The Pros and Cons of Using Reclaimed Materials
If you are limited in time or money, waiting for the right materials to show up can be a problem. If you live near several re-use facilities (dump, Re-Store, Thrift stores, etc) then your chances improve, but you still need the luxury of time to visit them regularly in search of the treasures you need. The more flexible you have with your design the easier your search will be. You can also start collecting material before you finish your design so you can factor in the sizes and shapes of things you’ve found.
I bought the hard wood floor for my tiny house from a guy on Craigslist before I was even sure I had the courage and money to start build. The poetry of buying a floor for a house that didn’t exist was lost on me since I was busy having an anxiety attack. Being unemployed and dropping $150 for oak flooring seemed imprudent, impractical and absolutely crazy given my lack of building experience. I actually doubted my sanity for a few weeks after. The thought occurred to me I might be having some kind of late mid-life crises or nervous breakdown triggered by a bad economy.
A week later, I won the money back when my brother dragged me off to a casino to celebrate his birthday. My shouts of “come on hard wood floor” got me some strange looks, but in the end Lady Luck blessed me with a full refund for the 13 boxes of oak which I took as a sign of encouragement.
So off I went, slightly more confident in my sanity, in search of Re-Stores where I purchased a baby bay window (bay-be says my friend Perry) in Oakland. If it hadn’t been the exact window I had been pricing on line for thousands of dollars I would have walked away in fear. But instead I bought it for $350. In Pasadena, I found the perfect French door which was the exact size I needed and even the color I wanted, for only $100. No fear with this purchase, because I was in a state of incredulous bliss. I couldn’t get out of there with my new door fast enough. Because I kept finding the exact things I needed, I thought I might be dreaming and if I didn’t hurry I was going to wake up before I got the house built.
So there I was with a floor, a door, and a bay-be window and no house. So I stacked it near the rest of our stuff in a warehouse we were borrowing. Then it occurred to me that the warehouse was the place to build. I blame the Vegas heat for the slow uptake. And I took another huge leap of faith. I bought a custom built trailer.
A House is Only as Good as its Foundation:
Unless you know a whole lot about trailers, can weld, or you find a hefty used trailer please spend the extra bucks to get a good one to build your house on. Even if you plan on not moving your house much remember this is the foundation of your home. You will want it to be strong and sturdy for a long time. Travel trailers with the top removed are not strong enough to hold 2×4 framing. They are designed to be light weight and hold flimsy aluminum siding with virtually no insulation and very little weight. You will also want to take weight distribution into consideration, while designing your house. You don’t want your house to be heavier on one side than the other for example. Ask a trucker or search how to load a trailer to learn more about the importance of weight placement. Learning these things can save your house and possibly lives. If you are building over 20 feet long you should also consider a triple axle (6 wheels total). I went out of my way to get a custom trailer and I still had trouble. Make sure you have someone who knows axles look over your trailer and determine if it is road worthy and capable of holding heavy framing and siding. And of course, get good tires.
Why Used Wood Can Be a Problem:
Wood is porous. That means things get down in it, grow in it, live in it. Old wood is beautiful but can harbor mold, pesticides, bugs and general rot. If you are chemically sensitive that can be just as bad or worse than the VOCs of new wood. Since alternative, safe building materials barely exist and are extremely expensive the other option is regular lumber. Paying attention to these details can keep you from getting sick later on. Mold can kill. Termites can turn your house into Swiss cheese.
Take into consideration your practical and aesthetic needs, space constraints etc. Then research materials and their uses and limitations. You can of course get creative with things, but make sure you know what you are doing. I almost glued down my hardwood floor because I couldn’t get a nail through the boards. Then I realized that wood contracts and expands with the weather. Glue would probably not have worked well. Wood comes in a wide variety of types. Some are heavier, others lighter. Certain wood works better for exteriors and others better for interiors. There are wood varieties that repel bugs (Cedar) and some that work better than others near water.
One thing I highly recommend buying used is cabinets. I bought 5 of them for my house from 2 restores and the dump for an approximate total of $150. That is less than any one of them would have cost new. I cleaned them well and painted them and they are my kitchen cabinets and counter top holders. One is in the bathroom for a kitchen closet/medicine chest. Because they are not made with press board or heavy wood they are lighter than anything I could have figured out how to build myself and they make my house both practical and beautiful.
Sometimes it makes sense to buy used and recycle and other times not. Consider how long you want your house to last realistically. Remember – using quality materials can make the difference between having a box on wheels when you finish or a cozy, healthy, beautiful, home.
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful — William Morris
Be sure and read Catherine Zola blog here: CatsTinyHome
The wood terminology used is a bit confusing.
“Wood is porous”. Not all wood is porous but all wood will eventually rot. If kept dry, wood can last for centuries. So, for recycled wood, look especially for it having been kept in a dry place.
“Since alternative, safe building materials barely exist and are extremely expensive the other option is regular lumber.” I can only guess what you mean by ‘regular lumber’? But why would wood be the choice of last resort if it is safe and relatively inexpensive? Most recycled wood which was used indoors is likely safe. You should know where it came from and how it was used and you should know how to distinguish treated timber from non-treated timber.
And wood does not ‘come in a variety of types’! Different woods have different properties which are each best suited for specific purposes. You should know a bit about wood and their properties before shopping for recycled wood so that you can recognize the wood species, understand its uses and know good value and good quality.