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Guide for using recycled building materials on your renovation project

Discover how to use recycled building materials for your home renovation project
house with recycled building materials

It’s no secret that using recycled building materials is a great way to save some dollars and keep your footprint to the minimum.

However, what most people don’t realise is that these recycled building materials can also make one-of-a-kind, efficient, and sturdy homes—minus the extra expense! It doesn’t necessarily mean that your dwelling should look like a salvaged-slash-uninspired home when using recycled materials. With your innate creativity and a bit of guidance from a home renovator professional, you can easily doll up your dwelling using hand-me-down materials. It can look sleek, modern, colourful, or boho, depending on your style! 

In this comprehensive article, we’ll go over the benefits of using recycled materials for your home renovation project. We’ll also walk you through on where you can find them and where you can use them in your home. We’ll also give you some tips on how you can efficiently obtain recycled materials. Of course, this guide wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t showcase some picturesque design inspirations using recycled building materials, so read on and enjoy!

What are reusable, recyclable building materials?

Recyclable building materials are anything reusable that came from another property site (a home or a commercial building). The term “recycled materials” has various categories, including:

Sustainable or eco-friendly materials – Also known as green building materials, they have a low impact on the environment and are easy to reuse. These include bamboo, cork, straw, wool, true linoleum products, strawboard, wheatboard, and more.

Salvaged materials – Any materials that originated from properties that have been deconstructed (not completely demolished) that can be reprocessed. These may include innovative recycled materials from wood, steel, glass, and plastic.

Reclaimed materials – Unlike salvaged ones, these materials have been used before and are reused without reprocessing.

All these different categories may include bricks, concrete, footings, clean rubble, limestone, sand, recycled timber, doors, windows, fire gates, lighting, cabinet hardware, bathroom and kitchen fittings, furniture pieces, fretwork, lacework, and even outdoor products (such as gates, fences, fire pits), and more.

What are building supplies made from recycled materials

Here’s a partial list of common building supplies made from recycled materials:

Base course materials – These materials are usually crumbled and recycled concrete used for building pavements or driveways.

Untreated timber – Large timber pieces are usually re-milled and used for construction. They can also be directly reused.

Metals – Metals like steel, aluminium, and copper are usually melted down and reformed into new metal products.

Timbercrete – A lighter type of concrete made with sawmill waste, cement, sand, and more. This is ideal for building fences, fireplaces, and retaining walls.

Ferrock – A longer-lasting type of concrete mainly made of waste steel dust. It is a strong green construction material that may be used as a substitute for cement. It’s so tough that it’s usually used for marine structures like seawalls and breakwaters.

Newspaperwood – Newspaper waste reprocessed to wood. Like real wood, it can be cut, milled, and sanded. Newspaperwood can be used for creating furniture pieces like tables, chairs, cabinets, and more.

Denim insulation – Made from clippings and scraps of denim clothing. Denim insulation is resistant to mould, mildew, and fungi.

Ecobricks – Plastic bottles transformed into bricks. They can be used to create furniture, but they are popular to use for building outdoor structures.

Why would contractors try to incorporate recycled materials?

There are many benefits to trying to incorporate recycled materials into construction projects, including:

It saves money – Recycling can help reduce waste disposal costs, minimising the overall cost of construction.  

It is environment-friendly – Using recycled materials is good for the environment because it can help reduce CO2 emissions. Burning waste materials cause an increase in CO2 emissions, which contributes to global warming, and you can help reduce pollution by recycling materials instead of burning them.

It can make construction companies competitive – Many homeowners are going for eco-friendly designs, and knowing how to incorporate recycled materials can make a construction company more competitive. In turn, they can offer  better rate to clients.

It can help make projects future-proof – New building laws and regulations try to incorporate environment-friendly provisions, and reducing the carbon footprint of your home can make it compliant with new regulations.

Benefits of using recycled building materials

Saves money – Recycling can save money because you can reuse and repurpose old materials instead of buying new and expensive materials. Recycled materials are also cheaper compared to fresh or new materials.

Unique renovation ideas – Scavenging for recycled materials might lead you to discover unique pieces that you can use for your home renovation project. If you’re aiming for a rustic or vintage renovation theme, you might score great finds at low prices compared to buying new materials given an aged look

Reduces waste on landfills – When you use recycled materials, you help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, so you help ensure that only non-reusable materials get sent to landfills for disposal. 

Conserves natural resources – Using recycled building materials means cutting fewer trees to produce lumber which can help keep the air clean because trees absorb carbon monoxide. Saving trees can also help prevent flooding because trees absorb water and help prevent soil erosion and landslides.

Using recycled materials can also help preserve mountains because metallic materials come from mines often carved out of mountains.

Reduces pollution – Landfills can contaminate bodies of water and sources of potable water, so reducing the amount of rubbish in landfills can help minimise water pollution. Burning waste can cause air pollution, and minimising the amount of trash in landfills can help reduce the number of air pollutants.

Saves energy – Recycling building materials can help save energy because transporting rubbish to landfills, burying them or burning them uses energy. Using recycled materials also means manufacturing companies use less energy to produce new raw materials.

Helps create jobs – Using recycled building materials can help create jobs because recycling plants will need more workers if more construction companies use recycled materials on their sites.

Can I really save money by using recyclable building materials?

Yes, you can save money by using recycled or reclaimed materials because you don’t need to buy new materials, which are obviously more expensive. An example is turning your old wood planks into tables, chairs, or dividers. Aside from saving money by not transporting old wood into a landfill, you also save money because you don’t need to buy new furniture.

You can also ask around for discarded building materials you can buy at low prices for your home renovation project. Some might be willing to give you old materials for free since you are saving them the cost of sending materials to a landfill. If you’re not sure how and where to source these materials, see our section below on where to source recycled building supplies.

Meanwhile, contractors can save money in the long run by using recycled materials because it reduces the need to manufacture new raw materials. This can lower manufacturing and construction costs which benefits homeowners because the overall cost of building houses and renovations will also go down.

Where to use recycled materials in your home

Walls – You can use recycled tiles and salvaged bricks for your walls or wall features. Recycled tiles can be made of porcelain or glass materials that can add that glossy, modern look. Meanwhile, bricks can add that homey, vintage feel.

Floors – You can use recycled floorboards. These older woods have that unique aged character that you can’t find in new wood products. If you’re not a fan of timber flooring, you can always opt for recycled tiles.

Kitchen – You can give more personality to your kitchen when you use different recycled materials. You can use bamboo countertops, which are more durable than most hardwoods. To boot, you can add recycled tiles for your splashbacks. For storage, you can use reclaimed wood to create space-saving floating shelves.

kitchen with recycled building materials
image credit: hgtv

Bathroom – Renovating a bathroom is almost similar to renovating a kitchen because you also need surfaces and storage. For this reason, you can use the same reused materials that you used in your kitchen. To make your bathroom more attractive, you can opt for recycled glass tiles, which give a jewel-like quality to the floors and walls.

Cladding – You can use a wide range of recycled materials for cladding, such as wood, metal, stone, ceramic, and more.

Décor – Find reclaimed items from an antique shop. You can also use pieces of reclaimed wood and stones to give that natural accent to your home.

bohemian interior with reclaimed materials
image credit: Ellie Lillstrom

Feel free to use reclaimed building materials anywhere in your home (interior or exterior). Just make sure that they are of high quality so you and your family will be safe. You can experiment with the types of materials based on your personal preferences, which will make the renovation project even more enjoyable.

Where to source recycled materials for your project

Finding reused building materials for your renovation project is easy if you know where to look for them. Here are some of your best options if you want to get reused materials near you:

Suppliers – Hardware and construction suppliers are your best option if you need to buy recycled materials. Engineered wood, recycled steel, and aluminium are common recycled materials that you can buy from suppliers.

Friends and family – You can ask family members and your circle of friends if they have discarded materials you can buy or get for free. Commonly recycled materials that you can ask for or buy from family and friends include reclaimed wood, old windows and doors, and insulation materials.

Construction dumpsters, the local tip and salvage yards – Most discarded building materials end up in them, making them ideal hunting grounds for recyclable building materials. Owners of salvage yards often segregate materials and keep those still useful for sale at low prices. You can buy reclaimed wood and recycled bricks at salvage yards.

Tear down sites – Old buildings set for demolition or tear down are treasure troves of recyclable materials. You can negotiate with the demolition team, and they will try to salvage as much material as possible that you can then buy at low prices.

Online sources – Online marketplaces are also excellent sources if you need to buy recycled or reclaimed materials without having to leave your home. One advantage of shopping at online marketplaces is you can cover a lot of ground and look at a wide variety of choices in a short amount of time. You can also look for specific materials that go well together if you have a theme in mind for your home renovation.

Tips for purchasing secondhand, used building materials

Here are some important reminders to keep in mind before buying used building materials so you can make the most out of your purchases:

Plan ahead – Visualise your renovation project and create a checklist of the materials you will need so you can avoid impulse buying and stay within your budget.

Shop around – You don’t need to buy the first stack of recycled materials you find. Take note of the materials you found and check other sources so you can ensure that you’re buying the best materials at great conditions and low prices.

Inspect before you buy – Thoroughly inspect materials before buying them so you can avoid buying materials that are rotten or infested. This is particularly important in buying second-hand wood. Check for signs of termite infestation, rot, or water damage to ensure you are buying materials that will last.

Ask an expert – Take advantage of your people’s services. You can consult a professional designer or home renovator from Dreamspace if you have specific questions in mind. They can help you get started with the project and find the best materials.

Creative ideas for using recycled materials for the home

There are many ways to incorporate reused building materials into your home renovation project. Here are some charming designs that will surely delight your heart:

Recycled timber for kitchen

recycled timber for kitchen
image credit: Timber Revival

Bathroom with reclaimed tiles

bathroom with reclaimed tiles
image credit: Cris Nolasco Studios

Bedroom with recycled wood headboard

Bedroom with recycled wood headboard
image credit: www.photowall.com

Lobby mostly made of  recycled timber

lobby made of reused materials
image credit: March Studio (Hotel Hotel)

Plastic stone tiles

Plastic stone tiles
image credit: The Nature of Waste, Enis Akiev

Recycled Marquina marble flooring

Recycled Marquina marble flooring
image credit: Azab

Residence made of recycled glass, corrugated steel, and redwood

Residence made of recycled building materials like glass, corrugated steel, and redwood
image credit: Fung + Blatt architects

Living room with reclaimed decor

Living room with recycled building materials
image credit: Cem Koray Arslan

Reclaimed wood paneling

Reclaimed wood paneling
image credit: layjao.com

Ready to launch your renovation project using recycled materials?

You don’t have to be alone throughout your home renovation journey. If you’re planning to use recycled building materials for your project, it would be extremely beneficial to hire an expert renovator who has the know-how on the best quality recycled materials to use. Proper guidance can make things easier for you because you can’t just incorporate any used or salvaged materials to your home. It may put your safety at risk and the design result may not look exactly what you’re going for. A professional designer who specialises in home renovations from Dreamspace can help you complete your project seamlessly and safely. Sign up to Dreamspace or get a free quote to get your project started! 

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