How to Use Recycled Products to Build Your Own Furniture

Written by michele rappoport
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How to Use Recycled Products to Build Your Own Furniture
Reclaiming wood is an excellent way to make recycled furniture. (recycled cardboard image by Gale Distler from

More and more manufacturers, including those that make furniture, are using recycled material to make their products. This is great news for the planet, but not always such good news for the consumer, since these products tend to be more costly and can be hard to find. But if you are serious about recycling and willing to put your hands to work, you can make your own furniture using recycled material. You'd be surprised how much good material already exists, waiting to be recycled into useful furniture for your home.

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    Restore existing furniture. Finding and restoring furniture that already exists is the easiest way to use a recycled product to make your own furniture. Few new resources are used. No manufacturing-related toxins are released, as they are when new furniture is produced. No material is added to the landfill. And old furniture is easy to find and relatively inexpensive to buy.

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    Use sustainable products. When you buy new furniture you have no control over where the materials come from and how they are harvested. However, when you build your own furniture, you can make choices that reflect your green sensibilities. For example, you can choose wood grown in sustainable forests instead of clear cut timber. You can use low- or non-toxic paint and finishes. And instead of wood you can choose bamboo, which grows back quickly. There's even wood that's not wood at all but convincing-looking plastic lumber. This material is an excellent substitute for wood. You can use it for your deck and the furniture you put on it!

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    Reclaim used or unwanted material. If you're building with wood, for example, there are many opportunities to find recycled material you can use to make your own furniture. You can use existing items in new ways, such as refinishing an interesting old door, covering it with glass and using it to make a coffee table. Or you can use industry leftovers that may be slightly damaged or too small to be used for their original purpose. There are also companies that specialise in tearing down old buildings and selling the usable wood.

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    Use unconventional material. Inventive people are using everyday products you'd never think of to recycle into home furnishings. Everything from CD's to bent bike wheels and old whiskey barrels are being recycled into home furniture. Think about the items you use everyday---newspapers, aluminium cans, plastic bottles---and try to see them as padding or frames for new furniture. For more inspiration on how to recycle unusual items into new furniture, check out the links under "Resources" below.

Tips and warnings

  • There are many places on the web to search for recycled materials to use to make new furniture. Some of these include, and
  • Also, don't forget checking your phone book for your local recycling centre.
  • Some materials you might think are safe to recycle are actually harmful. Always research your used material carefully to be sure it can be safely recycled.

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