Salvaging and Reusing Wood

Wood is the largest percentage of the residential new construction debris--approximately 42 percent, according the National Association of Home Builders Research Center.

This seems particularly wasteful when wood is such a versatile material. Unlike plastic, which once formed is quite inflexible in how it may be reused, wood has incredible potential for re-use. It can be sanded, stripped, cut and re-built to make furniture, toys and items for your Certified Wildlife Habitat® site. It has never-ending potential with the use of paints, varnishes and caulks.

Sanding wood_credit_Carla Brown

Tips on Salvaging Wood:

  • Estate and yard sales are a great source for furniture that can be re-used if the paint could be stripped off or a new coat of paint was added.
  • Keep a bucket of wood scraps in a dry place in your home where it won't attract insects. When you want to tackle a wood project, try to use that wood first before buying new.
  • Sturdy toys made from wood often last longer than those made from plastic, so you might consider giving wooden toys made by local artisans. These toys are less likely to end up in the dump and are often made from wood waste leftover from furniture production. Also, since they are made locally, they reduce pollution from transportation.
  • Make toys instead of buying them. Even if you do not consider yourself to be handy, there are many library books that take you through step-by-step projects, such as those featured here.

Fun Projects Made from Salvaged Wood:

These projects are just examples. Use your imagination and wood resources to make your own projects. Hopefully these will get you inspired!


Sailboat Bird Feeder_credit_Carla Brown

Sailboat Birdfeeder

Designed and constructed by Gloria and Carl Brown, this wood was gathered from garbage piles at construction sites near their home. The wood is painted and sanded to look "antique," then wired together. Bird seed sits in a platform behind the waves.






Compost bin_credit_Carla Brown

Compost Bin

For leaf compost, a wooden compost bin suffices. This one was put together from local wood waste. You can also use wooden pallets often discarded by stores.










Watermelon painted barrel_credit_Carla Brown

Watermelon Barrel

This barrel once transported feta cheese from Greece. A local deli was going to throw it out. After a thorough cleaning, it was painted it to look like a watermelon slice, and put a checkerboard on top. It would make a great bedside table in a guest or child's bedroom.









Chair with painted vegetables_credit_Carla Brown


An antique chair with lovely carved designs was recycled into this unusual folk art piece with some paint and imagination. It was "dipped" to remove the paint, then sanded and painted. Now all it needs is a "vege-table".










Bat house created from a box spring mattress_credit_Carla Brown

Bat House

Much of the wood used in this bat house was salvaged by taking apart a box spring mattress and pulling out all the industrial size staples from the wood. Full instructions on building a bat house are available in the Certified Wildlife Habitat® website.

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