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How to source salvaged materials

How to source salvaged materials

Salvage and reclamation yards are full of hidden gems rescued from refurbished buildings

By Olivia Williams | 12 August 2021

Reclaimed structural elements and furniture add vintage style to a building project – and half the fun is going on the hunt for unique items.

Reclamation yards are full of hidden gems rescued from condemned or refurbished buildings. Upcycling these salvaged house materials is a wonderful chance to reuse items that would otherwise go unloved. The right one-off piece can add great character and interest to a restoration or new-build. From dainty light fittings to heavy marble fireplaces and polished floorboards, these yards are ideal sources of inspiration and materials.

This is especially the case if you have a penchant for a specific historical style such as art deco or Edwardian. With amazing salvage available around the country, you’re bound to find what you are looking for if you persevere – no matter how niche your interest.

Reclaimed bricks on a stylish extension overlooking a garden

Reclaimed bricks on this extension link to the original facade, London Bricks

As a trend, salvage is highly accessible because you can commit to big architectural elements like kitchen cabinets and fireplaces, or stick to thoughtful little touches such as bathroom fixtures and door handles, depending on your style and budget. There is also the thrill of scouring a treasure trove such as Lassco (020 7394 2100; lassco.co.uk). Lassco regularly offers quirky pieces from the National Maritime Museum, Eton College, Harrods, Oxford University and Kew Gardens, as well as churches and institutions. Their three yards currently stock items such as a Victorian costermonger’s barrow from Old Spitalfields Market and Dutch hand-painted ceramic tiles. How historical and extravagant you want to go is entirely up to you.

Green freestanding bath from salvaged home materials

Deep Down Plunger Bath, Antique Bathrooms

Reclaimed structural elements and furniture add vintage style to a building project – and half the fun is going on the hunt for unique items.

Reclamation yards are full of hidden gems rescued from condemned or refurbished buildings. Upcycling these salvaged house materials is a wonderful chance to reuse items that would otherwise go unloved. The right one-off piece can add great character and interest to a restoration or new-build. From dainty light fittings to heavy marble fireplaces and polished floorboards, these yards are ideal sources of inspiration and materials.

This is especially the case if you have a penchant for a specific historical style such as art deco or Edwardian. With amazing salvage available around the country, you’re bound to find what you are looking for if you persevere – no matter how niche your interest.

Reclaimed bricks on a stylish extension overlooking a garden

Reclaimed bricks on this extension link to the original facade, London Bricks

As a trend, salvage is highly accessible because you can commit to big architectural elements like kitchen cabinets and fireplaces, or stick to thoughtful little touches such as bathroom fixtures and door handles, depending on your style and budget. There is also the thrill of scouring a treasure trove such as Lassco (020 7394 2100; lassco.co.uk). Lassco regularly offers quirky pieces from the National Maritime Museum, Eton College, Harrods, Oxford University and Kew Gardens, as well as churches and institutions. Their three yards currently stock items such as a Victorian costermonger’s barrow from Old Spitalfields Market and Dutch hand-painted ceramic tiles. How historical and extravagant you want to go is entirely up to you.

Green freestanding bath from salvaged home materials

Deep Down Plunger Bath, Antique Bathrooms

External elements

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 want to invest in old tiles and slates, and vintage peg tiles are particularly sought after.

Attractive solid timber doors can be stripped and windows, especially the traditional box sash, are popular – and vital for the architectural integrity of some historic properties.

Internal fittings

Once upon a time homeowners gleefully ripped out period features in the spirit of ‘out with the old and in with the new’. Nowadays, fittings such as floorboards and radiators are spared the skip and can command big prices on the second-hand market. Buying flooring is relatively straightforward, but you need to ensure radiators have been reconditioned to run well in a modern home. One good source of stock is The Old Radiator Company (01233 850 082; theoldradiatorcompany.co.uk), which has thousands available. Ribble Radiators (01772 794 534; ribbleradiators.co.uk) will restore and paint any cast-iron gems you have found in your chosen colour.

Green hanging ceiling light on white background

LOW LIGHT 1940s Benjamin ceiling light, £132, Any Old Lights.

Furniture and accessories

Firms such as Retrouvius (020 8960 6060; retrouvius.com) spend lots of time cleaning and restoring the stock, so browsing is a relaxed experience. However, with upscale outlets, you end up paying a premium for the finesse. If it’s a bargain you’re after, you may prefer a more rough and ready yard to scour, or be prepared to do more of the restoration yourself.

Collecting salvaged house materials 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.

Spotting a beautiful item can be the fun part, but a tougher question is whether it is really suitable for your project. Getting too carried away can result in a jumble of styles, or look like a themed homage to a period.

Salvaged Materials2

Cross Fit Reclaimed sandstone floor, Lapicida.

The salvaged house materials checklist

Sara Morel, CEO at Salvo, shares her advice on shopping for reclaimed pieces with confidence during your self-build project

● Look for reclamation yards and dealers signed up to the Salvo Code, established to offer peace of mind for buyers as to the provenance of reclaimed items. The crane logo indicates Salvo members.

● Use Salvo’s online directory to find local reclamation yards stocking baths, basins and brassware. Many offer restoration or can recommend specialists such as re-enamellers.

● Suppliers and dealers such as Mongers Architectural Salvage, Dorset Reclamation and Original Baths sell fully restored items.

● You can also shop directly at salvoweb.com, and make use of free tools such as wanted adverts to source antique and reclaimed items through our network.

● Always ask if any fittings have been restored and tested. Water and Wood is a great source for restored bathroom taps and accessories.

● It may seem obvious, but when buying unrestored items always opt for those in good condition. Avoid badly worn pieces, those with hairline cracks and rusty items, or you may find that restoring them is not financially viable.

● Ask about guarantees and returns policies, as mistakes could be expensive if you buy something that’s not fit for the rigours of modern life.

● Before engaging a plumber to install antique, reclaimed or salvaged items, ask if they have any prior experience to avoid paying extra for their learning curve. You may also need to invest in special adaptors to connect to modern pipe sizes.

● If replacing an old bathroom, avoid sending it to landfill by using salvoweb.com to sell your suite, even if it is a recent design. Listing pieces as soon as you can will maximise their chance of a second life.

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