Reuse and Refinish Projects for Your Home

Watch this video for some creative ways to reuse old furniture and building materials, including:

  • How to strip and refinish old furniture.
  • Turning old carpet padding and PVC pipe into a punching bag.
  • Reusing 5-gallon buckets and scrap lumber as a shoe caddy.
  • Converting an old door into a desk with bookshelves.

Read episode article to find out more.


Danny Lipford: This week on Today’s Homeowner we are turning something old into something new as we explore some great ideas that help you turn trash into treasure.

This week it’s all about trash to treasure where you are taking some of that old stuff you might have around your home, and turning it into something that is functional or you might use that as an opportunity to create something that is uniquely your own. Well if you do not have any of that stuff lying around your home, you can certainly find it at a place like this.

This is a Habitat Restore where you have the opportunity as a contractor or a homeowner to donate different materials that might be coming out of your house, like the cabinets that have been removed from your kitchen renovation or maybe some old materials or new materials that are overstocked.

All of this can be donated to Habitat for Humanity. They are able to resell it at a very reasonable price, allowing them money to continue their great work across the country building houses. Now, when you get into a place like this, you can also find some things like this—furniture that would work perfect in your home with just a little TLC.

In most cases a furniture find will require refinishing. A chemical stripper is the quickest way to start removing the old finish. The best tip here is to carefully follow the directions for the product you choose. If they say leave it on there for 10 minutes, then leave it on there for 10 minutes before you begin scraping.

A putty knife with rounded edges is great for this kind of job, because it won’t gouge the wood. You can remove the stripper residue with water or mineral spirits, depending on the type of stripper that you’ve used. Begin sanding with the more coarse grit of paper and work up to a finer grit.

The stripers, scraping, and solvent will raise the grain of the wood, so you will have to smooth it right back out. It is messy, but if you apply the stain with a rag, you will have a lot more control. Then, when the stain is dry, you are ready for several coats of finish sealer to protect the piece.

Not all of the items that are in a restore or in a salvage yard are in their finished state, like the cabinets and the furniture that we looked at earlier. Some things are just building materials and some look a little better than others. Looks like this stack of 2×4’s was left out on a job site out in the weather a little bit too long and kind of weathered them a bit, but still they didn’t end up in the dumpster going to the landfill. They are going to be able to be reused by someone on a future project.

Now, here’s another situation where someone has kept a lot of things out of the landfill.

We met sawmill owner Roy Hyde several months ago when we were working on a show about a new home where some of Roy’s custom milling work was being used. Roy’s an interesting character, but what we also discovered was that the source of lumber for his little saw mill also has a pretty interesting twist too.

It seems that all of the tree services in this community know Roy and his love for wood, so when they have to take down a few trees, rather than hauling the wood to the landfill, they bring it to the Hyde Sawmill. It is cheaper for them and provides Roy with an endless supply of trees to be milled into all kinds of lumber.

Roy Hyde: This is some old pecan and it had to be removed because they were making an addition to their house and they couldn’t do it without taking the tree out. And this is live oak; it is the same sort of thing. This one, this particular one went down in a storm.

Danny Lipford: Roy’s spends a lot of his time milling down trees into lumber that other people will use in their projects. But as you can see, he is a pretty hands-on individual, so he also uses this wood for his own unique creations.

Roy Hyde: See for instance this is a piece of pecan here and this is going to be for a chef friend of mine, this is going to be his cutting board.

Danny Lipford: Because of his no nonsense approach to life and his love for wood, most of Roy’s work has a pretty rustic flair. He puts his own unique spin on everything, from furniture to larger architectural pieces. But the thing you have got to just love about this guy is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Roy Hyde: We are professional wood movers. And what it boils down to is we pick up a log, we move it up here, we cut it up, we move it over here, we sweep it off, we put in it there, then we take it out of there.

Danny Lipford: Those are some very unique things that Roy makes with all of that lumber that he mills. And you know when you have a very inexpensive material it’s very easy to be a little more liberated in some of the things you might want to try around your house.

Well, we’re taking this $10 door a little bit later in the show; Allen and I are going to turn this into something completely different that makes it a very functional part of the home. We will be catching up on that in just a little bit. But right now, you can catch up with Joe Truini on this week’s Simple Solution with a very common repair to a wooden chair.

Joe Truini: Sometimes the smallest problems we face around the house are also the most annoying, and here’s a good example of one, the wobbly chair. Now to fix it, the first thing you need to know is don’t start cutting legs that you think are long, because you will end up ruining the chair. The trick is to find the leg that is short. In this case by putting it on a flat surface and wobbling it you notice that this is the leg that is short.

So we are going to fix that problem by taking a wood shim and sliding it under as far as we need to until the chair is not wobbling anymore. There you go. Now, we are going to mark it with a pencil right where the chair leg sits on the shim.

And cut it out, cut out that disk with a hole saw. Then pull out the disk as a whole so it’s perfect, fits right underneath there. And we are going to have to put a screw through that in a second, but there you go. You notice that it takes the wobble right out.

Now, we are not going to just glue it on though. Because if you take this little wood disc and just glue it there it is going to pop off as you are sliding the chair back and forth across the floor.

So we are going to hold it on with a furniture glide, which you can get at any hardware store or home center. We are just going to put that right on there. And of course we are going to need to put one on every leg, otherwise you will still have a wobble. Here you go. Now with the shim and the glide under the short leg, put it down, and there you go, rock solid.

Allen Lyle: Hey you got the door.

Danny Lipford: Yeah, only 10 bucks, too.

Allen Lyle: That will work great. 10 bucks, you are kidding me, man. Hey, why did I have to get these buckets?

Danny Lipford: I will have to share that with you in just a minute. You know, the whole approach to trash to treasures is to take something that you would ordinarily throw away and turn it into something that is really functional. You might remember we used an old antifreeze jug a while back, and we cut it a certain way to create this nice little scoop to keep these gutters clean around your home.

Allen Lyle: Now, another simple thing to do is take an old oil bottle like this, cut off the bottom, and what you’re going to wind up with is a make shift funnel and it is perfect because the next bottle fits right inside, just don’t forget to take the cap off.

Danny Lipford: Now, these ideas may be a little boring, kind of like Allen. But you can take materials and have a lot of fun with it. And recently our director’s son, Josh, dropped by the shop and showed Joe Truini a nice little project that was a lot of fun. Everything needed for Josh’s creation is scrap or leftover materials, so this certainly qualifies as a trash to treasure project.

Josh Gardner: Well, me and my dad, we made this punching bag, and I was thinking maybe we could recreate this.

Joe Truini: Ok.

Josh Gardner: Show everybody how to do it. First, what we are going to do is we are going to cut out a foot out of this plywood right here.

Joe Truini: This is just to form a base so the foam does not fall off, Right?

Josh Gardner: Yep. Now, we’re going to roll it up in our carpet padding.

Joe Truini: All right, so got to cut that, slice that to size first right. Tape it that’s just to get started, I guess. All right, now we just roll it up.

Josh Gardner: Now you just keep rolling.

Joe Truini: Whoa, look at that. Worked out perfectly. There is nothing you can’t build with a little duct tape, right?

Josh Gardner: Yep. So, now we are going to wrap the entire thing with duct tape.

Joe Truini: Is that all right? Do you need to cover that up?

Josh Gardner: That’s good.

Joe Truini: All right Josh. That’s pretty cool.

Josh Gardner: So all you really need is PVC, carpet padding, and duct tape and you have got yourself a hanging bag.

Joe Truini: Good job!

Danny Lipford: That was a pretty fun job. Maybe Josh will take out all of his frustration on the punching bag instead of on his brother.

Allen Lyle: Now, I did like the project, but I am a lot more curious about this one. Why did I have to get all of these buckets?

Danny Lipford: Well, you know there are so many different uses for five-gallon buckets around the house. And we’ve actually shown a few of those uses on the shows in the past, but I’ve got an idea of a solution to a storage problem a lot of homeowners have.

Allen Lyle: Now, just so you don’t think I ran around different job sites stealing buckets, I do know a painter and asked him to save some for me. But I still had to clean them all out. Now it brings up a good point. If you want to collect buckets like this, don’t go for the ones with roofing cement or glue in them, you’ll never get them clean.

Danny Lipford: Well you did do a pretty good job of getting these nice and clean. But my idea is actually to create a mudroom caddy. Where you come into your mudroom or into your entryway of your home, maybe the back door near the kitchen or in the garage, and you’re able to use this for a lot of those things that get dropped off all over the floor.

First thing we have to do, is figure out how we can cut this little rim off in order to get started on it. I’m thinking the solution may be using a jig saw. The lip of the bucket should act as kind of a fence to keep the cuts straight all the way around the bucket. Seems to be a little bit easier to hold the saw still, and let Allen rotate the bucket into it.

Then we sand off the rough edges before we begin laying out our design, which in this case will be a pyramid shape. Because these buckets are tapered, not straight cylinders, this is where it gets a little tricky.

There are going to be several different angles working, so we are experimenting and test fitting as we go along. Now after some trial and error, we arrive at the angle that seems to work just right. This framework will be nailed together and then we will begin creating the support for the backside of the buckets. A simple triangle made from scrap plywood.

After all the wood parts are sanded, primed and painted, the final assembly can begin with screwing the buckets to the plywood in the proper arrangement. These bulldog clamps really help to keep everything straight. Then, we can set the buckets inside the frame and begin attaching the buckets with small screws.

So what do you think, pretty simple, huh?

Allen Lyle: Yeah. You know, you have a pretty good idea every now and again, but this is actually a really good idea. We cut the tops off so it doesn’t intrude too much into the room. Right up against the door, perfect for the kids to put the muddy shoes, maybe even some outdoor toys.

Danny Lipford: And you can make it as big or as little as you want. We used six buckets, but you could use three, five, or a whole stack of them. Now, you notice when we were building this, we had to do a little sanding. Well this week Jodi has a Best New Product that will make sanding a little easier.

Jodi Marks: You know the first time that I used this little Zip Sander I liked it, because of this neat foam grip. If you have ever had to use sanding blocks before you can relate. This is much easier on the knuckles.

This one has a nice soft but firm handle, which makes it more comfortable than a sanding block. Actually the entire Zip Sander is made with the same high density foam. That feature in addition to the hexagon shape, with two pointed edges and four curves, makes it flexible enough to fit into most grooves, curves and edges, a huge help when sanding trim and molding.

It also comes with an assortment of color-coded sanding sheets—from 80 to 220 grit. Each one attaches easily with a hook and loop grip and you are ready to go to work. The number and color coded sand paper ID system is especially great, because it makes it easy for anyone to find the right sanding paper grit for every step of the project.

This is a great tool for tons of projects. From removing paint and refinishing furniture to fine woodworking. And for about $10, you get more than your money’s worth.

Danny Lipford: Hey, I hope you are enjoying our trash to treasures projects. We have another one here where we are taking the door that we picked up at the Habitat for Humanity Restore and are about to turn it into something that almost any household can use.

Allen Lyle: But you can do so much with a door. I’ve seen bed headboards made from a door, hinge two or three together for a decorative room divider.

The Habitat store where this came from actually has a contest going on right now where they are encouraging people to purchase their doors and turn them into beautiful pieces of art. Some really great entries for that.

Danny Lipford: Now what we are planning on doing, though, is turning this into a computer desk. The first step is removing some of the stuff that made it a door, like the old hinges.

These things are ancient, caked with all kinds of layers of paint, so Allen has to work at them a bit. Then there is a matter of all the holes left behind by the missing hardware. I’m filling the biggest part of the void with wood before I start mixing up some auto body filler to finish patching the holes.

This stuff is often referred to by the trade name Bondo, and it will dry to an extremely hard finish really fast, so it is perfect for this kind of project. But you don’t want to leave too much excess, because you will end up having to sand it all off once it is dry. Because it shrinks some as it dries, it often takes two or more coats to get the surface nice and level.

While I am working on this, Allen gets busy cutting down the material for the desktop and the shelf. When all of the pieces are cut to size, he runs them through a router to give the edges a nice little cove treatment. Then, there is lots and lots of sanding to be done.

Everywhere I have used Bondo, the surface has to be sanded down until the patch material is flush with the rest of the door surface. Allen is sanding down all of the new wood to remove any of the marks and splinters left behind by the table saw or the router.

Because this door is so old, there is quite a bit of flaking paint that has to be scraped off, and of course that means more sanding. We are ready to assemble the shelves and the desktop and we are using some of the premade corbels that Allen found for us to support these horizontal surfaces. Setting them out on the door to put them together really helps to ensure that the layout is just right.

To support the door itself, Allen is making a pair of legs from an old piece of two by six. They will extend about a foot out on either side of the door, with the ends kind of rounded over to smooth out the look a little bit. Speaking of that, I hope we are almost through with the sanding.

Well, Allen, I don’t care how long I do this kind of thing, I still just can’t stand sanding, but these little sanding gadgets make it a little bit easier.

Allen Lyle: Well, it looks really good. You know it’s an old door. Personally, I like leaving some of the flaws in it. It just gives it character.

Danny Lipford: Now at this point we can install our desktop and the two shelves that Allen put together. But anytime you are installing this whether you are doing it on a door like we are doing it or on a wall on your house. You want to make sure it stays there. So we’ll be putting some wood glue on this, nailing it from this side, then turning the door over and putting in a few screws.

Glue tends to be less effective on painted surfaces than bare wood. But if you’ve sanded the paint as well as we have here, it will add a bit of valuable insurance to the joint. Since we planned the layout of the corbels earlier, all we have to do now is line up the edges of the desktop with the edges of the door and we are good to go. A nail gun makes this kind of assembly quick and easy, but because the nails are a fairly thin gage metal, the screws we’ll add later will still be very important.

The shelves at the top work much the same way, but we have to be a little more careful with our layout, since we don’t have a rail in the door to line them up on. To add the screws we are flipping the door over on the sawhorses and predrilling all of the spots we need.

Predrilling is often done to prevent splitting, that is not a concern here. This door is just ancient, and the wood is incredibly hard. Allen is following up with the countersink bit, so the screw heads will be below the surface of the door. Then we can hide them with a little more Bondo.

Now while we are working on this side, we add a wooden coat rack to the door to give it a little more functionality. Now, we’re ready for the legs. While I hold the door plumb, Allen tacks the legs on with a nail gun, before we drive in long screws to hold everything firmly together. Finally, we are ready for a coat of primer and two coats of paint, before putting this old door to a new use.

All right, Allen, this shouldn’t take much installation at all, huh?

Allen Lyle: Boy, I think this will be as simple as, you find the spot, and set it in place.

Danny Lipford: That is a pretty good spot, because you know in a living room like this, people really don’t tend to use it as much as they do other rooms in their house, and to have this right in the corner. Laptop and maybe a few pictures, and then the coat rack right on the back when your guests come in the front door.

Allen Lyle: This really is a great reuse for an old door. Here’s another great reusing thought in today’s Thinking Green.

Danny Lipford: Did you know that in America, paper towels account for 3,000 tons of waste everyday? But most recycling centers won’t accept used paper towels, so they still end up in the landfill. If you want to do your part in cutting down on the one billion tons of waste every year, then switch to sponges for your daily clean up.

A single sponge can last up to the equivalent of 17 rolls of paper towels. Unfortunately, along with all those kitchen spills you may clean up, sponges also pick up a lot of bacteria. So, here is an easy way to completely sterilize your sponges.

First, rinse you dirty sponge in clean water then make sure it is still wet. Place it in your microwave on the high setting for about two minutes. Once it has cooled, you have a sterile sponge for cleaning. And besides saving room in the landfills, you will be saving some pocket change.

Well, Allen, we really didn’t spend a lot of money on this thing, did we?

Allen Lyle: No, you spent $10 for the door. I paid about $4 dollars for each corbel, there are six of those, so 24, 34, about $10 worth of paint, less than $50.

Danny Lipford: That’s pretty good for a piece of say furniture that you can use in a lot of different areas of the house. And one thing to think about, everything here could have ended up in the landfill, other than the corbels that we purchased. So you really can turn trash in to treasures.

For more information on any of the projects that you saw on this week’s show, check out our website at Allen Lyle, Danny Lipford, we’ll see you next week here on Today’s Homeowner.


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