True Costs of Using Recycled Materials for Tiny Homes

From my Facebook Author page ( Note, I don’t do Facebook actively; I just have my blog posts put up automatically. There’s just not enough time in my day to be a full Facebook participant.

Hey, Lloyd Kahn. Thanks again for all your hard work, you inspire us! I have noticed a lot of articles in the tiny home archives over the years mentioning such statements as “Man builds tiny home for $500…” what about his total labor time, and those often overlooked overhead costs … do you find such a statement at all misleading? I am a licensed builder myself, running a company in Portland, OR and feel as tho I often have to re-educate clients as to what the “actual costs” of construction really are (mostly the cost of my time.) This conversation inevitably arises when during design phase we discuss the option of reclaimed materials … which almost always ends up costing more $ (sourcing, milling, install.) Hooray for folks who are living their dreams building a place of their own with their “free time,” but let’s also paint a realistic picture by including the price of time, and thus value the craft appropriately. As a builder yourself, any of your thoughts would be appreciated.

–Kiel Kellow

Kiel, You’re absolutely right, the costs (as here) are way more than $500 if you consider labor. Time is precious.


10 Responses to True Costs of Using Recycled Materials for Tiny Homes

  1. Not only time, but really you need to use only best quality recycled materials if you want your work to last. We used garage-sale French doors that were meant to be used indoors, and didn’t seal them well enough–the wood is rotting. Our buddy also used wood that has been stored in his chicken house around the door, and it has never truly dried…the varnish is STILL giving us trouble, after 4 years. Replacing both those things may be in the future, adding more expense.

  2. Anon says:

    also, I think, one needs be picky about what paint/finishes were used, even on old/dried out/seasoned “recycled” materials. Often times old doors/wood/window frames will be layered in peeling or lead based paints, etc..

    on the other hand, if one is lucky enough to find old seasoned recycled “plain” wood, it may well be of a MUCH better quality/durability than anything available for purchase now. I am not a “handyperson”, but I frequently hear comments from folks who are, the wood available for (new) purchase these days is NOT of good quality/not even likely to last. They frequently say that North America ships its best (new) woods overseas. Also frequent is comments such as “back “in the day”, we would not have brought ____________ home from the lumber yard/mill, as ____________would have been used for scrap.

    so, if you luck across “old wood”, without layers of paint etc, it may be worth the time.

  3. cristofa says:

    When I converted our 19th century granite barn in west Cornwall, UK, I used a lot of reclaimed materials. Not only did I save a great deal of money, the material quality was far better than I could have got new.

    One example – an 1886 Methodist chapel was being demolished and I got the joists and roof timbers. 9x3s x 18foot – straight as a die and almost knot-free Baltic pine which ‘rang’ and smelled absolutely gorgeous when cut!

  4. Risa Stephanie Bear says:

    We saved money and collected materials in the 70s and then spent ’81 building our main house. We had the time to pull nails from recycled stuff and so on, because we weren’t doing anything else. IRS later wanted to know how the heck we had NO income in ’81 and we explained that the savings from doing all our own construction was our income that year, and they just swallowed their tongues and gaped at us.

  5. joe says:

    funky gets expensive unless labor is free.

  6. lamar5292 says:

    I built my off grid cabin 14×14 for just under $2000 and many people have built that same cabin from all new materials for under $3000 t todays prices so the materials are not that expensive for a small house under 400 sqft. The labor is usually a labor of love and done on your free time and people have lots of free time. You can build a small cabin like mine in a just a few weekends so it really is not a cost associated with small house building.

    The other costs you need to consider however are hooking to utilities, water, septic and the cost of land and permits if required. You can find off grid land at a reasonable cost and you can use alternative systems and solar and wind to reduce those costs.

    Here is my cabin:


  7. Anon says:

    a chitload of (most likely) high quality timber could be reclaimed from this and similar abandoned places…

    • Lew Lewandowski says:

      “Unlike many other abandoned sites, the Kennecott Mines have been designated a National Historic Landmark. The site, situated in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area of Alaska is, moreover, inside a National Park (St Elias) which probably speaks volumes for the remarkably intact state of the buildings.”

      • Anon says:

        Lew, all in all, it is still a shame to see it going to no use. As it seems like it has been left to
        fall to pieces, too bad the pieces, from there and similar sites might not be used. Suspect it is very good quality wood..

        ah well….

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