Building a new home to your own design and specifications is a long-held dream for many people, and there's no better way to ensure that your new home is everything you want to be than by building it yourself. However, building your own home can be something of a guilty pleasure for the environmentally conscious -- all of those newly made bricks, tiles and timber trusses take an enormous amount of energy and resources to create, and can dramatically inflate your personal carbon footprint.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the environmental impact of building your home is by incorporating recycled materials into its construction, and reclaimed timber is one of the most useful and versatile recycled building materials around. All types of wood, from barely-used structural hardwoods to beautifully aged evergreen softwoods can be picked up from timber salvage yards, and can be incorporated into your home design in a number of ways:

Structural timbers

You might not think using aged timber to hold your roof above your head is a particularly good idea, but if carefully chosen reclaimed timber can be very advantageous for structural purposes. The older a piece of lumber is, the more likely it is to be strong, old growth wood, rather than softer, weaker woods taken from modern intensive tree plantations. Old timber also comes from trees that grew in a significantly less polluted atmosphere; consequently, a 50 or even 100-year-old piece structural timber can be considerably stronger than one created last week.

If found in reasonable condition, this reclaimed lumber can be put to various structural uses, ranging from timber wall framing to roof trusses and load-bearing pillars supporting pagodas and extensions. The unique looks and charm of aged lumber make them particularly useful for visible structural purposes, such as ever-fashionable exposed roof trusses.


Hardwood flooring never goes out of style, and flooring made from distinctive reclaimed woods can be particularly visually arresting, not to mention durable and practical. Reclaimed timber flooring gives you a wide variety of looks to choose from; some reclaimed timber floors are practically indistinguishable from floors made from new wood, while other homeowners use timber with more visual wear and tear to create distinctive floors ideal for rustic, traditional homes.


If you are building a multi-storey home, reclaimed timber can also be used to create attractive and particularly durable staircases. Since older reclaimed timbers tend to be stronger than newer ones, a staircase built from properly chosen reclaimed timbers requires far less structural support, allowing you to construct low-profile staircases that free up significant amounts of floor space.

Retaining walls

Reclaimed timber can also be put to good use in your new garden as well as your new home. The excellent load-bearing properties of old growth wood make it particularly suitable for creating timber retaining walls, which tend to be less expensive and more attractive than retaining walls made of concrete or brick. Reclaimed structural timber is particularly useful for retaining wall construction, as it is usually impregnated with powerful fungicides and insecticides that make your new retaining wall highly resistant to rot and wood-boring insects.