Prepping

How to Rebuild, Repair, and Repurpose Post-SHTF

working with hand tools

 

We live in a world of creature comforts and conveniences that many of us take for granted. Many of us are so comfortable in our day to day routine we don’t even realize how dependent we are on those comforts and conveniences. But when SHTF, the world as we know it will quickly become unpredictable.

Many of those comforts and conveniences that we depend on could simply disappear without much warning. Your material possessions are also at risk. During a SHTF event, furniture, appliances, electronics, your vehicle, even your home can be damaged, stolen, even confiscated.

If you’re familiar with any of the post-apocalyptic movies or books, you know that a large scale natural disaster or something larger, like an EMP or nuclear war, can throw everything into chaos. Of course, the first order of business during this type of event is to survive the immediate threat. Knowing how to avoid danger and defend yourself and your family will play a huge part in whether or not you survive the initial event.

The next order of business is to provide for your family’s basic needs such as food, water, medicine, etc. But in order for you and your family or group to survive long-term, it’s critical that you learn how to rebuild, repair, and repurpose post-SHTF.

In a post-SHTF situation, those who are able to survive won’t just be able to avoid danger or protect themselves from it, they will know how to gradually rebuild their life, with whatever materials that are available.

Repurposing is about more than just surviving, it’s about thriving in a post-SHTF world. When SHTF, material possessions, vehicles, and homes will be destroyed, confiscated or abandoned out of necessity. You and your family may need to bug out and start life over in a completely new location. So how do you begin to rebuild your life by repairing and repurposing materials you have available to turn your new shelter into a home again?

Ways to Rebuild Post-SHTF

If you are prepared and have enough luck on your side to survive an initial SHTF event, at some point simply surviving won’t be enough. You will need to begin rebuilding your life. In a post-SHTF situation, you will likely lose your job or main source of income. Even if you keep your job or have cash stashed, many stores will be shut down for an extended period if not indefinitely.

So you won’t be able to just run out and get materials for your home repair or home decor projects at the nearest Lowe’s or Hobby Lobby. Whether you return from bugging out to find looters stole your possessions or burned half of your home or whether you end up in someone else’s abandoned home, knowing how to repurpose materials you have available will help you rebuild your home and a life for you and your family.

Prepare to Repair Post SHTF

No matter how prepared you are with the things you need, there will come a time when something will break. Whether it’s your car, your solar power system, or your roof, you have to be prepared to make repairs post-SHTF. Think about the skills, tools, and materials you will need to repair your most critical resources post-SHTF.

You won’t be able to simply run to Home Depot or the local hardware store to get what you need. Part of being prepared to repair things post-SHTF is understanding how things work. Technology has made many of us complacent in this area. We can simply push a button and the lights come on, the stove comes on, the car starts, or the heat comes on. Getting a thorough understanding of electrical, mechanical, plumbing, heating, and other systems will go a long way toward helping you repair critical systems post-SHTF.

When it comes to a post-SHTF situation, it will also be a lot easier to do repairs if you have spare parts on hand. Think about your critical systems and what parts might break, wear out, or otherwise stop working. Stockpile those spare parts now so in a post-SHTF situation, you can be ready to replace non-working parts and get systems working again. It’s also important to remember that no matter how much you are able to stockpile, eventually you could be faced with a situation where you don’t have the exact part you need.

This is why having a thorough knowledge of how things work will be critical. If you know how that needed part is supposed to work within a system, you will be more likely to be able to find something similar to the correct part and repurpose it to work or if needed modify the system to operate without that broken part.

Of course in order to make repairs post-SHTF, you will need to have tools available. Again, technology has spoiled us because we have gotten used to having power. Power drills, screwdrivers, saws, etc. may not be practical in a post-SHTF situation. Prepare to make repairs post-SHTF by stockpiling manual tools you will need to do repairs. Manual tools to have on hand include:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Handsaws
  • Hand Drills and Bits
  • Shop Vise
  • Pliers
  • Channel Locks
  • Pipe Wrenches
  • Awls
  • Hammers
  • Chains
  • Pulleys
  • Nuts and Bolts
  • Wire Strippers and Wire Cutters
  • Tin Snips
  • Chisels and Files
  • Post Hole Digger
  • Winching System
  • Nails and Screws (wood and metal)
  • Boards of various sizes
  • Tarps
  • Rope
  • Electrical Wire
  • Shovels
  • Sockets and Ratchets
  • • see more recommended tools and gear here

In an “ideal” post-SHTF situation, you will have stockpiled all the tools you might need. But a SHTF event and its aftermath is unpredictable and you may simply not be able to stockpile all the tools you could need for every repair. Or you could be forced to leave them behind or give them up to looters to save the lives of your family.

So what do you do post-SHTF if you don’t have the right tool? Or how do you finish a repair if the tool you do need breaks mid-repair? Knowing how and what to repurpose from available materials can help you out here too.

Ways to Repurpose Post-SHTF

In a post-SHTF situation, you can’t just run to the local department store or hardware store to get what you need. Whether or not you and your family thrive in a post-SHTF world may be dependent on whether you can scavenge for and recognize items with multiple uses. Being able to scavenge for and repurpose items post-SHTF will enable you to save precious bartering supplies for items you cannot get on your own.

Plastic 2-liter bottles can be used to store water, to store dry foods such as corn, pasta, rice, etc. Cut plastic bottles at an angle to create a makeshift scoop for animal feed or bulk foods or even to make a broom if needed:

You can even use plastic bottles and an old quilted bedspread to make a stool:

Use cardboard juice cartons to create a food storage rotation system or fill with dirt to create a mini-container garden that could be portable if needed:

Repurpose old satellite dishes with these 4 ideas. One of these will even let you cook without using any power other than that of the sun:

Mattress box springs can be dragged behind a working tractor to level ground, or used in the garden for veggies to vine on, in the barn to store things or to hang things to dry. Turn the mattress springs into candle holders, or combine the box spring with burlap and turn into an herb garden.

Aluminum cans will be plentiful after SHTF because most people won’t realize their value when it comes to repurposing. Aluminum cans can be used to make a rocket stove, to link together in a chain, to create an early alert alarm around your property or campsite, and they can even be crushed flat and used to create a blade or patch a roof.

Glass jars and other containers with tight fitting lids to store dry goods or use for container gardening in a small space or an urban location.

Televisions, cameras, and electronics often have a lens or at least a reflecting surface that can be used to start a fire or as a signal mirror. You can also cut the cords off old or non working electronics and knot or braid together as a makeshift rope to tie down gear on the roof of your car:

Rubber car floor mats can be used for various things but if you find yourself stranded in winter weather without proper footwear, you can create “mukluks” to insulate your feet and protect them from frostbite. Cut holes in the mats and thread the seatbelt strap through the holes and pull tight over your foot. To provide additional insulation against cold, pull the covers from your car seats and/or the padded material from the trunk of your car and wrap around your foot first and then pull the rubber car mat up to pull it all together.

Fruit cores and peels can be used to make beer, wine, vinegar, or juice.

Meat trimmings or vegetable peelings you would normally toss can be dehydrated or frozen if power is still available. Use for flavor in soups or stews when your stockpile runs low on fresh produce or meat. Feed trimmings to chickens when commercial chicken feed isn’t available. Use food scraps in a compost pile and then reuse the compost on your garden to produce better vegetables.

Broken eggshells can be used to boost your compost or even to sprinkle around plants for natural pest control. Cleaned and crushed eggshells can be used to supplement chicken feed or used to give a calcium boost to the family diet:

Used tea bags and old coffee grounds can be added to a worm farm or compost pile. Plants who thrive in an acidic soil will thrive if you mix coffee grounds directly with garden soil.

Beef bones–make bone broth, dry and crush and use in the garden to add calcium and phosphorus

Bacon fat or other lard can be saved and reused to make fire starting material or candles.

Cardboard can be repurposed for a multitude of uses post-SHTF including for insulation between you and the ground in cooler temperatures and to help insulate a temporary shelter or to add insulation to your home to help block wind and hold heat inside the house. In a pinch you can also coat strips of cardboard with wax to use as fire starting materials. Cardboard is also great to keep on hand for kids to use for entertainment. It can be used to make pretend forts, to color or paint on, or just as a small, cozy place to hide out and calm down when things are overwhelming.

Cars are an unexpected resource that can be repurposed for a variety of things post-SHTF. In the event of an EMP or any kind of shutdown that results in a fuel shortage, many vehicles will be abandoned by their owners as useless. There are however many ways a car or its parts can be repurposed:

  • Use abandoned cars to block access to your home, your street, or your neighborhood.
  • An old car with the windows intact can become a greenhouse environment starting seeds.
  • Fabric and cushioning from the seats of cars can be used for insulation.
  • A rearview mirror can be used to signal for help.
  • The casing around your side mirror as a container to carry water.
  • Tires from abandoned cars can be removed and used to build walls around your home for protection or used to create raised beds in an area with clay or rocky soil.

Check out these hacks using inner tubes from bicycles can be used as a flotation devices for gear, to keep a raft afloat, or even to insulate around doors and windows:

Use an old bicycle to make a generator.

Old freezers or refrigerators can be reused as an airtight storage for grain, animal food, firearms and ammo, or even partially buried and turned into a root cellar.

Empty plastic cat litter buckets make great nesting boxes for chickens. Since their lids are tight fitting and stackable, they can also be used for dry storage of various items.

Plastic garbage or shopping bags can be cut into strips and braided to make a pretty sturdy rope. Store out of direct sunlight when not in use to prevent from degrading:

Lawn mower engines can be recycled for many different purposes with a little know-how including to possibly power a wheelchair, turn a power drill, or power a pulley system or cart.

Broken crayons can be ground or shredded and turned into candles:

Turn old clothing, especially denim, into rag rugs for your floors. You can also use old clothing that no longer fits anyone to further insulate the walls of your home.

An unused shopping cart can be modified into a rolling chair for a child or someone who has difficulty walking long distances.

There is certainly no guarantee of survival following a post-SHTF event. But if you are properly prepared and know how to rebuild, repair, and repurpose post-SHTF, you stand a much better chance than many others. Preparation and skills are the key. Gain the skills you need to repurpose those materials that will be available so that you and your family can thrive in a post-SHTF world.

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Megan Stewart

About Megan Stewart

A mother of four and grandmother of six, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she's a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.
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3 thoughts on “How to Rebuild, Repair, and Repurpose Post-SHTF

  1. Megan,
    I really like lists like this one, since it gives me a metric to test against my preparations. At first glance I think I’m in rather good shape; but, will analyze each item and construct another reply, later today. Right now we’re just trying to get all of the outside chores done as quickly as possible, since it’s been bitter cold here recently, and these old bones like the cold weather less and less as I age, LOL.

  2. When you state:

    We live in a world of creature comforts and conveniences that many of us take for granted. Many of us are so comfortable in our day to day routine we don’t even realize how dependent we are on those comforts and conveniences. But when SHTF, the world as we know it will quickly become unpredictable.

    The key I think is to have alternatives to those creature comforts, or at least the necessities. Those necessities would fall loosely into Food, Clothing, & Shelter. We live in a paid off homestead with a large house and could shelter if required in one of our large barns, since both have at least small sections with a source of heat. The house while nearly 100 years old, has been upgraded with new windows and doors and foam insulation in all of the walls, and is finally rather comfortable in both the winter cold and the summer heat. We have multiple ways of getting water, some easier than others, and the septic system requires no real maintenance, so sanitation would be rather well covered. We also have multiple ways of heating and cross ventilation in the summer could help the cooling with little energy required.

    Many of those comforts and conveniences that we depend on could simply disappear without much warning. Your material possessions are also at risk. During a SHTF event, furniture, appliances, electronics, your vehicle, even your home can be damaged, stolen, even confiscated.

    even confiscated? I can’t think of any scenarios where that could happen and leave me alive, since I don’t really see the US turning into Venezuela or another lawless 3rd world style country, at least in my lifetime.

    Repurposing is about more than just surviving, it’s about thriving in a post-SHTF world. When SHTF, material possessions, vehicles, and homes will be destroyed, confiscated or abandoned out of necessity. You and your family may need to bug out and start life over in a completely new location. So how do you begin to rebuild your life by repairing and repurposing materials you have available to turn your new shelter into a home again?

    We have examined all potential events that could affect our location, and we will not be bugging out; however, some others with proper skills have been invited to bug in with us.

    Ways to Rebuild Post-SHTF
    I have been doing for myself since I was a preteen and was lucky enough to have a father who could and did most anything, teaching those skills and attitudes to me. I purchased my first house at age 25 and completely renovated it with only a little help from friends, doing all of the wiring, plumbing, and carpentry, and drywall. I did hire someone to install carpeting, not because I can’t do it; but, with the proper tools and expertise, he did the job for a lot less than my time would have been worth doing it myself.

    If you are prepared and have enough luck on your side to survive an initial SHTF event, at some point simply surviving won’t be enough. You will need to begin rebuilding your life. In a post-SHTF situation, you will likely lose your job or main source of income. Even if you keep your job or have cash stashed, many stores will be shut down for an extended period if not indefinitely.

    Luck can indeed play a part in things. Recently a SHTF scenario occurred with a massive tornado outbreak on March 3, 2019.
    It was a massive severe weather event affecting the Southeastern United States that over a time of 6 hours produced 39 tornadoes that touched down across Alabama, Georgia, Florida, & South Carolina. One of them was an EF4 tornado that devastated communities from Beauregard, Alabama to Talbotton, Georgia, killing 23 people and injuring 97 others at last count. As I said, I don’t see confiscation in our future; but, the luck of the draw can be devastating with natural events from Tornados to Earthquakes to wildfire and floods. Where we live, tornadoes are the only potential threat, and are in part why we settled here.

    So you won’t be able to just run out and get materials for your home repair or home decor projects at the nearest Lowe’s or Hobby Lobby. Whether you return from bugging out to find looters stole your possessions or burned half of your home or whether you end up in someone else’s abandoned home, knowing how to repurpose materials you have available will help you rebuild your home and a life for you and your family.

    We will not be bugging out, period, and nearly any materials we need are already on the property. Living in one place for 35 years and being a hoarder of ”Junque” with lots of storage space in the barns, means we have a veritable lumber yard and hard ware store at our fingertips.

    Prepare to Repair Post SHTF
    Living on a property with many buildings near the century mark, post SHTF and pre SHTF will not be all that different, since maintenance is an ongoing thing and we often purchased more supplies than we need

    No matter how prepared you are with the things you need, there will come a time when something will break. Whether it’s your car, your solar power system, or your roof, you have to be prepared to make repairs post-SHTF. Think about the skills, tools, and materials you will need to repair your most critical resources post-SHTF.

    As a retired engineer who didn’t come from riches, I have spent most of my time figuring out how to use something inexpensive to do a job that would save money, and while I can afford more things now, I still look for ways to repurpose cheaper items or purchase or manufacture parts and build from scratch.

    You won’t be able to simply run to Home Depot or the local hardware store to get what you need. Part of being prepared to repair things post-SHTF is understanding how things work. Technology has made many of us complacent in this area. We can simply push a button and the lights come on, the stove comes on, the car starts, or the heat comes on. Getting a thorough understanding of electrical, mechanical, plumbing, heating, and other systems will go a long way toward helping you repair critical systems post-SHTF.

    What I will do is run to one of my barns for parts and as for understanding systems, that’s what I did and designed for nearly 40 years to make a living. In the 7th grade I won a science fair and the prize was a choice of a science book from a list. My choice was entitled: “How things work”, since I was always fascinated with the “how”, in which case the “why”“ becomes very clear. Systems, even complex ones, are actually only a collection of smaller systems that work together, so if you understand the small pieces, you can understand the whole thing.

    When it comes to a post-SHTF situation, it will also be a lot easier to do repairs if you have spare parts on hand. Think about your critical systems and what parts might break, wear out, or otherwise stop working. Stockpile those spare parts now so in a post-SHTF situation, you can be ready to replace non-working parts and get systems working again. It’s also important to remember that no matter how much you are able to stockpile, eventually you could be faced with a situation where you don’t have the exact part you need
    This is why having a thorough knowledge of how things work will be critical. If you know how that needed part is supposed to work within a system, you will be more likely to be able to find something similar to the correct part and repurpose it to work or if needed modify the system to operate without that broken part. .

    Absolutely, and I really think we have this covered, for the reasons above.

    Of course in order to make repairs post-SHTF, you will need to have tools available. Again, technology has spoiled us because we have gotten used to having power. Power drills, screwdrivers, saws, etc. may not be practical in a post-SHTF situation. Prepare to make repairs post-SHTF by stockpiling manual tools you will need to do repairs.

    I do have some good power tools that are battery powered, have a stock of batteris, and a way to keep them charged, so for at least a time, they will give us an advantage; however, long before I could afford many power tools, let alone good battery powered ones, I purchased and learned to use hand tools, still have them, and know how to use them, If I Must, LOL.

    Manual tools to have on hand include:
    I have all of the tools on your list, some in duplicate; but, I’ll add to and annotate parts of your list:
    • Handsaws: should include bow, coping, crosscut, two person crosscut
    • Hand Drills and Bits including a Yankee screwdriver
    • Wire Strippers, Wire Cutters, wire nuts & Kearney split bolt connectors.
    • Winching System, a Come-Along works well here.
    • Draw knife for debarking logs and smoothing timbers, plus an Adze (for working and shaping logs into timbers) and a Froe for making shake shingles.

    Our early pioneer ancestors often started with only basic tools, like an axe, chisel, & small handsaw; but, used those tools to build others. A show I used to watch and learn from is no longer on the air (PBS); but, was one of the best for this type of bootstrapping.

    “The Woodwright’s Shop” with host Roy Underhill.
    Here’s a sample, that will wet your appetite if you’re really into serious DIY:
    “The Spirit of Woodcraft”
    https://www.pbs.org/video/woodwrights-shop-spirit-woodcraft/

    Here’s the Wikipedia description of Roy.

    Roy Underhill was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and was the first master housewright at the Colonial Williamsburg reconstruction. Since 1979, he has been the host of the PBS series The Woodwright’s Shop. Along with This Old House which debuted the same year, it is the longest running PBS “how-to” show.

    In an “ideal” post-SHTF situation, you will have stockpiled all the tools you might need. But a SHTF event and its aftermath is unpredictable and you may simply not be able to stockpile all the tools you could need for every repair. Or you could be forced to leave them behind or give them up to looters to save the lives of your family.

    Living here for 35+ years, we have more tools and supplies than we will probably ever use and bug out is not an option. If it gets that bad, we have friends in our MAG who will join us, and at that point we become a formidable defensive force. Some things are worth dying for.

    So what do you do post-SHTF if you don’t have the right tool? Or how do you finish a repair if the tool you do need breaks mid-repair? Knowing how and what to repurpose from available materials can help you out here too.

    Duplicates, knowing how to use what’s on hand, and using tools for purposes for which they were not designed are some things I’ve had to do for most of my life, and SHTF will only heighten the need.

    Plastic 2-liter bottles can be used to store water, to store dry foods such as corn, pasta, rice, etc. Cut plastic bottles at an angle to create a makeshift scoop for animal feed or bulk foods or even to make a broom if needed:

    They can also be used for mini greenhouses for seed starting, and can be used to make a mosquito trap that requires only a bit of water, sugar, and yeast to operate.

    Aluminum cans will be plentiful after SHTF because most people won’t realize their value when it comes to repurposing. Aluminum cans can be used to make a rocket stove, to link together in a chain, to create an early alert alarm around your property or campsite, and they can even be crushed flat and used to create a blade or patch a roof.
    Aluminum cans are way more valuable than patching roofs, since that can be done by flattening any old steel can.
    While Dave has passed, his son still runs David J. Gingery publications @ http://gingerybooks.com/ where you can find the how to books to bootstrap your own machine shop. You start with a simple charcoal base smelter to melt those aluminum cans, pour the molten aluminum into sand castings, and then use hand tools to clean up the castings, that can then be assembled to create and put together your own machine shop.

    Televisions, cameras, and electronics often have a lens or at least a reflecting surface that can be used to start a fire or as a signal mirror. You can also cut the cords off old or non working electronics and knot or braid together as a makeshift rope to tie down gear on the roof of your car:
    Those power cords, even when braided, are not all that strong; but, the wire could still be useful.
    One thing to look for are the original old flat screen ”Projection” TV sets, since behind the view screen is a huge Fresnel lens, that can concentrate enough solar energy to melt aluminum and start fires. Her;s an example used for cooking; but, they can also be used for other very hot projects.
    WARNING If you try this be careful, since the wind blowing and moving the lens can give you a nasty burn. Ask me how I know. LOL

    Fresnel lens solar cooker using TV lens
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wprlzCDfLm8

    Fruit cores and peels can be used to make beer, wine, vinegar, or juice. ; but, I suspect the vinegar would be the best use.

    Meat trimmings or vegetable peelings you would normally toss can be dehydrated or frozen if power is still available. Use for flavor in soups or stews when your stockpile runs low on fresh produce or meat

    You don’t need power to dehydrate, since a screen in a vehicle sitting in the sun can get rather hot. Crack one window a bit for circulation.

    Feed trimmings to chickens when commercial chicken feed isn’t available. Use food scraps in a compost pile and then reuse the compost on your garden to produce better vegetables.

    No meat scraps in the compost or you’ll have a real mess.

    Egg shells and coffee grounds make a great compost addition.

    Beef bones–make bone broth, dry and crush and use in the garden to add calcium and phosphorus

    We make the broth; but, hadn’t thought of drying and crushing for the compost or garden, good idea!!

    Bacon fat or other lard can be saved and reused to make fire starting material or candles.

    This can also be used to make soap, using hardwood ash lye, if necessary.

    Cardboard can be repurposed for a multitude of uses post-SHTF

    Everything you listed; but, if you cut a thin long strip of corrugated cardboard, roll it up, and place it in a tuna can, holes up, you can slowly pour molten paraffin or beeswax onto the surface and into the holes and make a long burning heater for heating a small space or cooking, like Sterno.

    There are however many ways a car or its parts can be repurposed

    You r list is good; but, don’t forget the parts that will even survive and EMP. The battery, the alternator or generator, the wiring, and much of the lighting should still be functional. LED lighting may be damaged, and the alternator diodes may need to be replaced; but, there is a lot to repurpose on a vehicle.

    Use an old bicycle to make a generator.

    Using the alternator, wiring, and batteries from the vehicle above of course.

    Empty plastic cat litter buckets make great nesting boxes for chickens. Since their lids are tight fitting and stackable, they can also be used for dry storage of various items.

    You purchase cat litter in plastic buckets? That same litter in bags is a lot less expensive and saves money for other things. Frugal is also important to repurpose that extra cash.

    Lawn mower engines can be recycled for many different purposes with a little know-how including to possibly power a wheelchair, turn a power drill, or power a pulley system or cart.

    They may also be used for running that generator to keep a battery bank charged. Most lawn mowers, at least the inexpensive ones use the little Briggs & Stratton engine, and since it is magneto operated, it is virtually EMP proof.

    Broken crayons can be ground or shredded and turned into candles:

    These work best for coloring candles, using paraffin. Used milk and juice cartons (the coated cardboard kind) make good molds, and keeping some Stearic acid on hand can help you make the candle the desired hardness.
    Wicks can be made from ”cotton” butchers cord, soaked in a salt brine and then dried.

  3. The key I think is to have alternatives to those creature comforts, or at least the necessities. Those necessities would fall loosely into Food, Clothing, & Shelter. Since both have at least small sections with a source of heat.

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