Recycled Building Materials for Home Projects

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Rosie Romero special for the Arizona Daily Star

Question: What do you think of using recycled materials for household projects?

Answer: I have a lot of ideas on this, especially since some building materials are still hard to find or are slow to arrive.

First of all, you will need to discuss in advance with your contractor the maximization of the possibilities of using recycled products. This is an important question to ask when interviewing potential contractors for your project. If they’re LEED AP, you’ll have a head start. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a globally recognized framework for sustainable construction. The term AP stands for Accredited Professional.

If you are doing the project yourself, you need to plan your purchases. Either way, give yourself time to shop wisely.

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Incorporating pre-used materials, products, fixtures, or appliances is a great way to jump-start your project and save money. One of Rosie’s favorite places to pick up quality recycled materials is the Habitat for Humanity ReStorefound throughout the state.

Assuming you’ve planned your project carefully, you know what you need. Work with your architect, designer and contractor to identify not only products but also sources. In addition to Habitat for Humanity, many salvage yards will have lots of great items you might want to consider. These private companies collect unwanted items from others and resell them.

Search the web using #recycling centers, #salvage yards and #garbage collection companies to find them. Municipalities that recycle generally do not have the capacity to offer the materials directly to the consumer. Ask your municipality where they dump materials and find out if that might be a source for you.

You can also purchase items from stores that sell products made from recycled materials. The composite decking is an excellent example. Some manufacturers will use recycled plastic, sawdust, wood chips and other wood fibers left over from their grinding process. Look for the traditional recycling symbol when buying items that claim to contain “recycled content”.

Check the manufacturer’s claims. Some indicate that only the packaging is made from recycled materials. Beware of “green washing”. Greenwashing occurs when false or marginal claims are made about the authenticity of a product’s green claims.

Q: How can I reuse existing materials in my home for other projects?

A: Instead of demolishing the part of your house that you want to redevelop, deconstruct it. You can carefully deconstruct that part of your home that you may have just torn up in without thinking too much about reusing materials.

Many items can be kept out of the landfill and work well for your project. Here is a list you might consider reusing:

cabinets (used kitchen cabinets work well in the garage or shed)

doors and associated hardware

The list can go on and on with a little thought from you, your designer, and your contractor. Reusing materials saves time and money. With the supply chain issues the industry is still experiencing, the time spent waiting for delivery can certainly be reduced. When renovating historic homes, reuse is both king and queen. There are parts you’ll need that aren’t even made anymore. Some mid-century homes will also qualify. In these cases, reuse is a necessity, not just a good idea.

Another idea that has been around for a while is to repurpose a product for another use. For example, use an old door as a cabinet front or an old dresser for a vanity. Getting creative and thinking outside the box can be a lot of fun and yield fantastic results. Don’t underestimate yourself in this regard.

Q: Where can I recycle or sell materials and appliances from a home renovation?

A: Items you don’t reuse could be a candidate for the recycling store or an online marketplace.

When setting aside products that you think are ready for recycling, the product or materials you want to sell must be in good condition and usable. Here are some examples of items you might want to donate or sell:

countertops (especially if it is stone products)

flooring (mostly wood products, although engineered flooring, some vinyl and carpet in good condition are reusable)

plumbing fixtures (including sinks, faucets, tubs and toilets)

Take photos of the items you want to donate and check with the retailer, such as Habitat for Humanity ReStore, to see if they’re willing to take them. Note that appliances, for example, must be in working order.

If you’re selling online, make sure you don’t invite anyone to your house to pick it up. Meet in a public place.

The San Gabriel district received a new bench in a median. Council member Steve Kozachik is pushing the city to use plastic blocks in future building projects. The 22-pound blocks are made of plastics considered non-recyclable by standard recycling plants, such as plastic grocery bags, bubble wrap, or food-contaminated produce. The blocks are made by an LA-based startup, ByFusion. This is their first project in Tucson. Video by: Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star



An expert in the Arizona home construction and renovation industry since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning show Rosie on the House, which airs locally from 10-11 a.m. on KNST (790- AM) in Tucson and 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KGVY (1080-AM) and (100.7-FM) in Green Valley.

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