Repurposing building materials is at the heart of sustainability and mojo is what you build with. I’ve tried many ideas at my homestead and here’s the tips I’ve found are the most affordable, brings that homestead mojo to work for you, and instead of filling up the landfill you’re helping save the planet.
Why: A Tiki statue brings mojo to your place and a fierce Tiki scares away rascals.
Source: An old log that has grown “legs” when turned upside-down; cool looking rocks.
How To: A) Use a chainsaw to cut a log in half lengthwise into halves, with two legs on each half. B) Draw a face on the log halves and chisel indentations for eyes and teeth. C) Use silicon to glue stones into the indentations and use duct tape to hold the stones in place while the silicon cures. D) Paint the Tikis as needed. E) Attach each Tiki statue to the wall on either side of your door and have a Tiki party!
Why: ‘Jerry’ cans are the perfect shape for use around a woodstove because it can fit between the stove and the wall; it can hold hot ashes and/or a set of fire pokers.
Source: Get a used ‘Jerry’ can at a garage sale, cheap.
How To: A) Rinse out and let the empty can dry until no detectable gas fumes remain; B) Warning — do step (A) before proceeding — then remove the top of the can with a metal cut-off wheel, above the welded seam, and discard the top portion with the spout. C) Smooth the cut edge with a file or grinder. D) Drill a hole near the top center of each of the two short sides and insert a wire handle from a plastic bucket
Why: Benches are often made of wood and eventually rot. Vinyl fences slats won’t rot.
Source: Cheap or free at RE Stores or discounted where fencing is sold.
How To: Replace wooden bench tops with the vinyl slats or make a new bench with plastic buckets for support and vinyl fence slats on top.
Why: Repurposing an office desk is quicker and less expensive than building a custom countertop. The average office desk is 30 inches deep and 60 inches long — it’s a good size for kitchen counters.
Source: Cheap or free at used furniture store or garage sale. Get an office desk with a top that is thick press-board with Formica top and edging.
How To: A) Unscrew or unbolt the legs, drawers, etc. and remove the top of the desk. B) Mount the desktop onto your kitchen cabinetry and make a cutout with a scroll saw where your sink goes.
Why: Operable windows are expensive and broken frames are hard to fix. It’s easier to make a new, fixed window frame, and use the window glass from the broken frame.
Source: ReStore is a great source for windows; much of what they have is operable windows with broken frames. Price is usually $5 per window from a broken frame.
How To: A) Build a custom frame for each fixed window with cedar fence boards, 4 inches or 6 inches wide, to match your wall thickness. B) Cut sticks of wood about ½-inch square to secure the window into the frame, mounting the window towards one side of the frame so that there will be a deeper sill inside. C) Use calking to seal the window from outside moisture. D) Mount the window into the wall with stick framing and flashing methods.
Why: The faces of hollow wooden doors are also known as ‘door skins’. Hollow doors are often abused to the point where they are delaminating from the frame and/or one side gets busted.
Source: Free for the asking, especially where apartments are being renovated.
How To: A) Use a putty knife to carefully pry off a good door skin from a hollow door frame. B) Attach the skin to walls with panel fasteners.
More ideas for your homestead are in Christopher James Marshall’s holistic guide, Hut-Topia: How to Create Sustainable Small Homes and Homesteads. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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