Recycle & Re-use Building Materials

Posted on 16th February, 2010

Re-using building materials can be as simple as visiting a salvage yard - or more complex such as targeting a specific building that is to be demolished and taking as much out of it as is possible to re-use.

What Can You Re-use or Re-cycle?

  • Concrete, concrete blocks and concrete bricks, etc can be crushed and used as aggregate for hardcore fill. Some contractors now produce this material from their demolition works.
  • Blocks and bricks can be re-used to build walls if all the old mortar & plaster is knocked off them. This is a very labour-intensive process and it is often better to use them where the jointing is not a visual or structural priority - such as in rustic garden walls, random paving or as kerbing around garden beds, etc.
  • Much of the timber taken out of old buildings is re-usable (but check for infestation or rot), as are any materials that can be removed without damage such as slates & tiles, stone quoins, stone sills, flagstones, etc.
  • Plumbing and electrical fittings can often be easily refurbished for re-use – as long as they meet current regs.
  • A new building can easily be designed to accept 2nd-hand windows, doors, fitted furniture and other joinery. Glazing units will need to achieve the minimum standards for thermal insulation – so check this before you buy! Fire doors will need certificates to satisfy building regulations.
  • Cladding (steel or aluminium, etc) can be saved from old sheds and re-used in appropriate locations. Just make sure it can be successfully weather-proofed again.
  • Structural items such as steel beams and columns are easy to re-use - but reinforced concrete is not so simple (although it can still prove useful). Structural calculations will be required before you use any of these.
  • Heating equipment can also be re-used as long as it is serviceable, however many older installations might not possess the level of efficiency required for new building regs. Again, this is not a major problem if the old system can be left out of the calculations. An example of this is where a solid fuel stove or an old range could heat a conservatory which is not heated by the dwelling's system.

What Do You Avoid?

  • Avoid materials which have been contaminated (oil, sewage, chemicals, etc).
  • Avoid hazardous materials (asbestos, certain fibre products, lead products including paints, etc)


The answer to “What Can You Re-cycle or Re-use?” – is - almost all building materials!

This is a wide-ranging subject, and I will come back to it again in the near future.

As with all advice given on this website – always obtain professional advice that is specific to your particular situation – before you embark on your building project.

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