We get it: not everyone has the time or the inclination to tackle a massive DIY project. However, if you’re looking for a truly unique bathroom vanity, kitchen island, headboard or other dramatic feature in your room, upcycled furniture is the way to go.

Homeowners fit old dressers or buffets with ceramic sinks or butcher block counters or convert desks to coffee tables by trimming the legs. With the help or some imagination—and just a little bit of elbow grease—old windows and doors are transformed into kitchen tables, while decorative bed frames live out a new life as DIY benches.

Even just a new coat of paint can do wonders. Spend a few weekends perusing garage sales and estate sales, and you’ll bound to shake out a few enviable finds.

Give New Life to Old Hardware

Sometimes a renovation means completely gutting your kitchen—and sometimes it’s as simple as slapping on a new coat of paint and some molding. New hardware, in particular, is a super easy way to dress up old cabinets and dressers.

It’s easy to switch out and makes more of a difference than you’d think, particularly if you opt for really unique, eye-catching knobs and drawer pulls. But high-end hardware is expensive—if you buy new, that is.

On the other hand, attractive and affordable vintage hardware can be bought online at Etsy and eBay, as well as local salvage yards and antique shops. If you’re willing to do some of the restoration yourself, removing rust or paint and refinishing, you can save yourself a pretty penny by buying vintage.

Who knew?

Personalize Pathways With Recycled Concrete

By the US EPA’s estimate, new construction and demolition generates about 325 million tons of waste annually. Meanwhile, a lot of the stuff that gets tossed is reusable, meaning plenty of excellent construction materials are going to waste.

Traditional Landscape and Yard with Pathway & exterior stone floors made with recycled concrete in Redmond, WA (Image: Zillow)

Broken concrete slabs make an ideal material for landscaping pavers—and help you put a dent in the C&D waste problem in the process. Use them to create unique pathways, patios, and boundary walls, or buy recycled aggregate (a.k.a. crushed concrete) as an alternative to gravel.

Recycled concrete dealers aren’t numerous as the stars, per se, but they’re out there, and if you can find one near you, you can save a tremendous amount on your next landscaping project. There’s nothing better than helping the environment and saving money in the process!