How to Upcycle While Renovating – And Why You Should

Remodeling a home can increase its value and make it more comfortable and stylish, but the process has its own risks. Harmful materials can exist in any building, and specific hazards depend on factors like the home’s age, history and construction. Whether it’s a do-it-yourself project or a big job by a contractor, it pays to check everything out before the work begins and while it continues.

Staying Safe During a Renovation

The first step to staying safe during a home renovation is good preparation. For residents, that means finding a place to live or providing precautions like good ventilation, safety masks, and screens to keep dust particles from spreading throughout the house. It also helps to choose green supplies and avoid tracking debris into the house from the outside.

To ensure safety, the people doing the work should gather the right supplies, check the equipment to see if it works properly, and arrange for necessary safety gear like earplugs and safety goggles. They can also make sure ladders, saws and other supplies are safe for workers and residents.

Upcycling Used Materials in Renovations

Thanks to home decorating shows, reusing architectural scraps like old windows and shiplap siding makes it easier for homeowners to add vintage charm to contemporary homes or get rid of materials being removed from older ones. Likewise, woodworkers and craft enthusiasts prize rustic boards and old hardware for building everything from plate racks and farmhouse tables to picture frames and wall hangings. In the world of salvaged building materials, antique doors become headboards, and painted furniture gets a new lease on life. This trend, known as upcycling, is especially good for the budget and the landfill. Upcycling can help with waste management throughout the world, ensuring we are putting these materials and products to good use before properly recycling or disposing of them.

Why Upcycle? 

It may seem easier to just buy new materials and toss out the old, but upcycling is all the rage these days for a reason, or multiple reasons really. Most important for many homeowners is the fact that you can save money. Instead of buying brand new bookshelves, which can cost hundreds, you can upcycle an old salvaged door and some barn wood to make something that costs less.

And that upcycled book case will look much more interesting than anything you can buy in a new furniture store. You’ll have something truly unique that no one else has. The creativity that you get to use in crafting these upcycled objects is another benefit of doing it. Upcycling is truly a creative hobby.

Of course, there are also altruistic reasons for upcycling. By reusing old materials you are reducing what goes into landfills. And by not buying the new products, you also make a positive environmental impact in saving resources.

Precautions When Reusing Old Materials

While reusing old materials and products can seem like an exciting treasure hunt for trendy utilities and décor, there are hidden risks that that you should be on the lookout for when using older products that may contain harmful toxins or fibers, such as asbestos. This fire-resistant mineral used in building materials during the 20th century is especially dangerous when it’s disturbed or disintegrating because it’s tiny particles become airborne. When inhaled, the fibers can become embedded in the lungs and cause mesothelioma, a deadly cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and chest cavity. Lead paint, especially when flaking or being sanded, can cause neurological problems and learning disabilities in children. Pregnant women are also susceptible to lead poisoning.

When to Call the Professionals

Environmental rules and regulations vary, and city or state codes may not be the same as federal ones. While it may be legal for homeowners to remove toxic chemicals like asbestos or lead paint, it may not be a good idea. Licensed professionals can identify toxic materials, advise homeowners how to remove and recycle them, and monitor the job while it is in progress.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides information on a wide range of hazards in the home. It also advises homeowners on how to find qualified home inspectors, how to recycle hazardous waste, and what to look for when buying or renting a home.

Renovations make toxic chemicals and building supplies even more dangerous because the process disrupts the material and releases toxins into the air. Remodeling also makes it more likely toxic dust will tracked around the house. While removing and recycling environmental hazards can be expensive, it’s impossible to put a price on a family’s safety.

Freelance Author: Natalie Emery