Out with the old and in with the new, that’s what remodeling and getting our new kitchen is all about, right? Well… there WILL be a lot of new in the space when we’re all done with it. But when it comes right down to it, I took the messages of Recycle Rex to heart as a kid. And one of the best parts about DIY-ing this huge project is that we get to…

Recycle – Reduce – Reuse… and Close The Loop!

Which along with our solar panels (installation due to start at the end of the month!!!) just hits all of my hippy happiness buttons.

Here are some of the cool ways we’re making Recycle Rex proud these days.

Giant Jenga!!

Giant Jenga!!

2x4s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

According to our permit application, we should have needed to buy 50+ pieces of 2″ x 4″ x 8′ framing lumber to frame out the relocated wall and the truss modifications that are changing the space in our kitchen so dramatically. So with the 2×4 portions mostly complete, how many of these 50+ pieces of wood have we purchased? Five. We reduced our need for new framing lumber by over 90% by reusing the 2x4s that we pulled out by demolishing slowly and purposefully (and pulling a freaking ton of nails out of the old boards). And when we still had a ton of lumber leftover, Mr PoP recycled some into a homemade giant Jenga set. Woot!


Drywall – Reduce, Reuse!

I don’t know anyone that likes mudding drywall, especially when trying to match an existing texturized technique in the rest of the space. So when enclosing the closet in the garage to make the new wall, we reused the drywall we had removed from the interior of the closet to close up the wall! No need to buy drywall and SO MUCH EASIER than trying to match the existing textures starting fresh with smooth drywall.

Insulation – Reuse!

When the ceiling came down in the kitchen, about 8 giant bagfulls of cellulose insulation came down with it. And where did those bags go? Not out to the curb with the garbage or the recycling! I carried them up to the attic one by one and spider crawled across the trusses, distributing the insulation that was over the kitchen and dining room over the ceiling in other areas of the house. I don’t expect it to make a huge difference to add it to the insulation that was already there, but every little bit helps!

Grandpa's radio will sit atop the pantry as in the diagram.

Grandpa’s radio will sit atop the pantry as in the diagram.

Radio – Reuse!

One fancy new fad seems to be integrated home sound systems and we’ll be getting our own integrated sound system into the kitchen by re-using an antique radio that belonged to Mr PoP’s grandfather and was used for decades in his grandparents’ basement. The radio requires a really long antenna and just has a dial knob to set the station, so it’s been unused and sitting in our attic since we moved in. But now we have the perfect place for it (well, we will when it’s done being built) – atop our pantry, with its own switched electrical outlet so we’ll be able to set the station to NPR and then just flick the switch on the wall to turn it on and off! Not quite as fancy as my friend’s Sonos that he can run off his iPhone, but we didn’t use anything new and we are certainly keeping something sentimental from ending up in a landfill.

Butcher Block Countertops – Reduce, Recycle!

For the butcher block countertops, we had assumed that we were going to end up buying IKEA countertops and finishing them ourselves. But the more time we spent thinking about it, we weren’t nuts about how we were going to end up with seams in at least one awkward place and we started to realize that we could build a butcher block countertop even better than IKEAs and avoid returning to IKEA in our natural lifetime. Both winning ideas. But we’d need a lot of wood. And Mr PoP remembered a large pile of rough cut planks that had been sitting in his parents’ barn up north for the better part of the last thirty years. A mixture of walnut and cherry, the wood came from trees that had to come down while Mama and Papa PoP were building their house. Papa PoP had used some of it for projects over the years, but now it’s sitting on a trailer bed in our driveway, waiting to be planed smooth (and well waiting on a whole lot more since the countertops are much further down on the remodel list than where we are right now) before becoming our butcher block countertops and dining room table later this year.

Some scrap pieces of walnut assembled as a test for the counter.  Not yet stained or sealed.

Some scrap pieces of walnut assembled as a test for the counter. Not yet stained or sealed.

Give Away Instead of Throw Away – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

And wherever possible, when we’re pretty sure that we’re not going to be needing a material any longer, we try and give it away on Craigslist or Freecycle before putting it out to the curb for garbage pickers or the garbage men to take away.

There’s no question that we’re still going to be creating a lot of waste with this project, but trying to minimize the waste saves us a little bit of money, helps us prevent a little more damage to the environment, and in cases like the radio and the butcher block counters is going to help us end up with a one-of-a-kind kitchen that comes with some built-in family history and sentimental value.


What are you doing to make Recycle Rex proud these days?

24 comments to Re-Re-Re-modeling!

  • Remodeling can be very stressful, but at the same time so exciting. I love the idea for the butcher block countertop. Good luck with that and I hope we get to see some before and after pics. Good luck.
    Petrish @ Debt Free Martini recently posted..Never Too Late Get Your Finances In order – Meet SarahMy Profile

    • We’ll definitely be sharing more pictures as we go along and they get more interesting. For now it’s still looks mostly like you’re staring up from the kitchen into the attic full of a ton of 2x4s!

  • I love the idea of making your own butcher block. Do you guys have a planer in the garage? If so, I’m really jealous.

    The radio is pretty sweet, too. I wish we had NPR on tap like that. :)
    Done by Forty recently posted..Central Europe Travel HackMy Profile

    • No planer, and it’s enough wood that we think it’s worth taking somewhere. We’re supposed to hit up a sawmill this weekend if we can get it scheduled.

      The radio is awesome and I’m glad we’ll finally be using it again. Mr PoP hasn’t used it since his apartment before we moved in together!

  • I’m so impressed that you were able to re-use drywall! Ours usually come off in lots of pieces!

    Can’t wait to see the countertops, that aged wood will look beautiful and be such a great story!
    Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom recently posted..7 Free Indoor Places to Take your ToddlerMy Profile

    • Mr PoP and his brother were able to remove some pretty big chunks of drywall and we reused as much as we could. We’ll still need to put some new stuff inside, but for the garage where the seams don’t really need to be perfect (especially behind the washer/dryer) it’s definitely good enough!

  • I think it’s hilarious that you’re building an NPR SWITCH! You need to label it as such, maybe with some shellacked pictures of Garrison Keillor and Terry Gross!

    I have an Apple Airport music system which works spottily in the kitchen. And we have one of those huge 1950s sideboard record player/radios. The radio works, but the record player does not. I’ve been wanting to fix it and somehow get the guts to work with another Airport, but that project is always on the backburner because there’s more “important” stuff to do.
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    • haha, we’ll have to get a timer switch that doesn’t allow it on for Terry Gross – Mr PoP is NOT a fan of Terry’s interview style. =)

      I’ll be curious if you get your record player working. And how you do it! Mr PoP also has an antique stereo with a broken record player in his office (from his great uncle) that we told ourselves we would fix in 2014… Didn’t really happen, though. =/

      • Glad I’m not the only one not on the Fresh Air bandwagon. I don’t actively hate her or anything, but I’m not a fan. I only listen if I really, really want to hear about the person being interview. Otherwise, I mostly love NPR.
        Leah recently posted..First FoodMy Profile

  • Way to go! Our main projects aren’t really opportunities to reuse. We have things like a masonry wall that needed extending, replacing ratty (completely unusable) wooden gate doors, etc.

    We do have a ton of wood that was left in the house by the previous owner, I guess. I guess if we ever decide to build something, we’ll go poke around. But probably the best thing would be to bring it down and put it on Craigslist/Freecycle.
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    • Even for new projects, sometimes you can luck out and find supplies at places like the Habitat ReStore or other construction salvage stores. Or Craigslist and Freecycle can be great for being on the receiving end, too!

  • Good work on salvaging the old stuff. That insulation reuse was a great idea. I like on HGTV when they reuse old parts of the house they are working on and make them into furniture, since new furniture can be so expensive!
    Fervent Finance recently posted..About Fervent FinanceMy Profile

    • Oooh, what kind of furniture are they able to make? I’d love to be able to make more furniture someday since I’ve only ever made a couple of pieces.

  • Very exciting! It’s very satisfying to find a new use for something.

    Mr. FP and I are getting read to move into our new house. We saved all the old boxes! And if we need more, I will scavenge them from work–I work at a new library branch that hasn’t opened yet, so there are sooooo many boxes lying around that all the books and DVDs came in. I already brought home one large bag of paper for packing. It’s a tiny, tiny percentage of what we’re tossing in the recycling dumpster, but hey, it’s something!
    Frugal Paragon recently posted..The FP Confronts Valentine’s DayMy Profile

    • Great job with the box re-use! And when you’re done with them, post them on Freecycle! That’s where we got most of our boxes the last time we moved, and where we returned them when we were done unpacking. =)

  • This post makes me so happy! Go, go, Gadget reuse!
    Leah recently posted..First FoodMy Profile

  • Jason


    I’m very impressed with your ability to reuse the demo material in sustainable ways.

    One comment about the use of the walnut for butcher block…First, I do a significant amount of woodworking as a hobby, and I work primarily with walnut and cherry. I feel pretty confident that what you have pictured is not walnut. Even if it were sapwood (the lighter wood towards the outside of the tree), it would be less orange. I think that is most likely cherry.

    Second, a sawmill isn’t your best option for creating good surfaces sufficient for glue ups. You need someone with a planer and jointer. First, you joint the wood to get on flat surface. Then using the flat surface, you create a square edge. Next, you need a planer to get the wood to the thickness you want. Final step is to rip to width on a table saw.

    Best bet for that work is a cabinetshop. but they are unlikely to let newbies use your tools. Other options are adult continuing education classes at a high school with a woodshop.

    Another option you might consider is to list the wood on a woodworking forum like (lots of Florida members who are always looking for a good deal, and will give you a fair price…) . Since it is hard to get inexpensive hardwood in Florida, you could sell the lumber to someone who will use it for a good cause (making furniture for their family!), and you can buy a proper butcher block top from a counter shop or Ikea.

    In addition, most butcher block is made from Maple because it has a very tight grain. IMO, walnut wouldn’t be ideal for that use, nor would cherry.

    I enjoy your blog…


  • Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and resource suggestion with us! I’ll have to look around woodnet, though selling the wood isn’t really the direction we want to go since the wood has been in the family so long.

    With the picture, it may be a matter of my photography skills. Depending if I took the picture with or without a flash, the tone of the wood under the interior lights at night was very different, but I tried to pick one that best represented what the wood looked like to me in person. It’s also been aging inside a barn up north for about thirty years, so perhaps that has impacted the color somewhat too? Papa PoP seemed pretty sure that it was walnut, but it was redder in color than what we had expected.

    The tentative plan with the planks is to bring them to a sawmill with Papa PoP (who has done a fair amount of wood working up north but doesn’t have the same network of friends with tools down here in FL). If he approves of their tools, then the sawmill would cut the planks (currently ~ 2.5″ x 10″ x 10′) into smaller strips, say 2.5″ x 2″ x 10′, then plane them (they do have a planer) down until they are uniformly 2.25″ x 2″ x 10′. And we would cut them into varying lengths for piecing it all together. The edges that we would glue together would be the ones that were planed. A lot like they did here ( but our planks seem thicker to start with than theirs were. Also, I don’t think ours is black walnut.

  • Sounds like it’s all coming together so well! I love the radio idea–that’ll look awesome. We call the radio “NPR” since that’s all we listen to ;). I like that you’re reusing or giving away anything you don’t need. We’ve been on the receiving end of scrap building materials and it’s such a boon. Giant Jenga looks great too, though I’d probably knock the whole tower onto myself (I’m terrible at that game).
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted..Weekly Woot & Grumble: Missing One’s Partner (Plus a Snow Update)My Profile

  • jestjack

    What a great post! Good for you taking the initiative and reusing lumber. Pulling nails is not always easy. I can only imagine the money you saved on your project. I was just at Home Depot to price plywood for a project …. unbelievable….$26-27 a sheet for very marginal plywood … Thanks once again for a cool post….

  • I cant believe you guys reused so much wood, that is awesome. I tree in Brazil is thanking you right now. I believe we all should reuse things, before going out to just buy new. Good Luck on the remodel.
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  • I would reuse everything I could too- why not? It sounds like you guys are making some progress and might even have a roof soon?
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  • Kendall Frederick

    I like your re-use ideas and what you’ve done so far! I just finished (well, mostly) a kitchen remodel that went down to the bare studs. I used a set of cabinets from Eco Relics here in Jacksonville; they came from a mansion that had been torn down. I was lucky enough to get a large section of butcher block with them as well. Total cost of cabinets/butcher block: $325.

    I don’t know what your plans for cabinets are, but I ended up making a couple of cabinets to match the ones I purchased, as well as re-working the existing ones significantly. It wasn’t that hard and if I do another, I’ll build cabinets from scratch (Ana White has some good plans/articles) and buy doors online. Sounds like you’re handy enough to consider this..

    Good luck and keep posting pics.