Building with Reclaimed Lumber and Recycled Materials

March 8, 2009

One of the most sustainable ways to acquire materials for building a house is to collect parts from soon-to-be demolished homes. You can save money from buying new lumber, which in turn will prevent deforestation, and you can recycle other materials like doors, windows, and bricks that would otherwise continue to fill up landfills.

But perhaps you’re not sure how to go about deconstructing a house. Read ahead to find out how to safely deconstruct a home and build with reclaimed lumber, instead of destroying and ruining precious building materials.

How to Deconstruct a House

I live at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, which is in the depopulated northeastern corner of Missouri. Nearby towns are brimming with abandoned and derelict houses and buildings, and builders at Dancing Rabbit frequently acquire lumber for their own homes from these sources.

Here’s an article describing how to deconstruct an old house and recycle the lumber for building. As is explained, buildings are constantly being demolished, but oftentimes you can track down the owners and convince them to let you deconstruct the building.

You will need but a few tools, and possibly a few friends, and then you will rake in the rewards of acquiring free building materials. You too can investigate the abandoned buildings in your area and learn which are ripe for deconstructing.

Deconstruction versus Destruction

More frequently than not, houses and derelict buildings are destroyed — smashed to smithereens, so that none of the materials can be used again, and then everything is sent away to a landfill.

In fact, 30-40% of all landfill waste is construction and demolition debris in the United States. Why ruin perfectly good materials and then throw them away? Unfortunately, it’s much easier to simply destroy a building rather than to take it apart.

There is much to be gained in using recylced building materials: you can save money, prevent deforestation, and reclaim materials that would otherwise end up as trash.

(Image credit: flickr via webschepper)


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I'm a 26-year-old currently living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri, an intentional community devoted to sustainable living and culture change. Things you might find me doing here (other than blogging) are building with natural materials, gardening, beekeeping, making cheese, candlemaking, and above all else, living simply.
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