Inspired Habitat: Should We Salvage That?

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Many people are choosing to renovate their old homes rather than sell and build new. The reasons are different for everyone. Some want to save money and a renovation is less expensive than a rebuild. Others want to preserve some historic element in their existing home. Still others love their home, their yard and their neighborhood but find the home’s interior design no longer suits their lifestyle.

Before it’s time to reach for demolition tools, assess what you’ve got to work with. Are there salvageable items that can be repurposed within the home? Or are they in good enough shape to donate or sell to a salvage yard? Are there historic or architectural items that you want to preserve? And finally, what is the cost to replace an item that you remove? Look beyond the dirt, years of icky paint and worn-out feeling before you decide to remove the item to the trash heap.

Vintage items have withstood the test of time, and salvaging them reduces your renovation footprint significantly.

Wood floors
A good-quality wood floor is a thing of beauty and having one that has been around the block a time or two is even better. Salvaging a wood floor, rather in its existing room, or to be placed in a different space, is almost always worth the effort. Slight defects only add to the charm, and badly damaged areas can be replaced by purchasing wood from salvage dealers. Make sure your installer has experience and knowledge about old floors. They should be able to fix minor problem spots and even mend some amount of warping or cracking. Floors that are in reasonable condition may need nothing more than sanding down and refinishing to bring them up to showroom perfection.

Stone or brick walls
An old brick or stone wall can be made to fit with any design style. Rather than cover them up, embrace them! Both surfaces can be cleaned , repointed and sealed easily. If the color just doesn’t work for you, then slap on a layer of thin white paint for an uber-hip white-wash feeling.

Moldings and baseboards
Decorative trim is expensive to replace throughout the home and newer copies of old styles are not always exact matches, nor is the quality the same. Remove old trim, strip and repaint it to bring it back to life. If there are small damaged pieces, scour hidden spaces like closets for replacements. If the home is vintage, it’s possible to have custom-milled pieces made to match existing trim and some architectural salvage companies may have replacement pieces.

If you are redoing a kitchen or bath where the cabinets are real wood instead of some form of fiberboard, rejoice. They’re virtually indestructible and can be easily updated, saving you tons of money. Paint can be stripped and refinished or repainted, minor damage can be mended and decorative trim can be removed, changed, or added to customize the look.
If you happen to have vintage metal cabinets, don’t despair if they are dented, scratched, yellowed or warn. They don’t belong in the recycling pile! If there isn’t a cabinet company in your area speciailizing in these beautiful old things, a local auto-body shop will usually take them. The old finish needs to be removed and enamel electrostatically applied inside and out. The result? Gorgeous vintage cabinets at less than half the cost of new.

Stained or leaded glass
Remove them and send them to an artist for restoration and repair, then reinstall. Smaller windows are easier and offer a lot of visual punch for a small investment. Larger windows with heavy damage may be too expensive or labor intensive to repair reasonably. If the piece has historic significance, or you truly love the look of it, it might be worth the investment to repair a large piece, otherwise, focus on salvaging smaller pieces for yourself and find a salvage dealer to take the rest of your hands.

Bathtubs and sinks
This is really a personal choice, many people love the look of an old claw foot tub, and they are usually very deep and comfortable. If the tub or sink is in good condition, it pays to keep them – they are in high demand and in increasingly limited supply. Proper refinishing is costly; comparable to buying a new tub or sink. Keep in mind, you may have to modify new cabinet designs to accommodate older sinks.

Rather than ditch the retro chandelier, take it down and have it cleaned and rewired to accommodate CFL or LED bulbs. With a little TLC, your old light fixture will brighten right up, for a fraction of the cost, and environmental impact, of tossing it in favor of a new one.

Inspired Habitat is written by local environmentally-conscious lifestyle website Bambeco, a company committed to advancing a more sustainable world.

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