Urban Salvage

The Drum


      FEBRUARY 2014

  • Reclaimed Timbers In The Commons
  • What's New?

Reclaimed Timbers In The Commons

Breathe Architecture's Jeremy McLeod has always found room in his materials selection for reclaimed hardwood floorboards sourced in the same suburban orbit as his building projects. The Commons - a five-storey cluster of 24 apartments in Brunswick overlooking the Upfield line - uses reclaimed Tasmanian Oak salvaged from old classrooms of an inner-city primary school. The floorboards are installed inside the apartments as well as in the common areas around the stair and lift well. 

Set against a raw palette of concrete, exposed copper piping and metal ductwork, this timber is a familiar fabric with elemental appeal - due primarily to McLeod's insistence that the aged surface be largely retained and vigorous resurfacing of boards avoided. Minor ridging visible post-laying is spot-sanded to level, the floor fine-sanded with a gauze rotary and the boards coated in a protective organic wax. 



The piece of resistance in each apartment is a small feature wall - defining the kitchen-living in extension to the hallway - and clad with recycled hardwood Sawtooth lining boards in horizontal runs. Albeit a minor element in the timber inventory - this is the most pleasing texture in the materials range. Natural - and at the same time - industrial. The provenance of Sawtooth lining is from salvaged ceiling joists and rafters of old housing stock in the same band of Melbourne suburbs. The timbers are deep-ripped to 13mm but retain a dark oxidised face which is lightly grazed by planer blades to highlight the saw kerf from original milling. In the cool modernity of the Commons, it may have just pipped the schoolhouse floorboards and the vertical Blackbutt screening battens on the lift well walls for magnetic appeal. 

I extend my gratitude to residents of The Commons for their hospitality to the trades involved in the build. It was 39 degrees on the rooftop for the Sunday picnic and I needed every square centimetre of bucket hat to keep the UVs at bay. Indoors, the apartments were remarkably cooler - kept at an even temperature in this non-airconditioned, though well-insulated building. The sliding balcony door had an airseal that might have been pirated from a lunar command module. It shooshed to shut with a faint sucking noise.



Outdoors the generous supply of Healesville-brewed Buckley's Original Ale, fed through an ancient Temprite, helped to keep the body's core temperature stable - while the live yeast meant that I had secondary fermentation persisting well into the night. Wisely, I tempered my intake with several draughts of Kombucha herbal and probiotic brew - a known hangover preventer. Would that I had always possessed such wisdom and restraint.

Source List For The Commons:
Architects: Breathe Architecture - www.breathe.com.au
Developer: Small Giants - www.smallgiants.com.au
Builder: Kubic Constructions - www.kubic.com.au
Photography credits to Small Giants and Kubic Constructions
Flooring: Reclaimed Tasmanian Oak from Urban Salvage
Lining Boards: Recycled Hardwood Sawtooth Lining Boards from Urban Salvage
Fluids: Buckley's Original Ale - http://buckleysbeer.wordpress.com/our-beers/


What's New

Recycled Blackbutt
130 x 40mm   Rate: $39.00/m

This is the true, dark, nutty, dense Blackbutt with a curly grain so prized by furniture makers for joinery with a strong recycled ethic.

Nothing else gives you quite the same agricultural look.


Recycled Brushbox
85 x 42mm   Rate: $20.00/m

This timber is seasoned and suits lamination for benchtops and most joinery projects.


KD Blackbutt Screening Battens
40 x 32mm   Rate: $4.90/m

Screening battens look good as a textured wall lining - as seen at The Commons.

Urban Salvage Blackbutt is both seasoned and durable - and can be used inside or out.


Recycled Messmate
130 x 30mm   Rate: $18.00/m

A useful thickness in Recycled Messmate dressed board for lighter-weight table or benchtops.


Reclaimed Kauri Pine Benchtops
450 x 75mm

Timbers that had seen 80 years of service at the old Port Melbourne gasometer workshops as repair benches until demolition in 1989.
That's right - they were removed 25 years ago from the Pickles Street site.

A younger version of me was onsite in the day recovering various salvage - and the contractor refused to sell the benches
despite my determined attempts to purchase them. Finally, in his retirement, I was able to wear him down.

Urban Salvage manager Andy Mineur snagged a couple of choice slabs of Kauri workbench.

Michael and James D'Aquino at Williamstown's 'Lost Ark' crafted this impressive table for Andy with the benches.

Recycled Queensland Kauri Pine
300 x 20mm   Rate: From $33.00/m

Shelving boards salvaged from an old Townsville haberdashery store.

From $33.00/m - various widths - some wider than 300mm.

There is a sun-darkened and oxidised look to these wide cuts of timber - which likely derived from a mill on the Atherton Tablelands.

There a quantity of Queensland Maple in 70 x 20mm from the same shop.


Recycled Blackbutt Flooring
80 x 19mm   Rate: $115.00/m2   400m2 in stock

Remilled factory flooring planks reclaimed from the Sydney suburb of Alexandria, these timbers were re-planed
to a clean surface and given a modern edge profile of tongue and groove to deliver a truly inspiring recycled floorboard.

A vibrant colour spectrum that only comes with old-growth timbers, a fine scatter of surface checking and a regular tattoo of nail holes.

Forget those crafted and naively wistful specifications for flooring size and species and come and see what real life recycling
presents as an opportunity. You'll be so glad you did.