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Remodeling Deconstruction, Reuse, and Recycling

Contractors are Embracing Sustainable Remodeling but there’s a Learning Curve

© 2013 ; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

Installing concrete pavers; photo courtesy Jzlomek

It used to be that remodeling simply meant demolition and rebuilding. Generally speaking, the only things considered not to be candidates for the landfill were things with antique value and old seasoned lumber and other building material that looked “seasoned” enough to give a new trendy restaurant a rustic atmosphere.

Even the best contractors will need to rethink the way they do things when they dive into reusable deconstruction. Some things to consider are:

  • Time estimates will be more critical. Materials must be disassembled rather than demolished. Some items will need to be cleaned up or undergo small repairs.

  • Finances become more complicated. Yes, there is profit in selling materials, but there are expenses in transporting them to the new owner.

  • It will be necessary to expand the business network. Not only will the contractor need customers for reclaimed materials but also sources of materials for his own jobs.

Building Material Candidates for Reuse

Of course, not everything can be used, but a surprisingly high number of items can be salvaged and put to good use. Some items can be sold to offset building costs and some can be donated to non-profit organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, or local homeless shelters.

For example, a roofing contractor friend of mine in Alabama re-roofed an old church a few years back and made more money recycling the old copper flashing than on the job itself.

Cabinets, sinks, functioning appliances (or even broken ones that can be mined for parts), and plumbing fixtures are good candidates for re-use. Hardwood floors can almost always be salvaged and reinstalled elsewhere.

This is a favorite of environmentalists since it results in much less forest harvesting. Almost all other un-treated wood products can be processed for pellet stove fuel.

Other popular items are high-quality bricks like Acme bricks (not those soft Mexican imports that tend to disintegrate over time), windows, and doors.

The Financial Implications of Reuse

There are certain labor-related activities that will add cost to a project. The contractor will have to spend some time going through the area of the home to be remodeled prior to beginning any work. He or she must identify items to save and develop a game plan.

Then there is the actual labor cost. Obviously, more time goes into deconstruction than conventional demolition because care must be taken not to damage the materials.

On the other side of the financial scale, money can be made from selling items to salvage yards and resale shops. The homeowner and the contractor must agree and get in writing in advance who gets what part of any tax deductions for eligible charitable contributions.

Many charitable organizations will come to the home and pick up the items. Of course, this shifts transportation and labor costs from the contractor or home-owner. However keep in mind that no more than pick up will yield any tax deduction.

If the nonprofit organization does any of the actual deconstruction work or on-site disassembly, the IRS seriously considers it “trade for service” and will disallow a tax deduction.

Also bear in mind that there will be many fewer dumpster pulls and landfill dumping fees and this can add up to considerable savings. And finally, you can pat yourself on the back for being so eco-friendly and helping to save the planet!

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