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10 home building products made from recycled materials

  • 10 home building products made from recycled materials

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Small home made of grass surrounded by toolsUntil recently most homeowners and buyers gave little thought to green building materials for homes they purchased or renovated. In the last few years, however, environmentally friendly and energy-efficient construction has attracted many potential buyers, especially those considering the future of their investment, their health, and the well being of our planet.

  • Difference between 'recycled' and 'salvaged'

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    pile of old lumberWhen it comes to recycled building materials, you may be confused by the difference between 'recycled,' 'reclaimed,' and 'salvaged.' You may see these words used interchangeably, but there are distinctions.

    • Some of the sustainable home building products you can use include those that contain recycled materials, either pre-consumer waste material that is an unused by-product of manufacturing or post-consumer that you have used and discarded. 'Recycled' means that either of these types of material has been collected and processed. The processed material can become a substitute for virgin material in manufacturing new products, similar to the originals -- such as plastic products manufactured using flakes of recycled plastic -- or a totally different product made from plastic.
    • Reclaimed materials are salvaged from prior construction such as joists and floorboards from a demolished structure. Renovation and new construction projects often incorporate repurposed salvaged materials in their design, for example, floorboards converted into butcher block countertops or pipes transformed into decorative sculptures, lighting fixtures, or storage rods.

    Regardless of what you call them, all of these materials would otherwise end up in landfill if not given another life.

    If you are in the market to buy, sell or remodel your home, using any of these recycled, reclaimed, repurposed and salvaged materials can sometimes prove more affordable than virgin materials. It may also make your home more desirable, both to you and to another environmentally conscious buyer down the road.

  • Recycled, reclaimed, and salvaged home building products

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Wood framing of a home with a bright blue sky behind itAlmost every category of home building products from flooring to roofing and everything in between offers materials made from recycled or reclaimed content. The creation of new recycled building products such as sustainable roofing systems made from empty plastic water and soda bottles, and Norwegian 'wood' cut from newspaper 'logs,' represent just a couple of promising innovations.

    Until the latest creative possibilities hit the market in earnest, here are a few recycled building materials that have been around long enough to prove their worth beyond their sustainability.

  • Recycled concrete aggregate (RCA)

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Pile of broken concrete ready to be recycledUncontaminated concrete from demolished structures is ground up and reused as aggregate for new concrete projects. Though mostly reused for large construction projects, residential applications include landscaping elements that require fill for grading and soil stabilization such as beneath a patio. You can use salvaged concrete slabs of broken concrete as pavers. Chunks of concrete rubble can take the place of stones in stacked walls and water features.

  • Recycled asphalt pavement (RAP)

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Old asphalt being dumped into recycling containerAsphalt removed from roadwork sites and ground up into aggregate size makes an affordable alternative to virgin asphalt driveways. When properly installed, moistened and compacted, the RAP forms a durable bond that allows water to drain. Disadvantages include variations in color saturation and inconsistent quality among suppliers.

  • Terrazzo flooring and countertops

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Terrazzo flooringTiny bits of recycled glass, masonry, stone, china, and concrete held together with either cement or epoxy-based binder form durable tiles and planks that can last 40 years. Besides good looks, benefits include resistance to stains, chipping, burns, and bacteria; easy damp-mop maintenance; and recyclability at end of life. Poured-in-place, epoxy-based tiles may contain VOCs that you probably want to avoid prior to curing. For that reason, pre-finished terrazzo tiles are preferred. Terrazzo products for countertops include Vetrazzo, IceStone and EnviroGlass. Acidic foods can cause etching, so seal terrazzo counters made with cement binders.

  • Salvaged wood

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Stack of reclaimed woodOnce an affordable and aesthetic alternative to freshly cut lumber, salvaged wood -- while still a green option -- has become big business. Transportation across country and demand have driven up the cost. Wood sourced from old structures may require milling, sanding, or finishing but nail holes and other imperfections lend salvaged wood its most desirable quality. The wood can be reused for its original purpose or repurposed for a variety of new uses such as shelving, exposed beams, table tops and wainscoting. Reclaimed wood shingles, shutters, window frames, and doors are also popular.

  • Recycled carpet

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Strips of carpet cut upThe most recyclable virgin carpets are made from nylon, PVC, and polypropylene broadloom. Ground up, these materials can be made into a number of fiber products including carpet tiles and insulation. Carpet tiles provide an affordable and easy-to-customize alternative to wall-to-wall carpeting especially for a basement or bonus room. Enhance your outdoor deck with some upscale area rug designs crafted from recycled woven plastic.

  • Insulation products

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Insulation in an atticCellulose insulation contains anywhere from 82 to 85 percent recycled paper, mostly newsprint, which provides an R-value of 3.6 to 3.8 per inch. Used in both existing and new construction homes, you can damp-spray it or install it dry held behind netting. Borate or ammonium sulfate provides insect and fire resistance. Recycled denim, sold in perforated batts for custom sizing, is another product growing in popularity for its insulation properties and 90 percent recycled post-consumer denim and cotton fibers.

  • Composite wood decking

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    deck made of composite woodMade from as much as 95 percent recycled wood and plastic, these products are easy maintenance compared to wood decks. Some can even be bent to customize the shape more easily than any wood products. They don't rot, splinter or fade as much as wood or require staining or other protective coatings, but they are heavier to work with and generally less slip resistant under foot than wood.

  • Recycled steel

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Steel framing of a houseIf you're buying a new construction frame home, it may be built with recycled steel instead of wood. Most steel used in construction is recycled, and steel framing for residential projects is gaining in popularity due to its many merits: it's termite- and rot-proof as well as resistant to the wrath of nature, including earthquakes and violent wind. Drawbacks include less energy-efficiency and mold formation in colder climates due to thermal bridging around the steel. Proper insulation can lessen these issues.

  • Recycled siding

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Recycled wood siding with blue paintYou can clad your house with a no-maintenance recycled waste product left over from milling lumber -- tree bark. Its natural properties protect your home from fire and insects. It never needs sealing, and paint or stains and can last 80 years.

  • Recycled roofing

    Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 18, 2016

    Metal roofMaterials that have been successfully recycled and used for roofing include metal, rubber tires, and even asphalt. Wood shakes and shingles can also be reclaimed for reuse. Metal is the superior roofing material, however. Rubber provides very poor fire resistance as do wood products. Most recycled roofing products simulate the look of all types of natural roofing products including slate.

    This is by no means an exhaustive list of recycled home construction products. With new ways to reuse what we have traditionally discarded now being explored in earnest, chances are you can probably find a recycled alternative to just about any building material you need.