I moved to Africa for a year back in the 80's to work in one of our
embassies, my "stuff" was shipped from stateside in large box
crates. I don't remember the "stuff", but I do remember John
Ndika, one of the African workers who helped unload it. He
politely asked me if I was going to throw out the
wood from the crates, and, if so, could he have it? I said "yes
you can have it". He proceeded to collect all of the wood and
nails. He planned to straigten the nails, and use them along with
the plywood and
2 x 4 segments, to build a small house on his "shamba" (small plot of
I remember thinking that it was such a shame that, in our society, we
routinely throw away otherwise useful materials for the sake of
expediency. Since we as a country have been so
prosperous in the last 60 years or so, we've become a "throw away
society". Part of me has always felt a bit ashamed of this, so I
finally embarked on some projects to use some of the used lumber that,
in days past, I might have just burned or sent to the landfill.
As you can see from the pictures below, good use can be made of some of
these materials. If built correctly, the projects can last as
long or longer than if new materials were used. You might ask
"How could they last longer?". One way of looking at
it is that these materials are "survivors"! They have lived on as
weaker materials have rotted away or otherwise fallen apart! They
are also "broken in", they've acclimated to the weather, and have
stabilized. The old lumber is less likely then the new to
warp or rot. In some cases, they are more hardy than newer
materials, though they may be discolored and slightly damaged.
Small Woodshed Built With Throwaway Materials
Woodshed Built From Recycled Materials
I built this woodshed entirely from old lumber that
had been lying around the farm, and from wood reclaimed from an old trailer home that had been torn apart by one of my friends. Even the
paint was left over from projects of earlier years, mixed together to result in a lovely grey!
The sheathing is from old "luan" type wall covering from inside the trailer, along with some old plywood.
Shown here is the first "layer" of luan/plywood. I "laminated" another layer of old luan over top of this
layer, oriented vertically, with construction adhesive for more strength and better looks. The trim was
2-1/2' long cutoffs that I had laying around from an earlier job (which normally would have been thrown away).
I used only 1 sheet of new OSB for the roof. Even the roofing felt/roof roll consisted of
scraps left over from earlier jobs! The only other new materials were adhesive and screws.
Notice that I leave it open most of the time
(it's fairly dry here), but can roll down "shade" when it snows or rains.
It took more time and care to use the old, less supple 2x4's, but with a little extra care in construction technique,
this shed will last at least as long as if I had used new lumber.
Llama Barn Rebuild Using Recycled Materials
Llama Barn Before Rebuild
The old "Llama Barn" (storage barn that was once
used to hold llamas) had a leaky roof, with one section gone completely, and the south facing wall was so far gone that,
well... The structure was OK, however. I was considering tearing it down and rebuilding it at a cost of over $10K,
but decided to rebuild it using my stock of old used lumber, with the addition of some fence wood from an old fence
that a friend wanted removed. Another pile of old wood that another friend wanted to send to the junkyard was used as well.
Llama Barn During Rebuild
The old roof consisted of corrugated sheeting.
It had lots of nail holes which leaked like a sieve, but it was perfect for siding, so that's how I used it. Had to use
6 new sheets of OSB/plywood for sheathing and 3 doors, but still reused most of the old plywood. I reroofed with 10
sheets of new OSB and roll roofing/roofing mastic.
It was pretty hot, so I put the solar reflectors up to send
some of the excess sunshine back towards "Old Sol".
All finished, except to apply some old wood preservative
that's been sitting in the garage for the past five years. I also need to fashion some rudimentary door handles out of some old long
bolts, utilizing my antique hand-crank metal forge, fueled with some coal I found on the roadside a few years ago!
This is the only pic I could find of the north side before the renovation.
Though better looking than the south side, the plywood is ugly and loosely attached; rafter ends are rotted. The shed dormer was a later addition in good shape, so I left it alone.
I built a window for the north side using an old storm door window,
framed with old lumber "ripped" to the proper width on the table saw. I
sawed off the rotted ends from the rafters, filled in voids with
exterior spackle held in place by pieces of screen, and finally painted
the rafter ends with some old paint to protect against future rot.
Notice the "ship lap" type siding on the right wall; that's the old
fence wood, "stitched" together, after having cut off checked and rotted
ends. I'll probably tack up the remaining old 1x6 planking
on the dormer next year, so it will match the rest of the building.
Total cost of the entire rebuild approximately $500.
Building with renovated materials takes a little longer, but leaves you with the satisfying feeling that you
haven't added unnecessarily to the landfill. It also leaves you with a little more money in the bank!