8 Important Building Materials That Are Saved When Deconstructing a Home – by Max Shafer
According to the EPA, roughly 569 million tons of construction and demolition debris is generated in a single year–more than double the amount of municipal solid waste generated in the same timeframe. Therefore, it is important to reduce the amount of demolition waste for both environmental and economic reasons, making home deconstruction (also known as sustainable demolition), a popular topic in construction, real estate, and home renovation circles in recent years.
Among the benefits of home deconstruction include:
- Allowing families of more modest socioeconomic standing to acquire building materials at an affordable price
- Conserving forest resources by reusing wood instead of harvesting new trees
- Reducing climate-changing gas emissions from landfills and incinerators
- Tax breaks, as all saved materials donated to an approved charity can be claimed as a donation at fair market value
With this in mind, the following breakdown looks at some of the most important materials to save when performing a home deconstruction.
Windows that are in good condition are one of the best building materials you can salvage during deconstruction. While some types of old windows may lose their energy efficiency and be prone to damage during the deconstruction process, this is not the case for all products. In particular, vinyl windows are extremely durable, so if the home set for deconstruction has a set that is less than 10 years old, be sure to hang on to them. Remodeling Magazine lists vinyl windows as one of the most value-adding materials a homeowner can choose, so they should be a sought-after item on the secondary market.
Countertops are one of the most important aspects of any kitchen, making them another top choice for reclamation. While cumbersome countertops that require heavy machinery and multiple sections for installation, such as marble or concrete, may be tricky to salvage, contemporary products are far easier to maintain during deconstruction. For example, solid surface and quartz are two types of countertops that are fabricated into a solid, one-piece slab, making installation and deconstruction a breeze and limiting the chance that any damage will occur when taking them down.
Flooring is another important material to save when tearing down a house, as homeowners are loath to see expensive products such as solid hardwood or porcelain tile go up in a cloud of dust. However, even faux hardwood flooring offers plenty of incentive to be salvaged. At 70-80% ROI, engineered hardwood rivals solid hardwood in terms of overall value. Even less financially valuable faux options, such as luxury vinyl, usually come with easy click-lock installation that makes it a breeze to assemble and take apart, incentivizing homeowners to reuse it if it is in good condition.
It may seem unlikely that roofing, with its direct exposure to UV rays and inclement weather, could be considered salvageable during deconstruction. However, many types of roofing products, such as metal, slate, and composite tiles, are certified to last for 50 years, making them strong candidates for reuse. Even less durable products, such as asphalt and untreated wood shakes, should be saved and recycled.
Like roofing, siding faces some significant exposure to the elements. Also like roofing, the best types of house siding can also be salvaged during deconstruction. While treated wood planks likely need to be properly disposed of, metal, vinyl, and fiber cement are all extremely durable products that can easily be reused for the next renovation project.
As long as there is no rust or any other visible signs of water damage, fixtures, such as sink faucets and showerheads, are strong choices to be saved. In addition, items such as doorknobs, drawer pulls, and handrails are also easily repurposed if they remain in good condition.
7. Cabinets and Vanities
Cabinets that still retain their doors are another material that is commonly saved during deconstruction. Vanity cabinets and drawers can also be salvaged, as long as there is no sign of water damage. If cabinets or vanities are damaged or incomplete, it is still important to recycle the wood.
As long as appliances, such as stoves, microwaves, washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers are less than 10 years old and remain in good working condition with minimal signs of wear, they are very easy to save during deconstruction.
The Most Important Building Materials to Save When Deconstructing a Home
Home deconstruction, or sustainable demolition, is a process in which homes are taken apart with an eye toward reusing, repurposing, and recycling building materials, as opposed to straight-up demolishing the existing structure. Although home deconstruction is slightly more expensive than regular demolition, its positive economic and environmental impact far outstrip the small difference in upfront cost. When considering which materials to save during home deconstruction, windows, countertops, flooring, roofing, siding, fixtures, cabinets, vanities, and appliances are some of the most valuable items that can be reused on the secondary market.
Max Shafer is a contributor to the Innovative Building Materials blog. He is a content writer for the construction and home improvement industries with an interest in landscaping, outdoor remodeling, and interior design. Max is focused on educating homeowners, contractors, and architects on innovative materials and methods of construction that increase property value, improve sustainability, and create a warm and welcoming ambiance.
Baltimore-based Second Chance, Inc. is a pioneer and national leader in deconstruction, having carefully dismantled over 1,000 homes and other buildings as far away as Maine, Florida and Colorado during the past 20 years. Follow these links to learn more about the environmental, social and financial benefits of deconstruction, and how it works to partner with us.