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How To Build An Off-Grid Home From Recycled Trash

How To Build An Off-Grid Home From Recycled Trash

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Building a home from scratch is far from simple, and possibly one of the most expensive ventures someone ever will tackle. The cost of materials and lumber needed to build a traditional home adds up fast, and the construction itself doesn’t exactly make it very friendly to the land.

There are building alternatives such as using earth-berming, adding a living roof or going with an earthen material like adobe bricks that all make the project less expensive. However, you can take this a step further by using recycled materials, some of which are often discarded as garbage.

The materials you can use in building a home, guest cabin or outbuildings is truly only limited by the imagination. The most common materials include:

  • Glass bottles of all colors
  • Plastic bottles or PET bottles
  • Aluminum cans
  • Rubber tires
  • Empty plastic bags
  • Discarded wood
  • Scrap metal

It seems odd to use what many think of as trash to build something like a house but it actually is a great idea for a few different reasons:

1. It allows people on tight budgets to build a home

This reason alone is one of the biggest advantages of using recycled or reclaimed materials. Money is tight and although many people dream of their own custom home, few can afford it. Or they go the route of loans and end up paying for a house that puts them in debt.

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Many of the popular recycled materials (more on that later) cost nothing to gather, except for perhaps gas and the rental of a truck/trailer to haul the material. Depending on how much effort you put into finding only free or very cheap materials, you may be able to build a small home for hundreds of dollars or a few thousand dollars.

For the average person, using recycled materials in certain parts of their home will result in drastically lower construction costs and offer additional benefits depending on what they are using.

2. Recycling discarded materials reduces negative impact on the land

Another big advantage to recycling materials for home construction is turning trash that may normally sit in a landfill into something useful. While some popular materials can be recycled, by using them you still reduce the need for new lumber, metals, etc.

3. Using unusual materials makes for a unique house

Some people really love quirky, unique homes that have a lot of character. You can’t get quite as unique as building a one-of-a-kind home with salvaged materials from your local area. These homes are quite the conversation-starter, and the process of building them often makes the home seem almost like a member of the family.

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Spending time putting together a home from scratch by using your own ingenuity is an incredible process that can’t help but make you feel like a piece of you, your friends, your family and everyone that helped is in the structure.

4. Reclaimed wood is versatile and quite sought out

Some materials that many people can easily find in their local area may actually be quite expensive and sought-after in other areas. This is particularly true of reclaimed wood. If you live in a rural area, you may be able to find beautiful reclaimed wood from old barns and other structures for free. This wood can be used as flooring, cabinets, walls, etc. Reclaimed wood floors are quite popular and can cost a ridiculous amount of money in urban areas.

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All in all, if you want a home that is one of a kind and won’t cost an arm and a leg, going the route of using recycled materials is a great idea- and you don’t need to use them exclusively.

There are many websites that can take you deeper into this issue, giving you more ideas and details. Here are a few:

Using what many see as trash to build a house is definitely not for everyone, but it’s worth considering. It is an unconventional method of construction, so it is important to do a lot of research and consult with an experienced person to ensure your idea is architecturally sound.

Have you used reclaimed materials to build your house, outbuilding or just to add finishing touches to an existing home? Please share your stories and thoughts below. 

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