By Emory Ann Kurysh
When the idea to build our home first came to light, the goal was to make it look like a heritage barn conversion, primarily built from reclaimed materials. The benefits in doing so were vast and varied, not the least of which involved embracing our own creativity and challenging ourselves in the implementation of the design ideas.
Part of our motivation was driven by the knowledge that salvaging building materials cuts down on landfill waste and is environmentally impactful. Another factor is that the cost of recycled materials generally runs much lower than their newer counterparts, and reclaimed materials instantly add a sense of character that can’t easily be accomplished in new constructions.
Ours was not a journey of how a completely recycled home came to be, but rather a lesson learned on the reality of using secondhand building materials.
The Big Picture
In planning our home, the most dominant design feature was to make use of reclaimed barn wood siding. But early into our build this became apparently difficult.
The first issue we ran into was that the lengths of the reclaimed boards were not long enough to run either horizontally or vertically without showing significant breaks. The second issue lay within the condition of the wood itself. It was extremely weathered, which was our initial draw to it, but would require significant work to prevent further deterioration to use it on the exterior of the home. The fear being that over time it would be exposed to issues such as accelerated rot, infestation and warping.
So we had to create a new strategy to get us the look we envisioned, but with a new durable material.
The decision was reached to use untreated rough-cut pine in place of the barn wood. Although it wasn’t originally in the plan and budget, this decision turned out to be the most aesthetically pleasing and soundest option.
Taking it Inside
The theme of recycled wood continued within the interior of the home. The handrail for the staircase was also to be constructed of barn wood. All of the balusters, guardrails, and posts were to be fabricated from pine, running horizontally. When we installed the staircase, we learned that it is against building code standards as the guardrail was deemed to be ‘climbable’. So yet another major design plan was discarded. The solution involved raw materials in the form of large, rough-cut beams and rebar. Again, this major alteration increased the budget. However, it provided a more stable handrail that was wholly unique and justly fitting for the overall look.
The ceiling was the third and final compromise in the use of reclaimed materials. The plan was for recycled metal roofing to be hung instead of drywall to reinforce the heritage barn concept. It would have saved on time, future maintenance and cost.
After conducting an extensive and unsuccessful search for a large quantity of reclaimed metal, the idea was scrapped.
It turned out this was for the best. Research later revealed that a metal ceiling would more than likely have created poor acoustics and could have affected resale value. It was ultimately the contractor’s suggestion to install a tongue and groove ceiling. A pine ceiling would not only be a quicker install than drywall, the wood would add strength and would be visually much more appealing.
To stay true to the original design we were able to source vintage lighting for the exterior of the home. Five large, gooseneck, gas station lights were purchased from an online retail store dedicated to selling refurbished lighting. We found this to be more fitting than using modern fixtures. We liked that they would be unique to the home and that it would cut down on landfill waste.
Repurposing the Reclaimed
Rather than being used for its intended purpose, the barn wood that was gathered was eventually used in numerous projects around the home. The majority of the wood was repurposed for various storage solutions.
The reclaimed fir and other recycled wood was cut down and hung in every closet and pantry, and in the bathroom and bedroom as shelving. Various pieces of furniture were constructed out of the antique pine and fir. Two dog beds were custom-made from old pallets and casters. In some rooms, long pieces of shiplap were used as the trim.
As first-time homebuilders, we understood going into this project that many of the design plans would either be modified in some way or altogether scrapped. Rather than using mostly reclaimed materials on the exterior and within the house, the end result was an amalgamation of new and raw materials.
We found the best impact in using recycled materials came from using these materials within the interior decoration of the home. Having these details within every room unquestionably added the character we were looking for in our new construction.
We achieved our one-of-a-kind heritage barn-inspired home by blending new with wonderful reclaimed and recycled materials which allowed for a quicker build, and a more solid house. While we learned a number of lessons along the way, the challenge we presented ourselves with at the onset of the project pushed us to look at every aspect of the building process to see how we could make an environmental impact.
To read the article in its entirety, or to see more from the summer issue of Saskatoon HOME Magazine, please click here.