Reusing and repurposing old wood can be a fun, eco-friendly way to get inexpensive materials for home improvement projects. With some basic tools and techniques, you can turn scrap lumber and fallen tree branches into all kinds of useful DIY building supplies.
Finding and Preparing Old Wood for Reuse
The first step is sourcing free or inexpensive wood that you can repurpose. Here are some of the best places to look:
Old furniture – Tables, chairs, dressers, bookshelves, and other wooden furniture that is broken or unwanted can be disassembled to harvest the wood. Try looking on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace for free furniture that needs repair. You may also find curbside pieces when people leave old furniture out during bulk garbage pickup days.
Construction waste – If you see a home being renovated or demolished in your neighborhood, inquire with the contractor if they have wood scraps you can take. Trim pieces, floorboards, studs, and plywood offcuts are common in construction waste.
Fallen branches – After a storm, you can often find downed tree limbs and branches. Use small hand pruners to cut these to firewood length, then split them with an axe or maul.
Once you’ve sourced some old wood, you’ll need to prepare it for reuse:
- Break down large pieces using a pry bar, sawzall, or circular saw.
- Remove nails, screws, and hardware with a hammer, pry bar, or metal detector.
- Clean dirty wood using stiff brushes, steel wool, and degreasing agents like TSP.
- Sand to improve condition and safety, wearing proper dust masks.
- Cut wood to size with a miter saw for your intended project.
Proper preparation helps provide you with clean, safe wood ready for DIY repurposing.
DIY Building Supply Ideas
Here are some great ideas for repurposing old wood into useful DIY building supplies:
Old wood can make for beautiful, rustic wood floors or tiles:
Wood flooring – Sand and refinish old floorboards from a deconstructed building for new wood flooring. This saves old growth lumber from the landfill.
Parquet tiles – Make geometric parquet tiles by cutting small wood scraps into brick-like pieces. Glue them into fun patterns on plywood backer.
Pallet flooring – Disassemble pallets, remove protruding nails/hardware, and attach the boards to a subfloor in a brickwork pattern. This makes a great inexpensive floor.
Building furniture from scratch can be expensive, but repurposed wood lets you make custom pieces on a budget:
Table legs – Cut and sand branches, balusters, or other stock into decorative legs for tables, benches, or shelves. Add tapered shape or geometric distressing for added style.
Chair and stool seats – Cut round seat tops by tracing a template onto old boards, then cut out the circle with a jigsaw. Sand smooth and seal with polyurethane.
Furniture accents – Use molding, trim work, cabinet doors, and other salvaged pieces to add character and decoration to DIY furniture projects.
For improving your home’s aesthetics, don’t overlook old wood as a source for custom details:
Barn wood walls – Nail up a accent wall using reclaimed boards from old buildings. They add rustic character to any room.
Wainscoting – Use tongue-and-groove boards from old walls or flooring to create classy wainscoting panels. Add chair rails, baseboards, and crown molding for a polished look.
Window and door casings – Save money on trim work by making your own casings (the frames around windows and doors) from strips of old wood.
The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination. Apply DIY woodcrafting skills to transform salvaged lumber into any building supplies your projects require.
Protecting and Preserving Reclaimed Wood
To keep repurposed wood in good shape and safe for use, it helps to provide some protection from the elements:
Apply wood sealants – Penetrating stains, varnishes, or oils help protect wood from rot and UV damage. Use exterior-rated products for outdoor projects.
Anchor in concrete – When using old wood for structural supports in decks or pergolas, anchor posts in concrete piers to prevent decaying at ground contact.
Allow to dry before sealing – If the reclaimed wood was pressure-treated with chemicals, let it dry out thoroughly before applying any protective sealants.
Use metal fasteners – Choose galvanized nails, screws, and hardware when building with reclaimed wood. Avoid standard steel fasteners that can corrode over time.
Proper drying, sealing, and installation techniques will keep your repurposed wood building supplies in serviceable condition for years to come. Be sure to inspect periodically for any developing cracks, splinters, or decay.
Finding new life for old wood through DIY repurposing is an eco-friendly and wallet-friendly strategy for home improvement. With some persistence hunting down discarded lumber, imagination in design, and skill in woodworking, you can turn trash into treasure by making your own building supplies. Old furniture, construction leftovers, and storm debris can all provide an abundant source of materials for your next project.