The Issues Faced By DIY Enthusiasts in Storing and Organising Their Salvaged Wood

Updated on January 23, 2017
Nathanville profile image

My aim with DIY projects around the home is to look for innovative space-saving ideas and save costs on materials by recycling.

Organising salvaged wood for DIY Projects
Organising salvaged wood for DIY Projects

Storing Reclaimed Timber for Future DIY Projects

When starting any DIY woodworking project knowing what bits of scrap wood are stored in my shed, being able to find then and get to them easily is always an issue. So the more efficiently I can store and retrieve off-cuts and unused wood from previous DIY projects and previously salvaged and reclaimed wood the less I need to fork-out on buying new wood.

Waste Not Want Not, salvaging old lumber for recycling in future DIY woodworking Projects.

The big advantages of storing scrap wood, knowing where it is and accessing it when needed are being able to recycle good wood suitable for reuse in a Home DIY Projects and thereby reduce the cost of buying new wood.

I'm sure many home DIY enthusiasts who use a lot of wood in their home DIY projects have similar problems and dilemmas, and themselves have their own solutions or non-solutions to this age old problem. Having recently being given an opportunity of fortune as a short term solution this article looks at some of the problems of safely storing salvaged wood. In this case a short term storage solution and how I may turn it into a longer term storage solution; and maybe some of my ideas may give other DIY enthusiasts ideas (or food for thought) and in doing so others may wish to share their ideas for storage solutions of spare salvaged and previously reclaimed wood in the comments section of this article.

The Age Old Problem of Storing Salvaged Wood

Where and How to Store Scrap Wood

There is no single or simple answer to this problem, scrap wood, salvaged wood and wood off-cuts comes in all shapes and sizes, and quantities; and overtime the quantity, shapes and sizes of the scrap wood you’ve shoved to one corner or the back of your home DIY workshop will change. So it’s no good making custom made shelves or racks for what you currently have when in six months or a year’s time the bits of scrap wood you’ve accumulated is overflowing the storage racks and quite likely don’t fit into the storage area anyway.

So in the past, I like many others, just piled the scrap wood up at the back of the shed sifting through it periodically suitable wood for a DIY project and occasionally weeding out the smaller and more damaged pieces for burning to make space for newer and better spare wood. However, unless you can clearly see what you have good pieces of wood suitable for a DIY project get overlooked and you end up buying new wood, adding to the problem when on completion you want to store the off-cuts away for another time.

I know some people store their spare wood outside, either under cover e.g. a covered wood store at the back of the shed, or for hardwood sometimes stacked outside and exposed to the elements; hardwood (and to some extent) pressure treated softwood) will generally keep outside quite well in the medium term but untreated softwood, even if covered, is prone to rot in damp conditions and more attractive to woodworm.

If you have roof space in your home workshop some of the longer pieces of wood can be store there until needed and a small selection of small pieces such as Dowling and beading can easily be stored in suitable tubs or propped up in one corner without taking up much space; but the larger pieces can be the bigger problem for storage.

Disposal of Surplus or Unwanted Salvaged and Scrap Wood

I know some people keep the minimal (if any) of their scrap wood following a DIY project. They tend to throw away good wood in the skip or burn it. I know spare space in a shed or small workshop can be a premium, and for that reason you do have to draw the line somewhere; there is a limit to how much scrap wood you can hang onto; never the less, throwing away potentially good wood due to the lack of storage space just seems such a waste.

My concept of drawing the line is mainly dependant on size and quality of the wood e.g. a good bit of timber that’s less than 300mm (1ft) or 450mm (18 inches) is generally destined for the bonfire and anything larger I try to keep; space permitting. If space is an issue then real wood and plywood will take priority over contiboard and laminated board.

When people dispose of their scrap wood many will just throw it in the skip, some will burn it either on a bonfire in their back garden or in a garden incinerator. My preference is to burn, not only because it cost nothing to burn, which is cheaper than hiring a skip but also the resulting potash is good for the garden, especially if you grow your own vegetables; potatoes in particular love potash so even in burning the wood doesn’t go to waste but helps in growing vegetables in your back garden for use in the kitchen. If you intend burning any bits of scrap wood that you don’t want to keep (along with any garden waste) then you may wish to check on any local byelaws e.g. in our area the byelaw is that you shouldn’t start burning in your back garden until after 9pm.

Salvaging Good Wood

What to Salvage and When

When starting a DIY Project to renovate or replace something in the home e.g. a kitchen or bathroom renovation, replacing old shelves or built-in cupboards I start by carefully dismantling the old and salvaging what I can. Often much of what you salvage can be reused in the same project, saving money on not needing to buy so much new wood. Of course if you're replacing some old shelving made from laminated board (or contiboard) with real wood for example there may not be much to salvage; although if it's a built-in cupboard you're replacing and the odd panel of laminated sheet of a respectable size comes out intact you may consider saving it for future use.

Also, when dismantling existing built-in furniture and fixtures the pieces of wood or wood panels you remove often have fittings attached such as hinges, handles and sometimes glass which you may also wish to remove and salvage; even if you dispose of the wood itself.

Woodworm and Wood Rot

The Condition of the Wood

Salvaged wood, especially from older houses, may have rot and or signs of woodworm. If the wood has rot it should be burnt or skipped; particularly dry rot which should be burnt quickly.

Before the days of central heating woodworm use to be the scourge of old houses; but these days in rooms that are central heated the central heating dries out the wood so that the moisture content in it is too low for the woodworms taste so it's not so much of a problem.

However, any salvaged wood should be checked for rot and signs of woodworm, especially wood reclaimed from unheated areas of the house such as your loft or attic and if you find any signs of woodworm then decide whether to dispose of it or treat it. If the woodworm attack is minimal or the piece of wood salvaged is important enough for restoration then there are plenty of good woodworm treatment products available in the UK market that are inexpensive to buy and fully effective.

My Short Term Solution to Salvaging Wood

Temporary Storage Solution

For quite a while wife has had her eye on a piece of solid oak furniture specifically designed as a unit for supporting a large flat screen TV, but it was far too expensive for our pockets until one weekend one of the local stores put it on a long weekend offer of 70% price reduction; and on seeing the advert my wife snapped up the offer; making our previous plate glass TV unit redundant.

Coincidentally, the same weekend our next door neighbour also replaced their plate glass TV unit with a new wooden TV unit; albeit not solid oak. However, our neighbours were going to take their old plate glass unit to the local council run disposal yard, which wouldn't have cost them anything other than petrol but I offered to take the glass unit off their hands saving them the trouble and time to dispose of it.

And it is with these two glass units that I saw the potential for a 'quick fix' temporary shelving that (until I find a better use for them) would help to provide some useful shelving space for storing a lot of the salvaged wood stored in my home workshop.

My first task was to temporarily move all the scrap wood piled in the corner of the workshop outside to make space for these two plate glass units.

I then placed our old plate glass unit in the space created and then reassembled our neighbours glass unit; and once reassembled I placed it on top of our old unit to create one unit with lots of descent size shelves ideal for storing small bits of wood; leaving a gap to one side of the units for storing sheets of wood e.g. plywood.

Then, after a good coffee break, I sorted through the scrap wood, storing it in a more organised way into the available shelving space e.g. all the oak wood on one shelf, chunky wood on the top shelf and thinner pieces on the shelf below etc., and storing the sheets of wood and some of the larger pieces of wood in the gap by the side.

Using a couple of old glass TV stands, one stacked on top of the other in my workshop, as a temporary shelving storage solution for salvaged wood.
Using a couple of old glass TV stands, one stacked on top of the other in my workshop, as a temporary shelving storage solution for salvaged wood.

Step By Step Process of Me Sorting and Organising My Scrap Wood for Storage in the Back of My Workshop

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Sorting out some of my wood for storage.The rest of my salvaged wood laid out ready for storage.Clearing a space to place the temporary storage unitsAssembling temporary storage shelves - spare plate glass unitsOne plate glass unit in placeOrganising the wood into the new temporary storage unitsAdditional storage in the roof space of the shed
Sorting out some of my wood for storage.
Sorting out some of my wood for storage.
The rest of my salvaged wood laid out ready for storage.
The rest of my salvaged wood laid out ready for storage.
Clearing a space to place the temporary storage units
Clearing a space to place the temporary storage units
Assembling temporary storage shelves - spare plate glass units
Assembling temporary storage shelves - spare plate glass units
One plate glass unit in place
One plate glass unit in place
Organising the wood into the new temporary storage units
Organising the wood into the new temporary storage units
Additional storage in the roof space of the shed
Additional storage in the roof space of the shed

Looking To the Future

Longer Term Storage Solutions

In time I may find a more fitting use for one or both plate glass units, or even find use of the raw material e.g. the glass; at which time I will need to decide whether to proper shelving from timber.

In the meantime, the glass shelf units gives me an opportunity to fully test how well this method of storage works for the scrap wood and allows me to identify the pros and cons so that if and when the time comes to reuse the glass units for another purpose I should be better placed to design new shelving incorporating what works into the design.

Although it’s early days, I have done a couple of small DIY projects since reorganising my salvaged wood and so far I have found the new shelving beneficial in that it gives me better access to the scrap wood, I can see at a glance the type and quantity of scrap wood I have and searching through a particular shelf for something specific is quite easy and only takes a moment.

Being mindful that the glass units may someday be found a new home I’m paying more attention to de-nailing old wood before storage to reduce the risk of scratching the glass; although generally glass is quite resilient and not easy to scratch, so I don’t see it as a major problem.

Shelving and Storage Solutions

Storage Organisers for Your Workshop, Garden Shed or Garage

I find good shelving in your shed or workshop pays dividends in storing and organising your DIY materials and tools.

Sometimes you may be able to repurpose an old piece of redundant furniture for storage and shelving in your garden shed workshop, or make what you need from spare scrap or reclaimed, recycled scrap wood.

On other occasions you may decide to buy some dedicated workshop furniture and shelving units.

Do or Would You Salvage Old Wood for DIY Projects?

Some people like to salvage and recycle old wood, are you one of those people or do you find it easier just to dispose of it and buy new when required.

Old wood for salvaging
Old wood for salvaging

What do you do with your scrap wood?

Even if you salvage your scrap wood there are always odd bits leftover too small to be of much use. With these bits do you burn them or throw them in the skip.

Do you burn or skip your old wood?

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Questions & Answers

    Your Tips and Views on Salvaging old wood for DIY Projects

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      • paulahite profile image

        Paula Hite 

        6 years ago from Virginia

        Greta ideas! Your lens will be featured on our Facebook page on March 15.

        "The Green Thumb: A Place For Gardeners To Gather"

      • VspaBotanicals profile image


        6 years ago

        I'm loving this!

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        I no longer get involved in many DIY woodworking projects but I am sure there are many who will find your wood salvaging storage tips quite useful for their future projects.


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