How to Build a Home Out of Trash and Scrap

How to Build a Home Out of Trash and Scrap

How to Build a Home Out of Trash and Scrap

Building a home out of trash and scrap is an innovative way to construct affordable and eco-friendly housing using recycled materials. Here is an in-depth guide on how to build your own home out of trash and scrap:

Gathering Materials

The first step is sourcing discarded materials that can be repurposed for building. Good materials to look for include:

  • Wood – salvaged lumber, pallets, crates, furniture, floorboards, etc. You’ll need wood for the structure and framing.

  • Windows and doors – salvaged from old houses, demolition sites, junkyards, etc. Make sure they are in good, usable condition.

  • Bricks and concrete blocks – broken pieces and leftovers from construction sites can be used like bricks.

  • Roofing materials – corrugated metal sheets, aluminum siding, old shingles, etc work well for roofing and siding.

  • Plastic containers – large plastic buckets, barrels, bins can be used for sinking floors, water storage, composting toilets.

  • Tires – can be filled with rammed earth to form walls. The round shape lends itself well for circular homes.

  • Insulation – scraps of fiberglass, denim, newspaper, straw, etc for stuffing walls and roof.

  • Pipes – PVC, metal, and plastic pipes have many uses like structural columns, water plumbing and gas lines.

Design and Planning

Decide on the size and layout of your scrap home based on the materials available. Draw up plans marking locations for doors, windows, storage, bath, kitchen, etc.

Considerations for design:

  • Make use of recycled windows and doors’ dimensions so minimal alteration is needed.
  • Incorporate eco-friendly systems like solar panels, composting toilets, greywater irrigation.
  • Design a rainwater harvesting system using gutters, pipes, tanks, and filters.
  • Allow for enough insulation in walls and roof to regulate temperature.
  • Include space for storage of tools, materials and recycled inventory.


Laying a proper foundation is crucial for stability and preventing settling. Options for foundation materials include:

  • Concrete – Mix leftover concrete chunks with new batch to form foundation footings.
  • Stone – Use found stones or broken concrete as a rubble foundation.
  • Rammed earth – Pack earth inside forms to create thick earth walls suitable for bearing weight.
  • Wooden piers – Tree stumps and treated 4×4 lumber stacked as piers work well with raised homes.

Make sure the foundation is level by checking with a spirit level.


Building walls from trash materials involves creative framing solutions. Some approaches include:

  • Wooden framing – Use salvaged lumber to frame walls in standard platform framing technique. Stuff with insulation.
  • Post and beam – Set vertical posts made from tree trunks or pipes into the ground and attach beams. Fill space with bottles, cans or earth.
  • Cob – Mix clay soil, straw and sand then form into monolithic earthen walls. Allow to dry fully.
  • Bamboo – Use whole bamboo trunks tied together with ropes for latticework framed walls.
  • Tire walls – Stack tires filled with rammed earth to form thick, insulating walls.

Be sure to include headers for door and window openings. Nail or lash wall components together securely.


For roofing, overlay scraps of metal and wood with waterproofing:

  • Corrugated metal roofing attached to purlins offers durable protection.
  • Fasten salvaged shingles or rolled roofing material onto plywood sheathing.
  • Waterproof tar paper, then layer avaible materials from metal to asphalt roof tiles.
  • For flat roofs, install a mud layer topped with recycled rubber pond liner to seal.

Include an overhang to protect walls from rain. Install salvaged gutters and direct water to storage tanks.

Finishing Touches

Finally, add final touches like:

  • Broken glass or tile pieces arranged in patterns for a mosaic accent wall.
  • Scrap wood planed and sanded for an interior feature wall.
  • Salvaged sinks, toilets and appliances for kitchen and bathroom.
  • Rain chains made from cans or pipes to move water from roof to tanks.
  • Furniture from repurposed wood pallets and crates.

With creativity and reused resources, you can construct a low-cost, eco-friendly home from materials destined for the landfill. Just be sure to follow building codes for proper health and safety.