Country Lore: Build or Remodel with Salvaged Materials

Reader tips for wiser living.
By Janet Aird
December 2007/January 2008


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When my husband and I bought our 1950s bungalow about five years ago, we knew we would be doing some remodeling and decided to salvage as many materials as possible. Salvaging not only saves money, it’s great for the environment because it keeps those materials out of the landfill.

We’ve found that many building materials can be reused, including sinks, mantels, flooring, ironwork, light and plumbing fixtures, cabinets, drawers, shelving, hinges, outlet covers, switch plates and door knobs. Salvaged lumber is especially useful in remodeling older houses because it matches the lumber already there. In the past, a 4-by-4 really was 4 inches by 4 inches and a 2-by-4 really was 2 inches by 4 inches. Now they’re all planed half an inch smaller on each side!

If you want to try salvaging materials yourself, here are a few things to consider. Before removing anything, first decide if it is worth salvaging. Can you remove it without damaging it? Is it worth the time it would take to pull out the nails, sand off old paint and fill the biggest dings? If it’s an older light fixture, it may need to be rewired to be safe.

Not everything you can salvage is useful. We didn’t reuse electrical wire, plumbing pipes or single pane windows. When we salvaged a small item we didn’t need, we took it to a reuse center. We donated bulky ones on Craigslist, a community-based Web site for selling and bartering.

Also look for architectural salvage stores, which buy and sell quality deconstructed building materials and can be found all over the country. A friend sold a 1920s outdoor light fixture for $200. We needed to replace a bedroom door and found a solid wood door from a reuse center that not only cost less than a new one, but also matched our other doors exactly, because it was from the same era.

Here are some places that buy and sell deconstructed building materials:

—Altadena, California









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