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How to Find Salvaged and Reclaimed Materials for Your Self Build

Architectural salvage can add vintage style to your project, but can you spot a fake item or one that’s unfit for purpose? Our buyer's guide gives insight into the things you need to look out for

Salvage yards are full of hidden gems rescued from condemned or refurbished buildings.

Upcycling these finds is a wonderful chance to reuse items that will add great character and interest to a new-build. With amazing salvage available around the country, you’re bound to find what you are looking for - but how can you tell if it’s authentic and fit for purpose?

Use our handy guide to ensure you know what to look out for when buying reclaimed materials.

Buying reclaimed internal elements

an antique reclaimed salvaged radiator in a house

Image: theoldradiatorcompany.co.uk

You need to ensure radiators have been reconditioned to run well in a modern home. Ask about the provenance of goods, which can give an indication of their quality and present condition, and examine everything carefully.

Use a firm that specialises in restored products, such as Old Radiator Company (theoldradiatorcompany.co.uk), who will flush reclaimed radiators to remove any debris inside, as well as sand-blasting, refurnishing, testing and updating them with metric fittings so they are compatible with modern pipe work.

Buying reclaimed furniture and accessories

reclaimed vintage salvaged shelving unit

Image: walcotarchitecturalsalvage.co.uk

Collecting is rewarding, but sadly there are fakes around, especially among reclaimed furniture.

The buying and selling of salvage is protected by the Trade Descriptions Act, so if you’ve bought a reproduction when it was sold as an original then you can pursue a refund.

Be warned though that in practice, this can be complicated and depends on exactly how the piece was described.

Sourcing salvaged materials

reclaimed parque tiling by Lapicida

Image: Lapicida

Always use a reputable source, ideally a seller that follows the Salvo Code (see need to know); ask about guarantees and returns policies, because mistakes could be expensive if you buy something that’s not fit for the rigours of modern building work.

Visit the Arthur Swallow antique and home show fairs (asfairs.com), and the annual Salvo Fair (salvo-fair.com) to see and buy trusted architectural salvage and reclaimed building materials.

Buying reclaimed structural elements

salvaged reclaimed decorative tiling on roof of Oast House

Image: Oast House Archive 

Be aware that all building products have a lifespan; using salvaged materials such as roof tiles that are already 30 years old, for example, is not a good idea.

They will fail more quickly than a new product, so you’ll end up re-roofing sooner than you would like.

Old windows and doors are simply not energy-efficient enough to be reused, but that’s not to say they couldn’t be employed in a more decorative way indoors.

Buying reclaimed external elements

reclaimed building bricks on a rear period property

Image: FRENCH + TYE

Second hand doors, window frames and brickwork are perennially in demand. Old bricks cost considerably more than new ones, and you will need to budget carefully before starting.

For the extra outlay, you can find more interesting colours and textures, especially from pre-1900 handmade varieties. For your roof, you may also want to invest in unusual old tiles and slates, and vintage peg tiles are particularly sought after.

Get more inspirational advice on finding salvaged materials and reclaimed furniture in the Salvage Yard featuring at Grand Designs Live London 2018

Original article on Grand Designs Magazine

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