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Start DIY home projects with salvage and reuse

Start DIY home projects with salvage and reuse

By Shawn Wood from Resourceful PDX partner, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

Salvage wood wall in remodeled living room. Created by craftsman Greg Simons of  Studio G .

Salvage wood wall in remodeled living room. Created by craftsman Greg Simons of Studio G.

Plan ahead for home improvement opportunities that tap into Portland’s extensive reuse community to make your projects unique. 

“The change of seasons is a great time to focus your efforts indoors. While my summers are jam packed with outdoor projects and activities, I welcome the change in weather and the opportunity to transition indoors. You may already have some project ideas in mind, but if not, head to your local salvage or reuse outlet and walk around. Creative ideas will start to flow and before you know it, you’ll have figured out your next project.

Local places abound in Portland to purchase used building supplies, salvage wood, materials for kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and every room in between. Portland offers interested homeowners and individuals plenty of options for home improvement DIY projects.

Salvaged materials are often high quality, provide unique character, are stronger and more durable - and may be less expensive than new materials.”

Habitat for Humanity ReStore, ReClaim It!, Salvage Works and The ReBuilding Center are just a few of the resources where you can find what you need, donate what you don’t and tap into Portland’s reuse community through building supplies and materials. Check out the map for more resources, including salvage yards and online material exchanges.

Using salvaged or reclaimed building materials in your projects can save you money and offers many other benefits:

  • Adds character to your project
  • Supports the local economy
  • Offers period-appropriate fixtures, fittings and cabinetry and high quality materials (both aged and contemporary)
  • Allows for builder overstock or "new salvage" materials
  • Keeps building material tonnage out of the landfill

Here are some ideas where reuse can play a role:

  • Install salvaged wood floors in a kitchen or other room. Tip: If removing old linoleum flooring, have it tested for asbestos first.
  • Give a wall some bling and warmth using salvaged wood. It is easy to install because it goes right over existing drywall or plaster. Tip: Check out the WOW walls at Salvage Works
  • Furniture, wall art or built-ins are another DIY project that can involve reusing materials. Want a great dining room table? Pick up some unique salvaged lumber or slabs and have it planed/sanded. Tip: Creative Woodworking NW is a local resource that can assist in taking rough lumber and turning it into a smooth masterpiece.  

Green Lents builds community through borrowing and sharing

Green Lents builds community through borrowing and sharing

Are you a resident of one of these Portland neighborhoods: Lents, Powellhurst-Gilbert, Pleasant Valley, Foster-Powell, Mt. Scott-Arleta, Brentwood-Darlington or Montavilla? Do you know of the many reasons to visit Green Lents, the organization that supports community-led projects like the free Community Tool Library?

Green Lents Community Tool Library contributes to community livability in this diverse area of the city by providing free tools and resources to residents in and around the Lents neighborhood in outer Southeast and East Portland.

The Community Tool Library functions like a book library, except that you check out tools or other project materials instead of books. They also have a seed library, where you can borrow seeds, grow food and then return seeds back to the library for others to use. Since its founding in 2012, there are over 500 members who check out tools for a one-week rental for free, with the option of renewal. It is open two days a week and is volunteer run.

One volunteer, Renee Orlick, started as a user of the Community Tool Library. When she moved to Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood in 2013, she was able to borrow a tall ladder from the library to harvest the fruit trees she had throughout her yard. Around this time, Renee started volunteering and has since joined the organization’s board. Her main goal is to make the library as functional as possible including checking tool donations into the system so members can use them.

The community based nonprofit, Green Lents, offers even more for residents. There are two fellows, April Jamison and Izzy Armenta, who work with the organization as volunteer engagement coordinators for all four of their projects. April works on Community Tool Library, Malden Court Community Orchard and Pollinator Habitat, while Izzy works on Livable Lents.

Since education, skill building and sharing all promote a thriving, sustainable community, April and Izzy want to combine these into actions to share with neighbors, build community and grow knowledge.

They have ideas, like offering a summer DIY workshop series with the tool library, and are already conducting a survey with Livable Lents so they can hear from residents about their visions and needs for the community.

"What I like best about this organization is that it's a community asset that has been built by the community, for all of our neighbors. The dedication to sharing and growing strong together is really inspiring," said April.  

The organization looks for volunteers and those in the community who are interested in participating from the ground up, with ideas to grow within the established network. One such idea is about volunteers themselves. “Green Lents, like so many nonprofit organizations, rely on volunteers so we have defined a commitment where members can volunteer for two-to-four hours a month for six months. It’s working and we would like to see the involvement continue,” said April.

Visit the free Community Tool Library to borrow what you need and get involved with Green Lents to share ways to make a difference in your neighborhood.

Portland residents can access tool libraries around the city, based on where you live. Check out the North, Northeast or Southeast resources to learn more.

Repair Café focuses on home maintenance

Repair Café focuses on home maintenance

Repair Cafés are free events that bring volunteers who like to fix things together with people who have broken items that need fixing. 

This Repair Café will focus on preparing for spring – particularly your garden! Volunteer fixers will be on hand to assist Portland residents get their home, yard and garden ready for the change of season by offering repairs on tools, lawnmowers and small appliances. 


Bike Farm is hosting the next Repair Café on Thursday, March 20 from 6 until 9 p.m. at their shop at 1810 NE 1st Ave (at Schuyler St).

This event will include:

  • Tool and knife sharpening
  • Lawnmower and small engine repair
  • Small appliance repair
  • Garment and fabric mending
  • Bike repair

Volunteer fixers work alongside you so there is an opportunity to learn how to fix your own items. Learn more about Portland’s repair movement in our recent post about Repair PDX!

NE Portland Tool Library has what you need for your DIY home project

NE Portland Tool Library has what you need for your DIY home project

Carrie Treadwell, from Be Resourceful partner Chinook Book, shares her recent experience with the Northeast Portland Tool Library below.

"Have you heard about Portland area tool libraries? They’re an amazing resource for anyone with a love for DIY projects. Just like it sounds, local tool libraries rent tools, instead of books, to people who live in the neighborhood.

I happen to live near the Northeast Portland Tool Library and became a member before embarking on a small home remodeling project. I was pleasantly surprised by the quantity and variety of available tools. The volunteers on site were very helpful and made the experience not only productive, but fun.

The project my husband and I took on was installing an egress window in the basement of our little 1920s home. At the tool library, we “checked out” a chop saw, a hammer drill (for drilling through concrete), a sledgehammer and chisel—all free of charge! We knew this was a one-time project and wouldn’t have the use for these particular tools again; so borrowing them for one week was perfect. We absolutely could not have completed the project without them.

In the end, our project was a success. The egress window looks perfect, and helps us utilize more space in our little bungalow. I highly recommend checking out your local tool library before your next project.

Even if you don’t have any immediate projects, it’s good to know what’s out there for future projects, or when surprise repairs are needed.

Tool libraries are available to residents of East Portland, North Portland, Northeast Portland, and Southeast Portland. These community resources have limited hours and run on volunteer people power. Consider donating time, money or materials to help keep the tool libraries up and running."

Find out more about the tool library movement across the country.