Living Less Unsustainably: Used Materials

Jul 20, 2020

Rather than buy new laminate, carpet, or hardwood, KLCC's John Fischer decided to refinish his 100-year-old wood floors. Here's a look at the floor before the refinishing project.
Credit John Fischer / KLCC

Many of us have been home more over the last few months. Enjoying the space, considering some changes, and maybe noticing a few things that need repairing or replacing.

But rather than starting your home project with a trip to the store, check to see if that sticky door knob can be oiled or cleaned back into service. The dripping faucet is usually a washer away from watertight, and is often stronger as an all metal unit than the plastic replacement will be.  If it ever really fails, the metal is easily recyclable.

If you're looking at something bigger- say a new window to bring more light into the dining area, consider buying a pre-owned window from Bring, The Habitat Restore, or Craig's List.

Every time you re-use something, all of the materials are saved. All of the manufacturing costs and energy inputs are saved, and most of the transportation impacts disappear.

You pay less too. Usually a dime or two on the dollar compared to a new unit. Find your window first, then do your framing to match the materials you have. Old lumber salvaged from the project will likely be useful, and save siding carefully when you cut the hole. It may be difficult, expensive, and unsustainable to find that old growth cedar new at the lumber yard.

John Fischer's 100-year-old wood floors during the refinishing process.
Credit John Fischer / KLCC

I just refinished a few 100-year-old wooden floors. They don't look perfect- they look better. And no laminates, carpet, or new wood was need to update the old space. Sandpaper is cheap, and the $60-a-gallon finish was just $20 because the dented cans were at the second hand store. Even the new trim was cast off old growth wood that matches the floor.

So before you start a project go down and browse a little. You may get just the idea you didn't know you were looking for.

The "finished" project.
Credit John Fischer / KLCC