What is Deconstruction?

Deconstruction after damage is where we dismantle the building components, specifically for re-use, recycling, and waste management. This includes everything from doors and cabinets to framing lumber, roofing material and flooring. Now that you know the basics behind deconstruction lets talk about how this method is environmentally friendly.

How Can this Help Me?

There are many environmental benefits to deconstruction. Building debris accounts for one-third of the solid waste in the United States. Deconstructed materials are recycled and reused resulting in the need for raw materials to decrease. In addition to being environmentally friendly, reusing old building materials can earn you as homeowner money by selling metals like copper piping for scrap,  and if you choose to donate these materials to groups like Habitat for Humanity you can get a tax write-off at the end of the year.1

Now that we talked about the benefits of using deconstructed materials, these are materials you should save through deconstruction for recycling:

  • Drywall
  • Wood
  • Metal
  • Brick
  • Concrete
  • Asphalt
  • Flooring2

Deconstruction Process

  • Deconstruction Appraisal: national appraisers travel to potential clients – typically free of charge – for an initial assessment. When hired, the on-site appraisal usually takes a couple days, but report preparation lasts two months.Why so long? Because when you file for a tax credit after deconstructing a house, for possibly more than $100,000, the Internal Revenue Service wants every scrap accounted for.
  • Hire a Deconstruction Service: While some contractors – both capable and otherwise – perform deconstruction and salvage house materials without BMRA certification, many within the industry consider it the top qualification. A deconstructed house takes about four weeks longer than standard demolition. Clients usually pay $8-$10 per square foot, but that’s only part of the equation.
  • Donating Deconstruction Salvage: Nearly 900 independently owned Habitat for Humanity ReStores operate in 49 states, and sales fund local Habitat projects. While each store is different, Habitat PR specialist Angela Giles says flooring and salvaged lumber are typically not accepted.”Interested donors should call their local Habitat ReStore for more information about donating building materials from deconstruction projects,” Giles says.Many other successful nonprofits also populate the trade. The ReBuilding Center in Portland, Oregon, which cycles 8 tons of material through its giant warehouse each day, earns praise both locally and nationally for its charitable efforts and business model. Since 2000, sale proceeds have helped pay for numerous neighborhood restoration projects, including the Mississippi Street area the business inhabits.1

Why Deconstruction Over Demolition?

Deconstructing a house meant not only that people could get affordable access to building materials, but also that those materials didn’t end up in a landfill — the end point for an estimated 500 million tons (454 million metric tons) of demolition waste in the U.S. annually. Every piece of material saved meant one fewer part that needed to be manufactured, cutting down the use of raw resources and the energy required to process them. And every home deconstructed created about twice as many jobs as a demolition.

Tips when Considering Deconstruction

If you are considering deconstruction as part of your home renovation project here are some tips to help you through the process:

  • Get started early. You may do better financially by deconstructing and donating your unneeded building materials. But deconstruction takes planning, so make sure to give yourself enough time.
  • Shop often at the resale store. If you’re hoping to purchase and install salvaged kitchen cabinets, for example, it may take some time and several trips to the salvage store to find exactly what you need.
  • Try to use a nonprofit deconstruction firm.

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