Using salvaged building materials in your new custom home can be a charming way to blend modern conveniences with rustic charm.
The salvaged elements can add character and have the added benefit of being more environmentally friendly versus buying new materials for every project.
That said, there are some precautions you should take before using too many salvaged materials in your home. It’s important to put safety first and never use a salvaged material if the integrity of it is compromised or it’s too old. Also, you’ll need to keep the resale of your home in mind. While you may love a quirky reclaimed feature, will the next owner?
Elite Custom Builders put together a simple guide to using recycled and reclaimed materials in your new custom home, to make it easier for you to decide when to use them and when to pass.
TYPES OF SALVAGED BUILDING MATERIALS
People salvage all types of building materials and fixtures, from old barn wood to old sinks. While some of these can save money, some can end up costing you more. We think it’s a good idea to focus on function and utility.
For example, more modern toilets save water when they’re flushed. Older toilets use far more water. So, while you may be able to buy an old toilet at a salvage yard for much less, it will end up costing more — and it’s not environmentally friendly.
So where can you use salvaged materials in your new custom home while still being mindful of the environment?
We recommend only using reclaimed wood for architectural accents. We would never use reclaimed wood to frame an entire house or for any other structural elements of the home.
Purely decorative reclaimed wood pillars can look charming on a front porch, while old shutters can add interest to any window. Reclaimed wood is also safe to use for fire place mantels and for some interior doors. When using reclaimed doors, however, you’ll need to ensure you’re following fire codes.
In some instances, you can use reclaimed wood for railings, but you’ll need to make sure it’s completely solid first. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend using reclaimed wood for features of the home that can be easily changed.
Like wood, reclaimed bricks are fine to use for aesthetic building elements — not structural. Old bricks can make a quirky feature wall or can be used to make a garden path.
We often see people use reclaimed bricks for fireplaces. There isn’t a set answer for whether this is safe or not. It depends on the integrity of the bricks and whether the fireplace is wood burning, gas or electric — among other considerations. It’s best to talk to your contractor.
Using reclaimed plumbing fixtures is a personal choice; however, we maintain what we said — focus on function and utility.
We wouldn’t recommend using toilets that are too old for the reason we gave above — they use too much water. Sinks however, are a different story. Attractive pedestal sinks can be used quite safely, although the taps and faucet may need to be replaced.
While some sinks for the bathroom will work, along with good-condition claw foot tubs (talk about a statement piece), be cautious when it comes to the kitchen. More modern sinks are typically deeper than older sinks, which is far more convenient for dishes. Old porcelain and cast-iron sinks also scratch very easily.
If you’ve found something you like, ask your contractor about it. They’ll be able to give you an expert opinion on the piece.
Reclaimed countertop materials are hit or miss — definitely another area where you’ll want to rely on your contractor’s expert opinion. Reclaimed surfaces will definitely save you money, but they won’t be nearly as durable as surfaces like quartz or granite.
For a bathroom that is less frequently used, a piece of reclaimed marble would work. Or, a reclaimed laminate surface for a workshop space in the garage. We just caution against less durable materials for main bathrooms and the kitchen.
Light fixtures are easy to change, so using reclaimed ones can add interest and charm to a room. If the fixture is particularly old, you’ll want to make sure all the wiring is upgraded to meet current safety standards.
We love seeing a big old chandelier in a modern entry way, creating a striking visual contrast and creating a conversation piece. But before committing to an expensive purchase for a reclaimed light fixture, get an electrician to check it out and tell you if it will be safe in your home.
Flooring is tricky. Old wood is stunning, and it adds character to any home. But it can be hard to install a second time, depending on how it was removed from the original home. Other flooring materials, like tiles and carpet, present similar issues.
With so many options on the market for wood, tile and carpet styles, it’s easy to find something you like. If you’re really committed to using reclaimed materials, talk to your contractor first. There may be an area of your house where they make more sense.
There isn’t much sense in using reclaimed windows, unless they happen to be double glazed and fit the specs of your home. Modern windows are one of the main upgrades you can make to any home to improve energy efficiency, so it just doesn’t make sense to use old wood windows, no matter how much you love the look of them.
Double or triple glazed windows can drastically reduce heating and cooling costs. They’re also much safer for your family as they are harder to break.
Elite Custom Builders | Residential Contractor | Bridgeport, WV | Surrounding Areas
If you are considering using salvaged materials in your new custom home, you need experts on your side. Not all materials are safe for use in modern homes. You need somebody who is willing to be creative and help you incorporate the vintage elements you love in ways that are safe for you and your family.
At Elite Custom Builders, that’s exactly what you get — the experience and expertise to create a safe and functional custom new house, with the creativity to make it feel like home.