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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Shopping for Salvaged Home Building Materials

by Rebecca Selove

Tags: salvage, green building materials, LEED, green home, building a green home, sustainable architecture, tennessee,

Salvaging: Saving anything from destruction of danger 

I search salvage yards for interesting pieces for our new home, a sustainable farmhouse in Tennessee that we are building to reach LEED Platinum certification. My husband and I save money by reusing salvaged materials, and we appreciate the character of products created in earlier eras.

Our green home builders share our concern for the environment, appreciation for classic building materials and our thriftiness. Jason, our project manager, introduced me to Jane, who “knows the best flea markets and thrift stores in Nashville.” At the local Habitat Home Store, where I appointed her “door guru,” Jane helped me distinguish between plastic, steel, hollow and solid wood doors.

A grand 7-foot solid wood door caught my attention. I asked the salesperson about it, and he said it was probably more than 60 years old.

“We’re so tired of looking at it we’ll sell it for half-price,” he said.


For $10 we got a great “new” front door, saved it from landfill and made a small donation to Habitat for Humanity.

salvaged poplar door
We plan to liven up this stunning salvaged, reclaimed poplar door. Photo Courtesy Rebecca Selove.

Our project manager Jason secured our next salvaged steal. He found a new bathtub for us that cost about 10 percent of what we would have paid for a brand new bathtub.

Ryan, another member of our building team, offered us wood paneling he had salvaged from a house on the verge of demolition. We calculated that it cost only slightly more than the sheet rock we planned to use in our mudroom; we quickly accepted it. Both the paneling and our front door are poplar, a wood often used in old homes in the southern United States. In addition to liking the look of poplar, we like thinking the wood required minimal petroleum to get to our home.

salvaged poplar door panels
These salvaged, reclaimed poplar panels will find new life in our home. Photo Courtesy Rebecca Selove.

Sometimes salvage wins beautifully.