Upcycling guide – what it is and how it can save you money

Upcycling can be a great way to create new and unique furniture for your home, as well as helping you save money. Here we take a close look at what exactly upcycling is and how it can benefit your home and your bank balance…

What is upcycling?

man upcycling sofaUpcycling is the process of taking an object that is considered to no longer be useful i.e. an old pallet, chair, sofa, coffee table etc… and repurposing it into something new and beautiful – basically giving it a new lease of life.

It is called ‘upcycling’ as you are making it more functional and attractive than it was before, increasing its value in the process.

The opportunities of upcycling are endless, as with a bit of hard work and creativity just about anything can be upcycled into something better. If you have any old furniture items or even pallets or ladders lying around that you no longer use, you can have a go at upcycling it either into something you use in your home or something you could sell for profit.

How upcycling is different to recycling

Both the processes involved and the end result are different when it comes to upcycling and recycling.

With recycling, the items are broken down so they can be used again in the creation of something new. So paper is shredded and pulped, plastic gets melted into pellets, glass is smashed, melted and recast and so on. Recycling could therefore also be known as down-cycling, as it actually degrades the value of the original item and breaks them down into their original material.

In contrast, upcycling is more of a creative process in which the raw materials are repurposed in new and unique ways – often improving their value and giving them a new function. For example, you could take an old wooden pallet and upcycle it into a planter for your garden, or as a coffee table. You could even combine pallets and turn them into a bed frame.

Although recycling and upcycling have different processes, they are both important as they make use of materials rather than just throwing them away into landfill, which has a more positive effect on the environment.

Upcycling ideas for beginners

If you are interested in learning more about upcycling, and maybe having a go at repurposing something for your home, we’ve listed some of the most popular upcycling ideas for beginners to get started…

Pallet planter

Unused wooden pallets can be upcycled in a variety of different ways. One of the most popular new uses for pallets is to turn them into a planter for your garden.

Because they are so adaptable, you can get creative with the look and functionality of your pallet planter – as the below examples show…

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As you can see, pallet planters can be made to suit any garden and all types of plants. The beauty of upcycling is that you are in complete control of the end product – so you can let your creative juices flow.

Crate coffee table

On a similar theme to the pallet planter, old wooden crates an be upcycled into truly stunning coffee tables that are also very functional thanks to the storage offered by the empty crates.

Coffee tables made from crates are also quite simple to make, so are perfect for beginner upcyclers…

Record bowls

Another simple yet highly effective upcycling option is the record bowl, which can add a retro feel to your home and also make for great gifts for music lovers.

Just about anyone can make a record bowl, simply place an old record on an oven-safe bowl and pop it in the oven on a medium heat (about 100-120°C) and leave it for a few minutes. The edges of the vinyl record will then melt slightly so you can bend them around the side of the bowl, and get creative with the hand moulding to create unique shapes.

We would recommend that you check with whoever owns the record before you put it in the oven though, as nice as a record bowl is they may not appreciate you hand moulding their favourite album!