Everything We’ve Learned Using Reclaimed Lumber

Everything We’ve Learned Using Reclaimed Lumber

Everything We’ve Learned Using Reclaimed Lumber

In progress rabbit tractor with lumber that washed down the creek. 

Homesteading lends itself easily to salvaging materials. Most homesteaders strive to save money, lead sustainable lives, and are excellent DIYers. While I love most repurposing projects the one thing we’ve used the most is lumber. Using a lot of old lumber has produced some really great results and some not so great. Needless to say we’ve picked up a few lessons along the way.

Types of Lumber

Not all lumber is created equal. You can salvage everything from pallets to hand hewn beams. Here’s what we think about when using different types.


There are literally hundreds of pallet project ideas plastered all over the internet but pallets are probably one of my least favorite ways to get lumber. Now before you jump on the pallet loving bandwagon hear me out. I have done projects with pallets that went great. I used pallets for these two ways. I’ve used whole pallets for things like temporary gates, pens, and walls (stuffing them with hay) and small enough pieces that I could just could cut boards off the pallet around the nails like signs. 

Maybe it’s just me but it takes so long to pull a pallet apart that I simply don’t use them that way for projects anymore. Plus pallets are often made from brittle wood that cracks when you try to pry boards off. 

Pressure treated, painted, etc.

In our searching we’ve run across good lumber that’s pressure treated, painted or otherwise covered in chemicals. The part of me that wants live a truly natural life wants to never use these but then the poor farmer part of me is like “eh why not?” There are certain areas of our farm you’ll never find these in though:

– our garden beds
– where little bunny teeth can find them

Otherwise you’re only worry is appearance and sorry but homesteading just ain’t pretty.


These are rare and usually small but I often save small pretty scraps for little woodworking projects like carving utensils. 

Everything else

We pretty much utilize anything we can get our hands on provided it’s not full of nails and screws. Sometimes getting all that out can be much more effort than it’s worth. You may think that screws should be easy to remove but so many are completely rusty and mangled or stripped. We decide on board’s worth on its size and length, quality, number of screws/nails, and our current level of desperation. 

Other Considerations

Is the amount of time I’m going to spend worth the money I would save?

If it’s going to take a lot of time (like me ripping apart pallets) and the wood you get is relatively cheap anyway you may want to consider purchasing. This is a personal decision but something you should always consider. You only have some much time in this world so be intentional about how you spend it, though pulling apart pallets is still better than office work 😉 

Are their other expenses (like gas money) that I should take into account?

This mostly applies to lumber you’re traveling to get not anything like my creek boards. Personally I would only travel if there’s a lot of quality lumber or something spectacular like a hand hewn beam for cheap/free.

There’s also other expenses like trailer rentals for moving large quantities, new tools/rental tools if you need to plane, saw, or otherwise alter boards in ways you’re not equipped to.

Will this lumber last?

Especially of you’re building something that exposed to the weather you’ll need good lumber. It’s not really worth building something that will rot or break in a year. That being said I have done this when no other option was available and hoped for the money to replace it as soon as possible.

Will I be happy with this project a year down the road?

This may seem similar to the last question but if you’re investing a lot of time into something it ought to make you happy. Maybe you get enough satisfaction just seeing a project that you built with the ultimate thrift but maybe you like things to look a certain way and that’s okay. 

I know that sometimes I’ve have things on our homestead that are great for everything but aesthetics and ultimately I’ve ended up changing or replacing them because they were driving me crazy. As with any homestead project, lumber related or not, be honest with yourself about what will work for you and stick to it. Be proud of all you’ve done your homestead goals do not have to match others!

I’ve been think about compiling a list of everything we’ve built with salvaged materials. What have you made from other’s junk?

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