I heard a frightening statistic recently about waste generated on construction sites – for every five houses built, one house will go to landfill. This linear process of take-make-dispose is anathema to the ethos of the 5k extension project. So when we started building a shed at the back of the garden a few weeks ago we decided to make the shed a project in itself: it was to be constructed as far as possible out of reclaimed materials or stuff diverted from landfill.
Building a structure out of found objects takes time and patience – learning to wait, to pause. You have to wait until the right possible material turns up, then you have to work it into the design or adapt the design around it.
The shed is almost complete, and it is a BEAUTIFUL structure not least due to the exquisite craftsmanship of our expert carpenter Krzysztof Piwowarczyk, but also because of the abundance of good intention around it.
And we fulfilled the brief for the project – almost all of the materials were waste or surplus, reused or destined for landfill. Much of it came via ReCreate, a reuse initiative in Dublin that takes end-of-line and surplus stock from businesses to repurpose as art materials. In fact our total outlay for materials came to the grand total of €44.95.
Here is how we did it.
The framework for the building was made from timber from discarded pallets, and MDF and pine supports, which had been part of an installation by the artist Willie Doherty in the Kerlin Gallery. The gallery had chosen to recycle the material via ReCreate rather than dumping it, and we were also able to reuse the insulation they had used to soundproof the exhibition.
And yes MDF is not suitable for outdoor use, so soon after it was put up, it was painted using ends of paint cans that Krzysztof had squirrelled away from previous jobs he had worked on rather than dumping.
The pine board sheets used to clad the front of the shed came from a time when the Celtic Tiger roared and people did not care how much excess they ordered. Krzysztof had stashed them away and kept them dry for a couple of years. He routed a v-groove in them and we had to paint them urgently with wood preserver (which we had to buy rather than find) as time and constant downpours were against us. It pains me to say it but the black wood preserver paint cost €9.90.
Two exterior walls were then clad with rolls of a foil-backed underlay material stapled to the MDF. The underlay material also came from the benevolent ReCreate. Unfortunately we had to shell out €5 for the duct tape which was used to cover the staples used to attach the material to the painted MDF to prevent them from rusting and to waterproof the holes – Krzsystof thinks of everything!
The foil-backed flooring underlay was also used as the roofing material. We are however up against the weather in Ireland, which is unforgiving when it comes to damp and leaks. The felt adhesive which blew our budget was used to glue the foil-backed underlay down, and we then painted over it to further waterproof the roof. This was the cause of ructions between Krzysztof and me, because he spent €20 on a tin of felt adhesive for the roof. Don’t get me wrong, my family was not going to go hungry on account of it, but I was convinced we could have found ends of the stuff in tins all over the sheds of Dublin, and thereby adhered to the experiment of building entirely from re-use.
Local hero Ken Milofsky from Woodworkers and Hobbies in Terenure, who was clearing out a storage space in his premises, supplied us with a big batch of chipboard off-cuts which clad the internal walls. He also gave us some unsaleable end-of-line laminate flooring which was used to make a ceiling. We scavenged some extra pre-used rockwool insulation from a refurbishment job that I was working on to insulate the ceiling.
ReCreate supplied us with perspex off-cuts which Krzysztof used to make the windows
Pre-used sliding wardrobe track holders were used to seal and protect the roof.
We got off-cuts of aluminium-covered Foamex® from Recreate. Krzysztof used them as trims and fascias for extra weather protection
The shed is functioning now as a much-needed workshop for Krzysztof – and how he deserves it! He put his heart and soul, meticulous attention to detail and many hours into the making of it.
It is wonderful and motivating to have this lovely shed to showcase the skills and the possibilities available to us, as well as proving how collaborative efforts and the ground-up movement of freecycling and reuse networks can provide a very real alternative to unsustainable over-consumption.
In a sense we have almost fulfilled the 5k extension experiment – it would be within our €5000 budget to transform this lovely structure, with some clever interior design, into a living space with a bathroom, kitchen and sleeping area. However, because the designated purpose of the building is a shed it is exempt from regulatory issues and the crippling costs of hiring qualified certifiers. These are the issues which pose a real challenge to the 5k project.
The materials we got for free:
- Pre-used MDF
- Laminate floor underlay
- Pre-used Sliding wardrobe Track holders
- Aluminium covered Foamex board offcuts
- End of line Laminate and Solid Bamboo Flooring
- Laminated chipboard off cuts
- Pre-used Rockwool Insulation
- Plastic sheeting
- Election Posters
- Unused ends of paint
- Pre-used lighting fixtures
- Nails, screws and staples (from Krzysztof’s stash)
The stuff that blew the budget:
- Felt adhesive.€20.00
- Black shed paint €9.95
- Duct tape €5.00
- 2 pairs of hinges for the door €5 per pair €10.00
Read more in the post Our Recycled Shed takes Shape