There are always a lot of jobs to do on the homestead that require materials that can be expensive. To make things easier, it is a good idea to save as many materials as you can to use for future projects.
This involves saving materials from your projects or from your friends and neighbor’s projects that they are going to throw away.
You can also scour building sites, dumpsters, and industrial businesses. Also, check out trade, recycle, or classified websites like Craigslist.
It’s incredible how many people will happily give leftover building materials away to save them from disposing of it all.
You will also be surprised at how useful it is to repurpose building materials on your homestead.
10 Materials to Repurpose
This list is by no means exhaustive, but from my experience, when you want to repurpose building materials, these will come in the most handy.
1. Lumber, Including Wood Pallets, Timber, and Treated Wood
Keep any wood that is leftover from construction projects or when you tear down things like sheds, barns, or old fences.
With the price of lumber constantly increasing, used and spare pieces can be molded to suit most money-conscious homesteaders.
It doesn’t take much to sand used lumber smooth or apply coats of paint or lacquer. Save all sizes and store it all in an area off the ground, if you can, where it will stay dry and protected from the elements until you need it.
Pallets are good because they are usually free and handy for many projects, including:
- Garden edging and raised beds
- Multi-bin compost systems
- Indoor and outdoor furniture
- Firewood storage bins or just a base to keep firewood off the ground
For 43 inventive ways to reuse pallet wood, visit our guide.
2. Bricks, Pavers, Tile, and Old Concrete
Whether you, a neighbor, or a business down the street is working on a project, there is bound to be some leftover material. When the construction is done, you can use pavers, concrete, tile, and bricks for all kinds of things.
It’s amazing how many paths you need to connect one area of a homestead to another. At the very least, you can use old bricks, pavers, and concrete for making pathways, but there are far more options, including:
- Walls or fences
- Pizza ovens
- Garden edging
- Weights for tarps in windy weather
Broken, old concrete is a good filler for new, small concrete pads if you don’t have rebar. You can use broken bricks for the same purpose. Or break them up as the base of a pathway or raised bed.
3. Siding, Roofing, and Sheet Metal
Most people end up with excess roofing and sidings from their projects, and if they don’t have a use for it, they have to pay to have it taken away. They’d probably love it if you came and took it away for them.
Or maybe you need pull down a shed or building. If so, keep the siding, roofing, or sheet metal for future use. Potential uses include:
- Animal housing for goats, dogs, chickens, rabbits
- A new shed or building
- Replacement roofing or siding for damaged ones
- Raised garden beds
- A toolshed
- Firewood shed/storage
Nails, screws, hinges, handles, and bolts have the potential to be the most useful items on this list. Save every nail, screw, bolt, and nut that you can. There is always one that comes loose somewhere that needs replacing.
Many of the new projects using repurposed materials need to be fixed in some way, and nails and screws are expensive, but the old ones can be used again and again.
Make sure you keep the indoor screws and nails separate from the outdoor ones so that you can use the proper ones in the right applications. Nails that rust quickly won’t be useful outdoors.
Even used nails from pallets are handy because they are designed to keep light, cheap wood together tightly. You can even straighten any bent ones with a hammer and anvil or similar.
Hinges can be reused where anything needs closing or opening, like compost bins, entrances to animal enclosures, or replacing old ones on doors and windows if they go rusty or break.
Handles can be used to make hooks to hang photos or coats in an entryway, to hold jewelry, or as cupboard pulls.
5. Chicken Wire, Fencing, Posts, and Mesh
If you have things like chickens, ducks, rabbits, or any livestock, you will probably end up creating areas for them using wire fencing of some kind. Or, you might need to repair any areas that become damaged or broken.
You can repurpose building materials from your animal enclosures to build things like:
- Fences – either in building new ones or repairing existing ones
- Animal enclosures
- Protection around gardens or trees
- Chicken wire can be used on wooden steps to prevent slipping, as a structure for plants like peas and beans, or to repair holes in fencing.
6. Windows and Doors
Apart from the obvious reuse in new buildings, sheds, and storage units that you’re building, you can use windows and doors in lots of other ways around the homestead.
Repurpose building materials like windows for greenhouses, cold frames, or walls in pet enclosures.
Doors can be repurposed as table tops, seating, or workbenches. Or use them as overhangs, walls, or roofing underlayment on small projects.
7. Sealers, Paints and Stains
You will often find that small areas that need painting, sealing, or staining only require a minimal amount of product. It’s expensive and wasteful to buy a whole can of paint only to use a small amount.
Save all of your paints, stains, and sealers in containers that won’t leak and can close tightly. Use them for small projects rather than buying new paint for everything you do.
Test the leftovers once a year; after about five years, dispose of it if you haven’t used it.
8. Wire, Rope, and Chain
When you think about how to repurpose building materials, many people overlook wire, rope, and chain. But these are items you will need all the time, and often out of the blue. It’s always handy to have some around.
You can use leftover wire, rope and chain for:
- Towing vehicles
- Securing animals, loose doors or windows, and tying down loads on trailers
- Wiring for replacement in electrical applications
- Securing things that can blow away in storms
- Chains for children’s swings
Clean containers that haven’t had chemicals in them are handy for storing all of your small repurposed items. We often think of wood or bricks when we picture how to repurpose building materials, but construction supplies often require a bunch of containers.
Glass or plastic jars can be used to store screws, nails, pins, hinges, and staples, or liquids like oils, stains, and paints.
Larger containers can hold tools and garden implements.
Clean, food-grade containers are ideal for water or dry food emergency supplies. They can also hold animal feed so that vermin can’t get inside.
Secure containers for garden chemicals. Make sure that the chemicals are in their original packaging for the instructions and because they come in containers suitable for storing them. This outside container keeps them orderly and away from little hands.
10. Carpet, Rugs, and Mats
Sometimes, people tear out perfectly good materials because they want to change the look of their space and not because it is past its usefulness. Repurpose building materials like carpet, rugs, and mats for things like:
- Use carpets over compost piles to keep the heat and moisture in.
- Place carpets, rugs, or mats in sheds, barns, or garages. It’s incredible how nice walking on a comfy surface instead of concrete or wood floors is.
- Carpets or mats can suppress weeds before you dig a garden. Place it where you intend to dig the garden and leave it on until the grass dies underneath. This helps stop the use of harmful chemical sprays and weed killers.
5 Quick Ways to Repurpose Building Materials
Look at every job or project you have coming up and think about what you have to repurpose before you buy anything. Store your saved materials in clean, orderly piles, rows, and stacks to easily see what you have to work with.
Here are just a few ideas for using your construction waste:
1. Multi-Step Pallet Compost Bin
Build a three-step compost bin from pallets. This requires you to build three sections, each the width of a standard pallet. This enables you to start the compost in the first section, move it to the second section when well combined, and to the third section when complete.
Use old carpets or mats to keep the heat and moisture in, and use boards or pallet wood to have a removable front.
2. Bricks For Garden Edging
You can use any type of brick for this, but be wary of bricks with holes in them, as this can provide homes for snails. Lay the bricks flat, or stand them end-on at an angle for an interesting look. Each brick supports the next brick in the line.
Bricks standing end on end work well on curves.
3. Window Cold Frame
If you have window frames, you can make a coldframe or mini greenhouse with as little as one window. Simply place two supports like bricks on the ground and lay a window frame on them. The seeds sit under the glass and stay warm from the frame.
You could go a bit fancier and create sides with additional window frames, repurpose hinges, and have a window frame as a lid.
4. Build a Chicken House and Run
Chickens are common on the homestead, and you need a solid home and safe run for them. It’s easy to use lumber, chicken wire, and old posts. Work out how much space you need and how big the house needs to be, and plan with the resources and materials you have saved.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be pretty; it just needs to work. You could also build a chicken tractor to move them around to fresh grass, or even a rabbit hutch for the kids’ rabbits.
Wheels and axles saved from lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, or bikes come in handy and make moving the tractor easy. Even though we’re talking about how to repurpose building materials, those little waste items around the garden are useful, too.
5. Rain Barrel
Collecting and storing water is a necessity, and if you have a food-grade barrel or large container, you can collect rainwater for drinking or watering the garden.
We sometimes focus on lumber and hardware when we discuss how to repurpose building materials. But plastic bins and barrels are perfect for collecting rainwater.
Non-food-grade containers can be used depending on what was stored in them previously. Add a tap or outlet for ease of use.