If you are looking to create a truly special period property renovation project, we believe that it is the quirks of design and hand-made touches, the imperfect items with personality such as aged oak beams, curved walls created using lime plaster, reclaimed roof tiles and aged bricks, antique lights and so on that can make your project unique. You can probably tell we get very excited about researching and discovering these finishing touches which make all the difference and exceed the usual parameters of Estate Agents property valuations. We’ll be delighted to share where we start on searching for these important finishing touches.
Reclamation yards are an excellent place to start on your search and we want to share our guide to reclamation yards to help you choose how to plan your visit wisely and spend money on items that will get noticed in your period property for the right reasons.
So, how do reclamation yards work? Where do they obtain their stock?
In the main, their stock will originate from demolitions where a period property, either here or abroad (a lot from Poland lately) has been demolished and there are good quality intact materials to be enjoyed again. Also some materials may come from house “renovations” where owners of old properties wish to “modernise” their property and replace old characterful windows, doors, roof tiles etc with brand spanking new ones. Other materials such as oak beams may come from scrapped ships. Their loss is your gain! We can help you navigate the opportunities and challenges of reclamation yards as part of our house refurbishment project management service which we offer in Hertfordshire and London and the home counties.
There are two schools of thought on best to tackle reclamation yards and you’ll choose yours depending on the stage you’re at with your period property refurbishment project or ongoing purchase. You may be looking for a specific item for your project, for example decorative wall tiles, or you might want to go for a browse.
If you’re browsing, make sure you go to the reclamation yard with an open mind and with plenty of time. Wear warm clothes and boots or trainers. Chances are you will be picking through piles of dirty materials and clambering over piles of bricks to get to something right at the back of the yard and find your hidden treasure.
What items are worth buying from reclamation yards?
Roof tiles and bricks – if you have an old property and are building an extension, the use of new tiles and bricks on it will make it stand out like a sore thumb. The best way to make sure your extension is in keeping with the old house is to source reclaimed materials that match those used on your existing house. You can find new materials made to look old, but reclaimed equivalents should cost you less and look more genuine. The only issue is that for large extensions, you may have difficulty finding the full quantity of what you need. This is especially true for ridge tiles and half tiles etc. If you cannot find enough bricks or tiles locally to fill your quota, it’s worth ringing around other yards UK wide, emailing them an image and dimensions of what you are trying to match and asking them to post you samples. It’s time consuming but worth it in the end.
Oak beams – would you believe the fireplace beam, supporting oak post and 4 of the ceiling beams were all installed in this Tudor house in 2008? The rest of the beams you see date from around 1550.
If you wish to replace rotted beams, a great selection of aged oak beams can be found in reclamation yards which will make a real feature of your fireplace, supporting posts, ceiling beams or trusses. This is especially useful for timber framed houses such as this one. Even experts in old properties may not be able to tell the difference between replacement beams and those that are original to your house if they are installed skilfully. Indeed the reclamation yard may have old beams taken from scrapped ships that are several hundred years old.
Stone sets and flagstones – outdoor flooring for making paths and patio areas is in very good supply in reclamation yards. These are often expensive but you need to see them as an investment and are worth using in small areas of your garden.
Floor tiles – these can vary in price and again you may be limited by the size of the lot available, but these can look amazing in the kitchen or reception room of your period property and will get more beautiful with age.
Doors – you will find some stunning reclaimed doors but are unlikely to find the exact size you require. One way to accommodate a door that does not fit perfectly into your proposed opening is to build your door frame around your chosen door. Obviously this is only possible with extensions and new builds and you would need to have the door on site before building your stud wall and door opening so it will require some forward planning.
Furniture – this can be fairly hit and miss and as many reclamation yards are outdoors, pieces of furniture may not be in great condition if they have been sitting outside during a rainy winter. But if you go exploring your local reclamation yard with an open mind and an empty boot, you may just pick up a bargain.
Our top reclamation yard recommendations
For more tips and advice from some of our customers, have a read of our article "Things I wish I'd known before buying my period house".