Recycling History

By: Conrad Neuf , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, In The News

I have written in the past about the benefits of using reclaimed building materials during an old house restoration. Unfortunately, not all historic old houses can be saved from demolition; some are just so far gone that it isn’t feasible to attempt a restoration and others are

Save Those Old House Parts First! photo from

Save Those Old House Parts First! photo from

taken down in the name of progress despite the best efforts of local preservationists. Just because a historic house can’t be saved doesn’t mean that all of its parts have to suffer the same inglorious fate.Reclaiming flooring and beams has been popular for quite a while now and there are many companies that do a pretty good business combing the countryside for beautiful wood from old houses and buildings that can be recycled. Sometimes the reclaimed wood is from species of trees that are no longer available and even the more common wood types have often developed a patina that is almost impossible to duplicate with modern lumber. Using this type of reclaimed lumber in your restoration is a way of allowing the history and spirit of an old house to live on and you’re helping the environment at the same time.Old House Recycling: Beyond Flooring and BeamsThe current economy and consumers’ growing awareness of environmental issues have combined to assist a growing industry begin to thrive during tough times. I recently wrote about a company in Hawaii that specializes in recycling building materials of all types and the Seattle Times just spotlighted another similar business. A Seattle family that was having an old house torn down realized the old building materials might be of value to old house enthusiasts so they arranged for them to be recycled. RE Store’s salvage crew rolled in and saved many of the old house’s components with the exception of an interior door that would become a part of the
Was Anything Saved Before it Came Down? photo from

Was Anything Saved Before it Came Down? photo from

family’s new home. Some of these companies recycle all types of reusable building materials while others such as Recycling the Past in New Jersey choose to specialize in construction items for old houses. If you need an old door or hot water radiator for your restoration project, these types of companies are a great place to try.The West Coast has seemed to lead the way in our country’s “green” revolution and encouraging builders and homeowners to help the environment by using recycled building materials is just another example. The City of Seattle even has a web page touting the benefits of using recycled building materials for construction projects. I have a few upcoming restoration projects on my own old house and I can assure you I plan to visit some recycled building material retail locations.


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  1. 2 Responses  to “Recycling History”

  2. Aug 29, 2011
    It's nice to know that a part of history is preserved in your house by using recycled materials from historic buildings. Maybe it's just me but I've noticed that the wood from these houses are even more durable than the woods of today.
  3. Jonny
    Aug 29, 2011
    I have used a lot of reclaimed barn wood in rustic home interiors, but always have trouble deciding how best to finish the end cuts, which look too "new" next to the silver patina of well-aged wood. Does anyone have any ideas on how to disguise the fresh cuts when working with ages barn wood?