For the last several decades in most major metropolitan areas, and even in some places off the beaten path, non-profit organizations have sprung up to accept donations of building materials. The trend got started in the 1960's and 1970's when the dilapidated downtown areas of many major cities began a period of "yuppification," meaning that young, upwardly mobile adults began moving back into the cities to be near the nightlife, avoid the long commutes from the suburbs, and to take advantage of governmental building subsidies that many cities instituted to build up their dwindling tax bases at that time.
Many of the properties that were demolished or renovated for this purpose contained perfectly usable woodwork, stained glass windows, plumbing fixtures, lighting, and other elements that were far superior to what you could buy in a store. When enough individuals involved in the process got tired of seeing all these great building materials end up going to the dump, some of them got together to warehouse it and sell it to other people involved in inner city renovation. Eventually they set up tax exempt, non-profit corporations and became established businesses.
What really made the whole process work is that anybody with extra building material on their hands could get rid of them without much effort, whether it was a homeowner who bought too many 2x4's for a project, or a large manufacturer who discovered too late that the thousands of purple building-related widgets that they had produced just wouldn't sell. Additionally, everybody got a nice tax write-off, and the corporations avoided paying additional tax on inventory that they couldn't sell.
Unfortunately, the days are long gone when you could find stained glass windows or 18th century woodwork in most non-profit building material recycling centers. Other businesses have been formed to recycle those items for top dollar. However, if you have extra usable building material around, donating to one of these community recyclers is a good idea. It gets the stuff out of your way, and also supports local businesses. Also, because they are mostly located in economically depressed areas, they often supply building materials at low cost or no cost to poor homeowners who want to maintain their houses. Most building material recycling organizations offer classes in various home improvements. They also act politically with other organizations to foster home ownership and build local communities. These warehouses are also generally pretty interesting places to shop if you want dirt-cheap building materials that are unusual. You may have to dig through someone else's "trash" to find that "treasure," but you can be sure you'll get it for the right price, and you sure won't have to worry about anybody else on your block having one, unless you tell him about it.
Some places to donate building materials:
- Resource: 2665 63rd Street, Boulder, CO 80301 (303) 419-5418 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Recycle North: 339 Pine Street, Burlington, VT 05401 (802) 846-4015 email@example.com
- ReBuilders Source: 461 Timson Place, Bronx, NY 10455 (718)-742-1111 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Building Resources: 701 Amador Street, San Francisco, CA (415)-285-7814
- The Loading Dock: 3622 North Kresson Street, Baltimore, MD 21245 (410) 558-DOCK