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How to source eco-friendly building materials for your home renovation

Want to keep your home improvements kind to the planet? Start by sourcing eco-friendly building materials for your renovation.

Words by: Ellie Isaac

Senior Editor

If you’re looking to upgrade your home, keeping your renovations eco-friendly might seem like a big challenge.

How do you decide what’s ‘green’ and what’s not when it comes to building materials? 

And how can you find eco-friendly materials and make sure your tradespeople can work with them?

Let’s explore what counts as an eco-friendly material, ways to source them for your renovation and tips to keep your home improvements environmentally-friendly.

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What counts as an eco-friendly material?

We tend to think of eco-friendly materials in 3 main categories: reused, recycled and sustainable.

Keep in mind that different people and companies can call them different things. It’s a good idea to double check what your builder means when they’re talking about types of green building materials.

Reused materials

Reused building materials are generally still in the same - or a very similar - state as they were when originally constructed. Reclaimed wooden floorboards are one of our favourite examples.

They’re super kind to the environment as you prevent more raw products being used up, and there’s no energy used to construct or recycle into something new. Win win.

Recycled materials

Recycled building materials have been adapted or reprocessed to serve a new purpose after their original use has ended.

Recycled materials are an excellent choice for eco-conscious building, as the energy used to recycle is usually much lower than the process of turning raw materials into something you can use.

Sustainable materials

Sustainable building materials are resources and products that have a low environmental footprint.

It might be that they’re highly renewable or it takes very little energy or water to turn them into a usable material.

Which building materials are eco-friendly?

Here are some popular eco-friendly building materials and what they can be used for.

Recycled steelBeams, columns, foundations
Precast concreteBeams, columns, foundations, floor slabs, walls, cladding panels
Straw baleWalls, wall infills
Reclaimed woodCladding, flooring, doors, window frames, units, wall finishes, stairs
BambooFlooring, countertops, cladding, fencing, storage
Sheep's woolInsulation
Natural stone Flooring, countertops, bathroom fittings and units
AluminiumWindow frames
CorkFlooring, underlay, heat or sound insulation, tiling

How to source eco-friendly building materials for your renovation

Talk things through with your tradespeople 

Start by sitting down with your designer, architect or builders to talk about how you can approach an eco-friendly renovation. 

These days, most designers and construction firms will have experience in sustainable construction. It’s important to know they share these values and are happy to help reduce the waste and environmental impact of your improvements.

Ask if their suppliers offer eco-friendly materials and what options are on the cards for your renovation. Ideally, sustainability will be something weaved all the way through the design and building process.

Repurpose old materials from your home

Reusing your own materials is one of the most environmentally responsible ways to renovate. You don’t even need to transport it anywhere.

And there’s not much ‘sourcing’ to be done. Just have a good look around your home (with your builder or designer) and see which materials you could reuse.

They’ll be able to assess the quality of the old materials and which part of your renovation they’ll be suitable for.

It could be anything from using slate roof tiles for flooring, trimming bricks for a feature fireplace or turning an old counter into backsplash tiles.

Scour reclamation yards and recycling centres

If you want a beautiful eco-friendly renovation, a trip to a local reclamation or salvage yard - or even your nearest recycling centre - should definitely be on your list.

They’re full of perfectly usable materials and items that people don’t want anymore, and you’ll save both energy and the waste of resources.

And if you want to avoid that ‘straight off the production line’ look, pre-loved materials will always give your renovation a totally unique look.

Before your trip, check with your builder about material options, sizes, quantities - or even better, take them along with you for that expert eagle eye.

Go pre-loved for furniture, fixtures and fittings

With more of us wanting to make sure our old things never reach landfill, charity shops and online marketplaces are the place to be.

Charity shops are chock-a-block with vintage furniture, and they often have draws full of handles, hinges and fastenings which could add a quirky accent to your home redesign.

And don’t think that your white goods have to be brand new. Most modern fridges and freezers should last 10 to 20 years, while a washing machine should last 6.

There are lots of new designers creating home accessories from recycled and sustainable materials too, but they tend to be a little less budget-friendly.

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.