Reusing DIY materials

‘Construction and demolition create millions of tonnes of wood waste every year. Very little of this is currently reclaimed or recycled’ (Association for Environment-Conscious Building)

Use what’s already there

Using found materials can take time and effort – you may have to remove nails and screws, or spend time dismantling and cleaning your finds. Adapting your project to the materials available is also a challenge. In return, you get to experiment with a fascinating range of materials, including exotic hardwoods that would otherwise be off-limits to the environmentally conscious DIY-er, especially on a budget. And you will know that, unlike a ready-made product from a chain store, your creation is truly unique, and truly yours.

Caveat: When using old wood, be wary of rot (especially the dreaded dry rot, with its characteristic mushroom smell and spreading white tendrils) and woodworm (telltale little round holes – fresh ‘sawdust’ in the holes shows recent activity!). Often, offcuts of new wood are available, and these are free from such risks.

  • For professionally reclaimed items, Salvoweb provides an online directory of salvage traders. See also their DIY swap page.
  • Some local dumps will sell reusable items for a small charge – contact your local council for details.
  • Skiphunting is an art worth cultivating. The etiquette is commonsense – technically the contents of the skip are still someone’s property, and helping yourself from a skip in someone’s driveway is an intrusion on their privacy, so asking first is only polite. Once you get over any initial shyness, the benefits are enormous – not least the amount of fun involved.
  • Don’t forget small ads, charity shops, freecycle, auctions, car boot sales etc.
  • Or just ask! – friends and neighbours may be happy to clear space in their loft or garage.
  • Will what you’re using now be used again in the future? Consider using screws instead of glue, with a view to easy dismantling for next time.

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