For homeowners who are very eco-friendly, using recycled or salvaged materials for a home renovation can be a good choice. This keeps those materials out of landfills and also cuts down on the harvesting of virgin materials you might otherwise need. When you do choose recycled or salvaged materials, you want to take extra care in choosing pieces that are still durable and with lots of life left in them. Note a few tips on which materials you might use and how to choose pieces that are still in good condition.
Bricks can last for many decades; a brick home can even last indefinitely, because the material used to make bricks is so strong! However, as brick is made with materials similar to concrete, they can get soft if exposed to water over time, just like concrete or cement. Look for bricks that are still in one solid piece; if you find broken bricks, note if the broken edges seem crumbly. Bricks can be broken in order to resize them and they'll still be strong, but when the broken side is crumbling, this usually means the break was due to moisture exposure. White spots on the outside of the bricks also usually means water has collected inside or outside the material.
Even after being sealed, timber can absorb moisture over time. This causes it to warp or cup. When choosing salvaged timber, put it down on the floor and note if it lays flat or seems to curve up or down in any area. This often signals a piece that is not strong and durable. Check for clean cut edges; if they seem chipped or have excess roughness in the area that was cut, this can mean a poor-quality cut that allowed for cracks or chips along the edge. In turn, moisture may be collecting on that side.
Plumbing pipes can last for decades, so you can often find high-quality pieces that will work for any renovation; however, you definitely want to check the threads of a pipe for any stripping. If the threads are worn down even slightly, this can lead to water leaks and eventual mold, and the risk of a burst pipe. Also note if there is any sign of rust on a metal pipe; don't assume you can sand it down or cover it over with plumber's tape, as that rust can easily spread and weaken the entire pipe. Check the inside of PVC pipes for cracks and other damage, and don't examine just the outside and assume it's a pipe in good condition.