Season 3: Episode 8 - Ideas in Reclaimed Materials

Being gentle on planet is one of the main driving forces behind Adventure: Tiny House. Trying to think about where our purchasing choices interface with the waste hierarchy of avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle, transform and landfill is generally part of our daily thinking.


But as with any thinking and deciding process, trying to wrangle a more ethical mode of making shelter has its own areas of grey and competing considerations. We want our house to be light weight to remain below our allowed aggregate trailer mass, and durable, so that additional expenses and material needs can be minimised. We also want to get it finished in a reasonably timely manner.


On the multi-dimensional competing axes of:

  • Re-used vs new material

  • Heavy vs light material

  • Locally produced vs imported material with lots of carbon miles

  • Ethically and sustainably manufactured

  • Availability and lead time for reclaimed or new materials

  • Cost and value

  • Ease to work with

  • Labour hours to make material fit for use in Tiny House

  • Comfort in the completed tiny house

  • ...and more

There is no one right answer or way to build a tiny house. It is all about priorities, opportunities and at a certain point getting over the decision paralysis and actually doing stuff.


We have got the avoiding thing mostly covered - by choosing to live in a small space that meets our needs, we avoid a substantial proportion of the materials that would go into a conventional house. Perhaps one day as a science-enviro nerd experiment Adam will calculate the embedded energy in our finished Tiny House versus a conventional build. But definitely after Tiny is finished. Less building, less stuff is less. Check.


Reuse. So, how viable are reclaimed materials in our particular circumstance? Lets go find out!


Tip Shopping is a bit of an institution here in Tasmania. Being the state with the lowest per capita waste generation (yes, ACT and SA, Recycling is still waste. Filling up your recycling bin every week is nothing to be proud of - don't make it in the first place!), there is a strong uptake of reuse in the community.


Why not have a map:


We swung by a garage sale in Huonville on our way to tip shopping and cheekily picked up a brand new, never-installed kitchen sink, a drain plug fitting, a nice lightweight enamel bowl we though would make a good bathroom sink, and a Huon Pine fruit bowl for $80. Golden!


We adventured through:

  • Southbridge Tip Shop (our local)

  • Margate Tip Shop

  • Mornington Tip Shop

  • Glenorchy Tip Shop

  • South Hobart Tip Shop.

Some of them have fancier names, but all do the same thing - allow the collection of materials diverted from landfill for reuse. We totally did outfit changes and went to all of them on the same day...

Reuse, with a view! Mornington reuse shop is great for building materials.

If you only want a tiny amount of paint....

Hand tools and a dashing hat.

Many small amounts of colourbond. Lets pretend it has the letter U.

Doors and doors and doors.

Remember before digital storage?

Ruth is here too! Vanity Cabinet Selfie.

Sinking feeling.

Tubs and retro vintage dunnies.

Tip shop - for all your water related vessel needs!

All the tiles.

All the windows.

Glenorchy includes a nice entrance sculpture garden.

Tiles for a fireplace plinth in our Tiny House would be super easy to source.

...and a chair as well.

Old cabinets aren't just cabinets - they are potential sources of timber for joinery and fine woodworking.

All the outdoor timber supplies for garden trellises you could ever want.

There are actually some pretty nice chairs, just hanging about waiting for someone to spend time rejuvenating them.


Some sort of old school electric bath for those with a disability

All of the doors. There are lots and lots and lots of doors. People like removing doors from their houses apparently!

Light fittings galore.


So after our big scouting foray into the world of re-use shops, and after further visits since, we have gleaned the wisdom as follows:

  • If you want the best and most useful stuff, you need to go tip shopping regularly (ideally daily) with your ute (which we don't yet have), ready to grab the nice timber, the good windows, the thing-you-need.

  • Upcycled materials typically require more flexibility in design (you get the window you get, not the window you think you want).

  • For our particular case, with the goal of making a lightweight tiny that is precisely laid out how we want, generally upcycling will be best for internal fittings and fixtures and non-structural elements.

  • It would be very cool (and doable) to make a tiny out of fully upcycled materials, but not for our first attempt.

We will keep looking at/for things to upcycle over time, but the plan for now is that the framing, bracing, windows and cladding for our tiny will all be new materials (but not too many of them).


Next episode we will take a tool inventory - what we have, what we think we need, and the daily gumtree search refresh that goes with it.


All our love,

Adam and Ruth,

Foraging for Vegan Treats


Season 3 Statistics:

Mortgage purchase attempts: 2

Funds raised through selling stuff we were not using: $700

Tiny House University Units Completed: 37

Land Rover For Sale Gumtree Ads Bookmarked: 7

Working weight estimate: 3030 kg

Working cost estimate (spent/total): $6 437/$60 342

Tiny houses we have been inside: 2

Tassie Short Walks Completed: 21/60

Tiny House design hours estimate: 140

Upcycled Tiny Components: 1 (maybe 3?)

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