How to Build a Home From Scrap

How to Build a Home From Scrap

Building a home from scrap or recycled materials can be a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to construct a unique dwelling. With some creativity and hard work, you can source free or inexpensive materials and transform them into a comfortable living space. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to build a home from scrap.

Finding and Collecting Materials

The first step is gathering adequate materials for construction. Here are some tips on where to look:

  • Construction sites – Speak with contractors about taking their leftover materials like wood, drywall, bricks, tiles, etc. Just ensure to take only what they permit.

  • Demolitions – When old buildings are being torn down, you can often salvage materials like doors, windows, lumber, and more. Ask the demolition company for permission.

  • Businesses – Factories, shops, and warehouses may have scrap or waste materials they are looking to get rid of, like metal sheets, pallets, crates, pipes, and fittings.

  • Online listings – Check classified ads, Craigslist, Kijiji, eBay etc. for people giving away construction leftovers or scraps.

  • Curbside recycling – Keep an eye out for recyclables like wood pieces, metal scraps, and plastic containers during garbage collection days.

  • Junkyards – These are full of discarded items and materials that could be repurposed for building.

When collecting materials:

  • Wear protective gear like gloves, boots, helmet and high-visibility vest.

  • Bring tools like hammers, pry bars, hacksaws, and drills to separate items.

  • Use a truck or trailer to transport large/heavy materials safely.

  • Stockpile any usable materials at the construction site.

  • Sort everything by type (wood, metal, plastic, etc.) for easier access.

Planning and Design

Once you have gathered enough materials, it’s time to plan out how you will use them to construct your home.

Draw Up Floor Plans

Map out how you want the layout to be for each level of the home. Consider:

  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms needed
  • Open concept or individual rooms
  • Kitchen size and amenities
  • Living room dimensions
  • Deck/patio locations

Use graph paper or home design software to create floor plans you can reference.

Structure and Framing

Decide on a structural frame and exterior walls to support the home.

  • Wood frame using salvaged lumber is a common choice.
  • Metal framing from recycled parts or a metal building kit can also work.
  • Alternative options include straw bale, cordwood, or cob construction.

Safety and Building Codes

Research local building codes and ensure your plans meet requirements related to:

  • Minimum room sizes
  • Electrical and plumbing
  • Energy efficiency
  • Fire safety
  • Required permits and inspections

Consult your local building department early in the process.

Construction and Assembly

With careful demolition and reuse, you can transform scrap materials into a livable home.


Construct a foundation to provide a stable base:

  • Concrete slab – Use an existing slab or pour new concrete.
  • Pier and beam – Set concrete or steel piers, with timber beams.
  • Crawl space – Excavate a shallow trench with a gravel bed.


Build up exterior walls using recycled materials like:

  • Wood – Use reclaimed lumber, pallets, doors, and packaging.
  • Metal – Utilize corrugated steel, sheet metal, tin tiles, etc.
  • Glass bottles – Set bottles into concrete or mortar.
  • Straw bales – Stack bales and plaster the exterior.

Add insulation like denim, newspaper, or other recycled products.


Options for scrap roofing include:

  • Metal – Corrugated steel is durable and waterproof.
  • Asphalt – Use recycled shingles for a traditional look.
  • Plastic – Melted plastic bottles can form roof tiles.
  • Green roof – Add a planter bed and vegetation cover.

Interior Frames and Walls

Continue assembly by adding:

  • Interior load-bearing walls with reclaimed brick or cinder blocks.
  • Door and window frames from old or salvaged units.
  • Drywall and siding from demolition waste or used pallets.

Utilities and Fixtures

You’ll need to run basic utilities and add fixtures using repurposed materials or new components:

  • Electrical – Evaluate existing wiring or install new to code.
  • Plumbing – Incorporate used sinks, toilets and pipes if in good shape.
  • Appliances – Look for used or DIY options to save money.
  • Cabinetry – Build from old doors, crates, plywood scraps, etc.

Prioritize components that affect livability, safety and function, like kitchen and bathroom.

Finishing Touches

Finally, add unique reclaimed finishes:

  • Tiles – Use broken tiles, glass fragments, marbles, etc. for backsplashes.
  • Flooring – Lay reclaimed hardwood, laminate samples, or cement with embedded objects.
  • Lighting – Make lamps and pendants from scraps like metal, plastic or glass bottles.
  • Decor – Upcycle materials creatively for shelves, railings, countertops and wall art.

With resourcefulness and imagination, you can build and furnish an affordable home from items destined for the landfill. The process requires significant labor, but yields a one-of-a-kind living space with character.