Reclaimed Wood Dining Set

How to Build Your New Home with Architectural Salvage

Posted by Sarah Asp Olson on May 8, 2018

Looking to give your new build a vintage feel? Here are a few tips on how to incorporate architectural salvage and used building materials into your new home.

You’ve just closed on your acreage and you’re ready to start drawing up plans for your dream home. Maybe your Pinterest board is filled with 19th-century Southern farmhouse touches like dormer windows, tin roofs and a sprawling front porch. Or perhaps you’re dreaming of a rustic cabin with exposed beams and wide plank floors. Maybe you’re not sure what you’re looking for, but love the idea of strolling aisles filled with vintage hardware and pressed tin tiles.

Whatever your style, using reclaimed materials in your new build can add touches of authentic charm. As an added bonus, salvaged construction pieces often come at a cost savings and can contribute to a more environmentally friendly build.  

Tips for Building Your Home with Used Building Materials

Tracy Rigdon, director of marketing and social media for Eco Relics in Jacksonville, Florida, offers a few tips when it comes to finding and using salvaged or reclaimed materials.

recycled wood bathroom

Start with a plan

Get a good sense of the materials available and what you want to incorporate before you get too far down the design road. Rigdon recommends spending several hours (or more) perusing architectural salvage spots to start to envision how you may want to use reclaimed materials in your build. From rustic beams to ornate banisters, you may be surprised by what you find and to what you’re drawn.  

For example, you may stumble upon an 8-foot tall, 150-year-old solid wood door imported from Egypt, like the ones Rigdon had at Eco Relics not long ago.

“A lot of people are buying those to use as a walkway entrance out into their patio,” he says. “It’s different, but they look good.”

Since many salvaged elements—like over-sized doors—don’t fit today’s standard size templates you’ll likely have to work with your contractor to draw them into the design. Here are a few more tips on building a custom home.

salvaged doors

Team Up

Find a contractor or architect who is comfortable working with salvaged materials. Ideally, he or she will be able to recommend sources and have ideas on how to creatively incorporate raw materials like salvaged wood beams and standout architectural pieces you may discover along the way.

“You have to find a good contractor you’re comfortable with,” says Rigdon. “I’d ask friends who their contractor was, then sit and have a chat with the contractor. Tell them you’re looking to incorporate reclaimed materials and find out what their opinion is on it. If they won’t work with you on it, then they’re not your contractor.”

Make Wood the Star

The warmth and character of wood is hard to beat, and reclaimed wood often tells the story of its previous life with every nick, scratch and nail hole—all of which add charm, character and authenticity to new builds.

Wood flooring can come from any number of sources, from barn demolitions to pallets; even reclaimed gymnasium flooring can make for a one-of-kind look. You can also repurpose wood you clear from your own acreage.

But don’t limit yourself to wood floor coverings. From reclaimed handrails from manor homes in Savannah to an 18-foot bar back with ornate carvings and mirrors, Rigdon has seen all kinds of salvaged items make their way into builds and remodels.

“There’s old bead board that was used in homes at the turn of the century that can be used for ceiling panels or even wainscoting on the walls,” says Rigdon. “Old vintage trim can be used, old mantles—that’s a big thing in the South, a lot of old plantations and manors had huge elaborate mantles built around their fireplaces … people buy them and put them in their house. It brings back some of the old Americana look.”

Rigdon has also seen homeowners effectively incorporate reclaimed slab lumber into countertops and hang rustic barn doors with vintage industrial rails and pulleys.  

reclaimed newel post staircase

Know When It’s Good to Go With New

There have been myriad advances over the years when it comes to insulation and structural elements in home construction. It’s important to know when it makes more sense to buy new items.

“I would say it would be hard to use the old vintage windows in a new structure,” says Rigdon. “[For] energy efficiency, you want to go with double pane insulated windows.”

There are window manufacturers who make energy efficient panes that resemble the sash windows popular in old homes. In the same vein, places like Elmira Stove Works make vintage-look appliances that don’t sacrifice modern functionality.

TAKE NOTE: Eco Relics ships some small items, but your best bet is to find architectural salvage resources in your area.


How to Buy Your Rural Hideaway

Sarah Asp Olson

Sarah is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in publications such as Delta Sky, Country's Best Cabins, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and more. Sarah has written about everything from rural cabin life and home decor trends to higher education and the country music scene in Norway. Check out some of her work at

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