Things to consider when using reclaimed materials
When Rudy and Kate Fuller renovated their kitchen on St. Mark's Square in West Philadelphia, they wanted an inviting farm-style table and a bay-window space where they could easily seat the family and entertain neighbors and friends.
Their 1879 Victorian's kitchen and maid's staircase would not accommodate the five Fullers - Rudy, Kate, and children Reilly, 13; Liam, 11; and Fiona, 8. They rarely used the dining room and ate sitting on stools, and the children had reached an age at which a bigger homework spot was needed.
"It was ridiculous. We were spending 90 percent of our time in a kitchen that we had clearly outgrown," Rudy Fuller recalled recently.
For the renovation, they decided to use reclaimed wood and other salvaged materials, obtained through their design team and a local vintage supplier, both because it was more sensitive to the environment and because the look suited the era in which their house was built.
Is it a remodeling strategy that saves money as well as trees? Sometimes, but not always, according to their contractor, John Hanson, founder of Hanson General Contracting in Philadelphia.
Hanson, who also is the Fullers' neighbor, recommended the Rasmussen/Su architecture firm. The collaboration resulted in a design calling for a bump-out extension into their backyard that would create an additional 90 square feet of space.
Rudy Fuller wanted a wall of windows that looked out to the ivy-covered yard and was offset by whitewashed wood. "It's an oasis," he explained.
About a year earlier, Hanson had squirreled away reclaimed pine walls and a ceiling from Bridgette Mayer's Center City art gallery at 709 Walnut St. He used it to construct the dining-area walls and ceiling of the Fullers' new kitchen.
Beams used were some that Hanson had rescued from a Manayunk church.
"We wanted to use salvaged wood, and in this case, it didn't cost us a penny. Also, the timing was right," he said.
For the kitchen floor, the Fullers bought some reclaimed yellow pine from Provenance Architecturals, a Northern Liberties source for vintage furniture and reclaimed metal and wood. Because the pine looked so new and shiny, Kate Fuller said, "it prompted us to sand the rest of the . . . floors original to the house."
The Fullers declined to itemize the cost of their kitchen renovation.
But recently, Hanson said, he completed another project with detailing similar to the Fullers' kitchen, again using reclaimed wood, for which prices were about $10 to $12 per square foot.
New bamboo flooring cost closer to $5 to $7 a square foot, he said. For all wood, the wider the planks, the more costly, he noted. For instance, 6-inch-wide planks might cost $8 to $10 a square foot, versus 21/4-inch-wide planks at $5 to $7 per square foot.
When considering reclaimed wood for a project, Hanson said, another thing to factor in is that finding, salvaging and saving it costs time and money. At the Manayunk church, he said, he had to remove the floor framing, take out the nails, and transport and stack the wood.
"Then we . . . sanded to take off the old floor finish," he said. "Was it significantly cheaper? No, but it wasn't more expensive than new wood."
For another project, Hanson said, he has just purchased reclaimed chestnut lumber at Tindall's Virgin Timbers in Peach Bottom, Pa. But the real savings in such efforts is in what he calls "embodied energy."
"Financially, using reclaimed wood may be a wash, but the beauty is you keep it out of a landfill," he said. "It makes for a more interesting story and space. There's value to that. The Fullers tell that story all the time."
Indeed, the Fullers say they are thrilled with the space they've created. The work was finished just before Christmas, and they hosted New Year's Eve festivities at their house.
Said Rudy Fuller: "Guess where everyone was hanging out? The kitchen!"