Tips for Working With Salvaged Materials

By John Morrow

Because you are reading this article, I assume that you have some interest in salvaged building materials — or have an active imagination that lets you see how used items can be repurposed into something completely new.

TRP warehouses always have a number of unique items, so if you come across something that catches your eye, or sparks your imagination, that might just be the time to buy it. 

I’d like to encourage you aspiring Do-It-Yourselfers and Weekend Warriors to tackle that project – whatever it is. Remember, safety first and be mindful of local building codes. Here are three basic tips for better and more rewarding projects:

• Take on projects that test your skill level. Sometimes it’s just a matter of tearing into something to see how it all goes together. If you get stuck, sleep on it. And if you still can’t find a solution, don’t be afraid to ask someone who is more knowledgeable.  

• The right tool makes all the difference. If you are not quite ready to invest in a tool you may seldom use, borrow one. Or, you can rent almost anything you need from your local home improvement center. In either case, having the right tool will make you more efficient and produce better results.

• Measure twice – or half-a-dozen times if needed. Then cut once. This is especially important if you are working with a limited supply of materials or a one-off piece. If you are working with lumber and make a mistake, hang on to any usable scrap pieces until the end of the project.

Prior to joining The ReUse People, I was a long-time customer and even won one of the TRP ReUse Contests. These days, while I don’t have quite as much time to spend on my personal projects, they still give me a great deal of satisfaction.

One of my current (and on-going) projects is refinishing the basement in our house. It took me a long time to figure out what direction I wanted to take in the room, but when I ran across a set of doors that matched the room’s openings, the decision was made.  

A few years ago, TRP had the opportunity to deconstruct a 1920s Carmel bungalow. The house was constructed with 1” x 12” clear redwood and much of it had never been painted. I was able to purchase three mortise lock doors, some of the interior paneling and small beams. Since the doors had originally been hung directly on the wall paneling, I had to create my own jams. I made the door jams, casing and baseboard out of the wall paneling. The top piece of casing and plinth blocks are made from one of the redwood beams. This has been a fun project and I’ve been able to give some old doors a brand new life!

John Morrow is TRP Regional Manager in Oakland, California.

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