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Go Green on the Patio

Enhance your outdoor spaces with the creative use of recycled materials

This patio uses a combination of recycled bricks and bluestone. This patio uses a combination of recycled bricks and bluestone. Photo/Illustration: Danielle Sherry

The world of patios is adapting to the principles of green building. Using recycled materials to create spaces with a unique flair is a trend spreading across the country. Materials can range from old factory bricks with charred edges to pieces of bluestone salvaged from a patio that your neighbors decided to tear out. There are two options when it comes to obtaining recycled hardscape materials, each with its advantages and drawbacks.

Take advantage of another’s trash

With more and more home owners choosing to invest in their existing properties instead of selling and relocating, many are opting to rip out existing patios, pathways, and terraces and replace them with options more in tune with their current style. This supposed refuse can be given new life as someone else’s dream patio. Byron Schutt, a landscape designer in Bay Village, Ohio, created a unique path and patio at his home using a combination of recycled bricks and broken pieces of bluestone from jobs where he had removed old patios and walkways. “These are beautiful materials that still had life in them,” Byron says. “I think the character alone is enough of a reason for people to start doing more masonry work with recycled products.” The best part about these materials is that they are often free. If your neighbors aren’t planning to redo their patio anytime soon, contact local masons or landscape contractors to see if you might be able to purchase by-products from recent demolition projects.

Tumbled glass chips accent a gravel terrace. Tumbled glass chips accent a gravel terrace. Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Benner
Recycled bricks give this patio a unique character not found in patios that use brand-new materials. Recycled bricks give this patio a unique character not found in patios that use brand-new materials. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Gavin Historical Bricks

Save time with architectural salvage

Many companies throughout the country specialize in architectural salvage, giving home owners an easy, one-stop option for purchasing recycled bricks, cobblestones, or paving materials. Gavin Historical Bricks in Iowa City, Iowa, is the nation’s largest supplier of antique brick and stone, and its founder John Gavin says that the demand for recycled materials has never been higher. “I think its popularity has grown due to the resurgence of the green movement and the fact that people are always searching for something that will set them apart from the rest of the block,” he says. Although costs can be high, depending on how much material is needed, these salvage companies often ship items across the country, providing enough of one type of stone or brick to give a consistent look to the overall project.

Salvaged pieces of brick, granite cobblestone, and beach stones are used in combination with new bluestone to create this singular patio. Salvaged pieces of brick, granite cobblestone, and beach stones are used in combination with new bluestone to create this singular patio. Photo/Illustration: Melissa Lucas
Photo/Illustration: Melissa Lucas
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Gavin Historical Bricks

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