When you dive into the wonderful world of salvage, you’ll start hearing terms that aren’t part of our daily vocabulary. Using anything other than brand-new materials can create a whole new lexicon when working in the industry. Upon first glance, many words may seem identical. 

Here are some popular terms in the industry and how they differ from each other:


When you see the word “green” attached to products or materials, it generally means things that are environmentally friendly or eco-friendly. That could extend to wood harvested from renewable forests, products that are biodegradable after use, locally made. This also extends to salvaged materials. Basically, items that have little to no impact on the environment can be considered green. 

However, green can also be a very vague term. It’s important to be aware of the companies you’re purchasing green products from. When possible, do research to see their practices and materials involved in making green products.


Reclaimed materials mean bringing the materials back into functional state again. If you salvage lumber from a building, for instance, you may need to go through a process of denailing it before it’s able to be used again. At Earthwise, our reclaimed wood is often old growth wood that was salvaged anywhere from deconstruction sites, barns, historic buildings, and more.


When you repurpose a salvaged material, you are using the material in a new way. For instance, using bowling alley flooring as a kitchen countertop, or an antique dresser for a bathroom sink. You’re giving materials a second life, but in a new way.


After the reclaiming or processing of materials, you reuse the item again. You could consider this word another term like salvage, but it doesn’t necessarily mean materials that were from homes or buildings set to be thrown away otherwise. 


The word salvage is an umbrella term used for all materials that are being reused, reclaimed, upcycled, and more from a home or building. The purpose of salvaged materials is to avoid them going into the landfill and to be reused over and over again.


The goal of upcycling materials that are either reclaimed or recycled is to create a product of higher quality or value. This is big in the DIY community, and many people make a living off of upcycling old materials. A good example would be sanding down and repainting an old piece of furniture, or reupholstering an old couch for a more modern look.

When you shop for salvage, in what ways are you using the materials? We’d love to hear about it!