Recycled/reclaimed materials offer custom homebuyers beautiful design options and environmental cred

When choosing to build a new custom home, many people, for a variety of reasons, are exploring the use of recycled materials in the building process. There are environmental concerns, of course, particularly for those looking for LEED certification on their new home, and there are also such advantages as cost containment and aesthetic value of historic wood, stone and fixtures.

In any case, there are a number of plusses in utilizing recycled materials in a new custom home, but also a few drawbacks to consider.

One of the most popular uses for recycled materials in any new custom home project is the installation of wood that has been previously used in an older home or building. Often referred to a reclaimed wood, this category includes such things as barn wood taken from historic farm structures for use as flooring, wall coverings, ceilings and cabinetry; historic cabinets and built-ins that have been recovered from demolition projects and refurbished to retain their timely charm but meet modern demands; and, old solid beams of wood that were a staple of construction in the 19th and early 20th centuries for use today as both decorative and functional beams for a rustic look.

The advantage of old, reclaimed wood – in any form – is that much of it was originally milled at a time when plenty of old-growth virgin forests where trees with impressive girths were harvested. The wood produced from such harvesting was much higher quality than can be found on the market today, and often things like beams were hewn from a single trunk, rendering them extremely strong and stable. Also, wood that has cured for a century or more is preferable to using green wood, artificially cured. The beauty, of course, is undeniable, and often the grains re-milled for today’s uses offer an impressive display of the lumberman’s art, as well as a highly durable material.

The pitfalls could include that reclaimed wood from barns and older structures might have been damaged over the years by water, mildew exposure to fire, and/or insect infestation, which could lead to a breakdown in the material’s durability and to an odor that is difficult to mask. When sourcing such reclaimed wood it is wise to work with reputable wood reclamation companies that can certify the moisture content or damage in the wood, as well as any residual smoke penetration.

Another chief area popular for recycled/reclamation use is glass, as in leaded glass and historic stained glass creations, and people use old windows and old window glass for decoration, entries, cabinet faces and display cases. Ever been in an old house and seen those windows that appear not to be smooth, but rather slightly rippled? Glass manufacturing has come a long way in the last 100 to 150 years, but a lot of people like the charm of the old-looking glass.

The disadvantages of using old glass are that, while quaint and attractive, its durability is suspect; old glass tends to be more brittle than modern glass. Also, they didn’t make windows back then with the amount of insulation value that we have today, so old glass used on outside windows, for instance, probably need to be embedded in new glass to boost R-values and to protect from breakage.

Stone, slate and reclaimed tiles are also very popular in many custom home designs. Used as roofing material, sidewalks and pathways, flooring, kitchen counters and backsplashes, and for decoration and function in bathroom sinks, tubs showers, and floors, these materials are often very beautiful, in some cases created by long-past craftsmen, and they offer a high degree of durability along with the aesthetic values. And often, reclaimed stone – marble comes to mind – has the charm of a weathered or even worn look that immediately speaks to its historic value. Sometimes referred to an “old-quarry” stone, some of this material is reclaimed from elegant homes and official buildings and may also come with a story to tell – e.g., “our kitchen floor used to be the lobby of the old Supreme Court building.”

And don’t forget old, reclaimed fixtures and lights: old stoves, chandeliers, bathtubs, sinks, even toilets or “water closets” (we’ve even seen rail cars and historic phone booths incorporated into home design) are hot items in the r3ecycled/reclaimed marketplace. Antiques of any stripe are also highly sought after.

Of course, for those looking to garner LEED certification in the homebuilding project, there are any number of recycled and reclaimed materials to draw from, including lumber scraps from other projects, remanufactured tires and paper used for insulation,—really just about any building material you can think of. There are a myriad of firms which specialize is collecting and repurposing leftover materials for the burgeoning recycled/reclaimed marketplace. The web is replete with such resources. The advantage is that these materials often cost far less than new and can qualify for LEED certification, particularly if they are sourced locally. The disadvantage is that since they are reclaimed materials the quantity needed may be in short supply, and finding that same material again if it needs to be matched may be difficult. Keep in mind that reclaimed materials often skip the recycling process, so the environmental impact is lower.

Reclamation and recycled materials are hot commodities these days, so the competition to find them can be fierce, and the prices often reflect the growing demand. However, many people are looking to make an environmental statement in their new home as well as tap into history, so there is also a growing supply chain.

For all of your custom home building needs, including expertise in recycled/ reclaimed building materials, amenities and accessories, look to Chase Custom Homes of Denver. Call 303-p204-9254 for
complete details on the whole range of custom home building services we offer. A Chase Custom Home is an address for a lifetime.

Most products headed to the landfills at this very moment could have been recycled, or better yet, reclaimed for use in a new building or other practical or artistic function. Recycled products are multitudinous in number and diverse in sources as well. For instance, recycled newspaper can be reused for home insulation, plastic bottles transformed into playgrounds, tires into sidewalks and so on.

Reclaimed materials skip the recycling process, thus using less energy between removal and reuse. Common reclaimed materials include: wood products from old barns and homes, bricks and other used masonry units, doors, paneling and a slew of other building products. While there is no specific certification for reclaimed materials, their use counts significantly toward LEED and Living Building certification.

Products claiming to be part or all recycled content can be certified by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) and will bear the SCS Certified logo. SCS offers certification to manufacturers of products made from recycled or biodegradable materials. An excellent online resource for recycled and reclaimed materials is PlanetReuse, a global guide for finding locally available reclaimed and reusable materials. In the following articles, you’ll find a list of recycled products and materials commonly available in most areas, as well as information to help locate and purchase them.

So what exactly is a reclaimed wood floor?

You might find it under many names, such as recycled wood flooring, reclaimed wood flooring, or even reclaimed salvage lumber.

Whatever the name, the product is re-used, recycled or, as often titled, “reclaimed” flooring made from wood that is generally re-milled to be usable in a new application.

Pros and Cons

If you’re considering reclaimed wood for your floor, you’ll want to know what to look for. It is obviously a “green choice” to choose to re-use wood that would otherwise become landfill waste. Recycled wood floors also save precious forest growth.

Here are some more reclaimed wood benefits:

* Environmentally-friendly

* Warm look and feel

* Prevents waste

* Easy to clean

* Naturally insulating

* Depending on thickness, may be refinished years later

* May increase the value of your home

You may be able to harvest some reclaimed wood on your own - at a discount. If you know of a building about to be torn down, it wouldn’t hurt to ask if you can buy (or remove) some wood from the premises.

You might be surprised to learn that there are local companies that supply reclaimed wood. If so, you could save shipping costs and conserve fuel that would be spent if the product was shipped a long distance. This would be an ideal green alternative to new wood harvesting for your project.

Some suppliers also carry the FSC label (Forest Stewardship Council). According to their website, they promote responsible management of the world’s forests, and require certain standards to be met. They also provide FSC certification. You can even find FSC certified wood at some local home improvement stores such as Lowe’s or Home Depot.

A few suppliers of reclaimed wood include:

Terra Mai

Eco Timber

Pioneer Millworks

Mountain Lumber Company