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Repurposed home in Gibsons, British Columbia

A Forever Home with Repurposed Materials in British Columbia

By Dane George Rise Energy Efficiency Expert
May 21, 2017

Gail Hunt and Doug Baker decided to build their forever home in Gibsons, British Columbia, but they wanted to feel they were not contributing an environmental burden in the process. They aimed to reduce water consumption and energy use, including the life cycle/embodied energy of construction materials. They also wanted to keep environmental toxins out of their building materials to ensure indoor and outdoor air quality.

Front of Gibson House

Gail and Doug built their first home in the early ‘80s, doing most of the work themselves. This time they hired framers, electricians, plumbers, mechanical contractors, concrete placers, drywallers, roofer, and cabinet-makers, but still took on the role of the general contractor and did almost all the interior and exterior finishing themselves.

Outdoor pizza oven

Gail’s personal campaign was to minimize construction waste by making the best use of materials and salvaging and repurposing as many used building materials as possible. Before construction even began, they started collecting used building materials for their project. Their primary source was buy-and-sell websites like Craigslist, but they also visited re-used supply stores such as the Habitat for Humanity Restore, and kept an eye out for reusable materials on the curb or in the swap shed at the local dump!

Front of reclaimed house

They saved money with used materials including an iron clawfoot bathtub and brass fixtures, used edge-grain fir flooring, 12,000 cedar shingles (almost enough for the entire house), fir stair treads, a 16’ wooden garage door, some double-glazed windows, and interior doors.
Gail exercised her creativity by making new things from old, for example making beautiful window shutters from a repurposed bifold closet door. Other salvaged building materials add character to the house, like the old fir doors from a math building at the University of British Columbia with the room numbers still on them!

fireplace and reclaimed floors

Gail and Doug also kept sustainability in mind when choosing ‘new’ building products. For example, they chose windows with vinyl-clad fir frames that were made locally so that less energy was required to transport them to the building site. They also used fly-ash concrete for the building foundation and floors. Fly-ash is a waste product from coal-fired power plants and its use in concrete helps to divert ash products from landfills.

Stair treads

The construction team took care to make the best use of the building materials on-site and minimize waste. Wood off-cuts and other leftover building materials were kept around until they could be used for other smaller projects, like building a pergola by the garden shed. Bent nails, used screws and other metal leftovers were taken to recycling. Small pieces of scrap wood were stored and used for home heating in their thermal mass fireplace.

living room and fireplace

Throughout the project, they only had to take two pickup truck loads to the landfill! This was mostly scrapped drywall, treated wood, and glue tubes.


Gail says, “It is never easier to use reclaimed materials. You have to seek them out, clean and store them, strip old paint, de-nail, repair, fill, sand and re-finish them and be flexible enough to design around the salvaged material.” But there is a payoff – you have a direct relationship with the stories of the materials, it is a great feeling to divert products from the landfill, and the results are unique to your home. A bonus is that most used materials come without new packaging, further reducing waste. Inspired by this, they even asked their local window supplier not to wrap the windows and to re-use the wooden skids that they used for shipping. Recycling at its finest!

Reclaimed door and salvaged bathtub


  • Built over the long haul, from 2009 to 2017, and still in progress.
  • Square Footage: 2700
  • Bedrooms: 2, but 17 beds!
Back of Gibson House

Why We Love it

  • Extensive use of reclaimed building products
  • Serious minimization of construction waste – only two truckloads to landfill for the whole building project!
  • Local sourcing of materials
  • Rainwater harvesting to flush toilets and water the garden
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2023-11-20T13:48:37+0000
Dane George

Article by:

Dane George

Dane George holds a Bachelor of Civil Engineering and a Masters of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering from Dalhousie University. He has three years of experience working with residential contractors with a focus on energy efficient renovations, and has worked with the Clean Foundation as a Certified Energy Advisor conducting energy audits of homes. Most recently, his graduate research involved analyzing electricity consumption patterns. Dane has also prepared and delivered workshops on home energy sustainability, and is currently teaching Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.