Upcycling Old Fence Boards

| 6/4/2017 6:19:00 PM

Tags: salvaged wood, fencing, urban foraging, upcycling, Kyle Chandler Isacksen, Nevada,

Recently, we’ve been doing some beautification projects on our half-acre urban homestead and Be the Change Project in Reno, Nevada.  Many of these have utilized salvaged fence slats.  The results have been so lovely that I wanted to share about them so others can make use of a great urban resource.  

In our neck of the woods old wood is hip and is prominent on bars and breweries, in café’s, and on houses in Reno’s up-and-coming Midtown District.  And why shouldn’t it be?  With weathered colors, lustrous grain patterns, and soft texture it is a material that helps give a place a stronger sense of belonging.  A lot of this wood is old barn board which is generally thicker than fence board but also more expensive.  Fencing is thinner but nearly as versatile and wonderfully free!   


We’re located right in Reno and back up to a busy road.  For years we’ve thought about fencing off the back to give a bit of privacy and, as importantly, to give definition to a long stretch of our backyard. However, like much of what we do, we didn’t want to use new materials.  Using salvaged wood reduces logging and is more sustainable, is cheaper, and like I mentioned above gives new projects the aesthetics of aged materials which help them blend in and belong.  

Sourcing Used Wood 

I contacted one of Reno’s larger fence companies and they were glad to show me their “bone yard”.  Every old fence they replace is loaded onto their flatbed trucks and dumped in their bone yard until they have enough to load into a dumpster for a trip to the dump.  Being a large company they amass a great quantity of wood debris each week.  Some of this is truly garbage – ancient slats of cedar barely holding themselves together, 4x4’s ravaged by water or dry rot, and lots of broken slats - victims of the demolition process.  However, it is rare that a trip to the bone yard does not yield a full pickup truck load of quality, usable, beautiful wood.  This includes slats of many widths, 2x4’s and 4x4’s (regularly of 8’ and longer lengths), and includes cedar, spruce/fir/pine, and redwood.  And, as an added bonus and (and following the permaculture principle of stacking functions), each trip doubles as firewood collection be it from what I intentionally grab at the yard for burning or from the scraps I’m left with after my building projects.  

Here’s an assortment of what we’ve done with this great resource:

5/26/2018 10:44:00 PM

I used the plans at WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG to make my own – I highly recommend you visit that website and check their plans out too. They are detailed and super easy to read and understand unlike several others I found online. The amount of plans there is mind-boggling… there’s like 16,000 plans or something like that for tons of different projects. Definitely enough to keep me busy with projects for many more years to come haha. Go to WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG if you want some additional plans :)

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