Building with Salvaged Materials

House made from salvaged materials
House made from salvaged materials

“This article is a distillation of various tips and tricks I’ve learned for making salvaging and building an enjoyable and rewarding process. Building with salvaged materials has many potential advantages. First, salvaged materials are usually less costly than new materials, and they may be of better quality (e.g., well aged wood that doesn’t shrink, crack or twist). Salvaging is also a process that invites the serendipity of unexpected finds of special or beautiful things you couldn’t obtain or afford otherwise. For example, we ran across a solarium that we salvaged; we liked it so much that we redesigned our whole house around it.

As you begin salvaging materials, you develop a network of sources that you can use for later work; not only that, you meet many people in your area. And of course, you will feel all the satisfaction of recycling our earth’s resources instead of having them end up in the landfill. Finally, you can end up, after lots of work but moderate cash outlay, having a home you love without a huge monthly mortgage payment for years and years. This can be an excellent way to build, especially for the many people who don’t have a full-time job.”

Read the full article for free at the source: Permaculture Drylands Journal
More free articles from Permaculture Drylands Journal
Image source:

7 thoughts on “Building with Salvaged Materials”

  1. I cringe when I see houses built like this. Like millions of stick-built houses around the world, it’s a tinderbox just waiting to go up in flames, or be knocked down by a hurricane or tornado. It’s exactly these factors that has led me to the concept of building with earthbags, hopefully with fireproof ceilings and roofs. Regardless of how ‘sustainable’ building with wood is, it is still an ephemerial product, subject to decay and destruction by the elements. My preference is to build solid, and to have something to pass down to prosterity. There are buildings around the world that are centuries, if not thousands of years old, and with few exceptions, they are not made primarily of wood.

    • We’ve decided to cover a broader range of topics that appeal to a wider audience. Almost no one finds our blog if we only talk about earthbags. Anyway, lots of people are interested in incorporating at least some recycled materials in their home. Personally, I like some contrast to all the plaster — maybe wood ceilings, wood stairs, wood interior walls and some wood trim. For me it’s more than what will last the longest. I also want my home to look good to me.

  2. Thanks for the post and the link to the article. We started our search for salvaged goods even before we decided on our home construction type (adobe). Since then, we have picked up salvaged windows, doors (even from put-outs on streets for trash pick up!), enameled cast iron sink, 100-yo wooden planks, pallet wood, glass block, etc. But in this urban throw away-society opportunities are scarce. I cringe when I see the prevalent buildings bulldozed with no consideration to salvaging materials. Whereas decades ago in Maine, salvaging all building components was more the norm (>50% of my log cabin was built from salvaged materials).
    With our adobe place in the desert, it has become almost a fun challenge to obtain salvaged materials, but sometimes frustrating at finding any sources.

    • It should be a crime to bulldoze entire buildings. It’s done this way for insurance reasons. They say it’s too great a liability. But you’d think something could be done.

      One drawback to collecting salvaged materials is you need a place to store things.

      • There is hope though. I saw a woman on TV the other day, American Pickers. She would go for free or actually get paid to knock someones small structure down. While doing so she would collect or sell the salvaged materials and goodies she found within.

        And yes, planning for a Straw Bale home using mostly salvaged goods, and realizing, before I build the house, I’m going to need to build a shed to store my collected goods until they reach their final home within the home!

  3. I think it really helps seeing finished photos of nice projects. A lot of people would cringe at the thought of building with salvaged materials because they can’t envision it. We’ve been bombarded with advertising all our lives and seldom get to see good examples of super low cost housing (or anything low cost, for that matter). Advertizing is all glitz and glamour with little or no practicality. These blog posts are a reality check of sorts.

    That’s Dan Phillips in the photo. He was featured in a recent post called Creative Houses from Reclaimed Stuff. You can watch the TEDx video with Dan explaining his ideas about building with recycled materials.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.