recycled deck boards to make a bridge

Building a Bridge – 5 Uses For Recycled Deck Boards

In our throw away society today real recycling (not the bin you throw water bottles in) is rare. It is so easy to “replace” things and trash the old items, it has become part of our culture that fills up our landfills with building material. I would argue this is the most wasteful thing we could ever do. It makes the corporations stronger as they sell you the latest thing. In fact over the past several years there has been numerous stories that talk about companies using planned failure to know when their product will fail.

Of course this is in order to “predict” when a device is worthless. Apple and Samsung phones were caught up in this when developers saw algorithms not allowing the phone to charge properly and lowering battery capacity. Both companies claimed it was for optimization of your device. However more and more people looked into it and it was clearly to help drive new sales for replacement devices.

So back to our story today, could it be possible that old decking could have a second life? Especially boards from years ago that are from 1990? That is the last time our deck was updated (that is outside of our previous projects). The last post we discussed working on our deck walkway to not only replace the boards but also work on a leak on our outside roof. Nothing that compromised the house only and outside trim problem. So today’s topic can we use recycled deck boards to build other things?

59 Recycled Deck Boards

recycled deck boards

The pile was getting larger from our walkway project (about 59 boards at 3ft 8 inches in length) and I know I would need to do something with them. I thought hmm what should I do with them? Previously, I listed on Craigslist or Facebook marketplace items for sale at a very low price to have them removed. Heck I even paid someone $25 to take a HUGE pile of brush. Some things like listing old wood (even before the pandemic) is an easy way to recycle items that other people can repurpose. Believe it or not, recycled deck boards is a thing. People want and do use them for all kinds of projects. I have had many answers when asking “What are you going to do with them” – below are my top 5.

Top 5 uses of Recycled Deck Boards

  1. Make a chicken coop
  2. Build a hunting blind
  3. Add to my barn flooring
  4. Make a planter box
  5. Build a walkway

How Can You Recycle Things? Think Out Of The Box

In general, many items we replace can be repurposed for a second life. It depends on your outlook. Sit back and imagine, what could I do with items we own that are broken? While it maybe difficult to repurpose a failed toaster, I am sure someone out there has figured out how to. Walk away with that attitude. In my case, for these old decking boards it was easy enough to see how I could use recycle them. I needed to make a bridge to cover a small ditch up front.

It may be a small area, however I have to run through it with my ATV and Yard cart often. It always ends up getting muddy and erodes the area (which I would like to limit).

recycled deck boards to make a bridge

How to use Recycled Deck Boards to Make a Bridge

Estimated Time 6 hours

Gather Good Decking Boards

first step

Take all of your boards and start to make a pile of potential solid boards that can be used. Keep in mind, know that depending on your project you may be able to remove the ends (which typically get damaged more than any other part).

Remove Nails or Screws

Step 2 DIY two step

If you have Ring-shank nails – get settled in. My entire deck (while I appreciate the use of these types of nails as they hold things together well) are a pain to remove. I am so glad I went to Harbor Freight and bout a 3ft crow bar. A real life saver and it make it easy not only to remove decking boards but also to take out nails it is a snap. Use the crow bar to remove all nails that you can. MAKE SURE – to have a handy bucket or pale nearby to place the removed nails in. You don’t want them in the yard where an ATV or mower can run over them later and cause a leak. PRO TIP- if you have ends that will be cut off anyway, just skip that part of the board.

How To Build A Bridge – Lay Out Your Pattern

I figured out, I could make a platform or bridge to get my ATV to the other side by making a bridge by the dimensions of 5 feet long by 6 feet wide. This would allow 3 feet in the middle (to split one of our 2×6’s as the center beam). This not only would make a strong structure, but also allow me to trim off either end (as needed) for the planks. Most of these boards were roughly 3 feet by 8-10 inches. I only needed 3 feet so we were good to trim them up. This is the key for whatever you do when recycling. Knowing what is needed and could you get the real-estate you need with the material you have.

Final Assembly Of The Bridge from Recycled Deck Boards

final assembly of recycled deck boards being used for a bridge

All in all, I ended up using two screws in the middle board, driving them facing each other and slightly to the previous attached board. I also off set each row. Meaning, move the center in a pattern of one board to have 3.5 inches of space on center, then the other only having 2.5 inches. Then flip flopping the pattern. This makes the spine of the bridge really strong. Then simply added an outside screw to keep things in place. I do plan on placing a 1×1 on the outside and a 1×4 in the center to “seal things up.

Overall, a simple project but it shows you that YES you can throw things out but if there is a purpose for perfectly good things we encourage you to reuse them. It can take extra effort (YES) but like many things of value that is the point. You not only learn how to do something today, you get a cool conversation piece that has a nice rustic look.

I will be coming back to add stone to create a more durable walkway very soon but this is a great start to keep down erosion and mud being in the yard.

As always THANK YOU for stopping by, we hope this is a beginning for people to think about how to build a bridge in not throwing things out but using them for a second life.

Until next time!

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