An option that is rarely explored when people plan a new home or renovation is the possibility of reusing building materials. This can be a great way of saving money and of giving your home a bit of extra character. Materials might be sourced from your own existing home or backyard, from friends or from a specialist secondhand building materials retailer.

A big advantage of recycling is that it reduces the impact of the construction process on the environment. Most building materials require a great deal of energy to produce and, after demolition, a great deal of construction waste ends up as landfill. Recycling is a sensible way of reducing these negative side-effects of building.

Windows and doors can often be easily reused. You might need to replace some panes of glass or sand and repaint the timber, but it can be worth the effort, especially if the item has the right look for your home. Hinges and door hardware may also need replacement to make external doors secure, though antique door hardware can be great if it’s still functional.

Other reusable items include structural steel and timber members such as beams and columns that can either be concealed within a roof or ceiling space, or left exposed as a feature. This approach of reusing historical structural members has become a popular way of facilitating interpretation of historical sites in new buildings.

In the Walsh Bay wharves redevelopment, for example, the reuse of wharf timbers and the installation of found objects as sculptural elements has been a fantastic way of providing users with a link to the area’s history. Don’t forget that structural members need to be checked by an engineer to ensure that they are capable of supporting the new loads.

Recycled bricks can also be used in new construction and many retailers are now supplying high quality products for the construction industry. The process of separating and cleaning bricks from demolished houses is labour intensive and for that reason recycled bricks aren’t as cheap as you might expect.

However, if you’re aiming for the character and warmth that only true weathering can achieve, it might be worth the expense. Using recycled bricks may also make it possible to extend a period home using identical bricks to the original construction. The garden can also be a good place to use recycled bricks as paving or edging or in retaining walls.

Other than the environmental benefits, the biggest advantage of using carefully sourced recycled materials is that your home will be truly unique and have a character that is difficult to achieve using new products.

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