the old school

The Upgrade: Inside the salvage yard - tips for homeowners spoke to the owner of a salvage yard about what they have to offer home renovators.

FOR THOSE BORED of leafing through sofa store catalogues, salvage yards could be the way to go to give your home a more unique feel.

Our interiors have become more uniform over the past couple of decades due to the great flatpack invasion.

Salvage yards exist up and down the country and give customers a chance to turn up original finds and give their homes an individual personality.

Speaking to, owner of Deckclad architectural salvage yard, Gerry O’Rourke explained the appeal of augmenting your property with salvage.

So salvage, that is where you use old stuff to redo your house on the cheap, right?

GO’R: You don’t get bargains as such – you get what you are looking for. We call that ‘swag’ what you are talking about. Modern salvage. You might get a second-hand wash hand basin for twenty quid, where if you went into a shop to buy it new you might pay €120.

modern sink salvage A sink that might be regarded as modern salvage or 'swag' Mac's Warehouse Mac's Warehouse

Swag is new-old. Anything from around after 1960 – on up through the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s. If you were togging out a few apartments for students you could use a load of that stuff because it’d be cheap. 

We try and avoid it because it clutters up your yard – it looks a bit downmarket – to be honest with you.

What sort of stuff is it that you do then exactly? 

GO’R: Salvage yard is what it says – it is salvaged material. The bulk of the business is stone, timber and brick. Then you get some salvaged old garden furniture and old floorboards, and old windows, and little things that have aesthetic value. They have to have some aesthetic value, rather than ordinary old windows or ordinary old doors.

reclaimed boards Some of the reclaimed floorboards available Deckclad Deckclad

Ok, great. But I mean – would it not be a better idea to buy that stuff new? 

GO’R: If you were renovating an old house or if you were trying to give a new house a bit of an old look you would go to a salvage yard because you would get something different.

Say you went into a timber yard – all you’d get is fresh timber. We’d have timber, we’d bring it up to condition; we’d have timber there that is 1,000 years old. People would put it in to get the old look. You wouldn’t find that kind of stuff in an ordinary timber yard. We recycle a lot of bricks as well.


GO’R: They are repalletised. They won’t look new but they are sold the same way that new bricks would be sold. There’s a steady demand on bricks – if you have the patience to stock them. We get a lot of our bricks from Belfast and Derry – from old houses.

reclaimed bricks Beige and mauve brick from the yard Deckclad Deckclad

Couldn’t anyone just go out and get their hands on this stuff? What makes you so special? 

GO’R: We travel a bit around the country. People would know we’re in the business and if they have some stuff gathered up they’d give us a call to come and have a look at it.

Then they might say, Johnny Mac has something down the road, you might be interested in that, and then they might say they’re is a big fair in England next week – and oh we’ll go over there.

limestone lion A limestone lion in the yard Deckclad Deckclad

You might go as far as France. Although the French stuff doesn’t suit the Irish scene – once you pass England you’re into different kinds of furnishings.

Could someone live in a house only made of salvaged material? 

GO’R: I live in a house that is built from all old material. There is no new material in it at all. The floor boards are old, the windows are old, the bricks are old, the lights are old, the taps are old, the bath is old, the bed is old. It’s a three-year-old house – it’s like you’d think you were in a 103-year-old house.

coalbrokedale stove A Coalbrookdale stove deckclad deckclad

The stairs are made from the joist from down at the old Point Depot, the windows come from an old house over in Castleknock a friend of mine was demolishing, and the other windows come from the Westbury Hotel.

The bricks came from Belfast. There are oak beams that decorate the balcony and they are off an old ship. The mantelpiece is off a ship as well – a big bent piece of oak. The flooring is old York stone. All old stuff.

Gerry O’Rourke’s tips on using a salvage yard

  • There is a difference between architectural salvage and modern salvage.
  • Salvage materials can be a great way to give your home an ‘old feel’.
  • You can use old building material to carry out entire projects.
  • Old items and materials you no longer want can be sold to salvage yards.
  • It pays to travel when looking for good salvaged pieces.

Find out more ways to spruce up your home this winter here. 

The Upgrade: How to keep the heat inside this winter

Related: 9 items that could only be bought and sold in Ireland

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