Waste-free Remodeling

Save Money and Reduce Environmental Impact by Recycling or Salvaging Materials

Posted by Caryn Colgan | Sep 30, 2009
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Deconstruction is an alternative to the usual demolition of outdated buildings and throwing materials in the landfill. Using deconstruction ideas, materials are salvaged for reuse or are recycled in new and possibly different ways. The importance and value of recycling remodeling and deconstruction waste becomes more obvious when consumers consider the statistics.

According to the Deconstruction Institute , US demolition projects result in approximately 125 million tons of debris each year. That figure represents enough waste to build a wall 30 feet tall and 30 feet thick along the entire coast of the continental U.S. or 4, 993 miles. Note that this staggering amount of waste does not include the debris generated by remodeling projects. Not only is recycling important to keep material out of the landfill, the extraction and harvesting of new materials releases harmful gases and chemicals into the environment.

While the materials and uses is seemingly without limit, here are a few ideas on how to recycle and repurpose materials from your remodeling project:


Lumber salvaged and reused can provide affordable, seasoned materials for remodeling or the construct of new buildings. Estimates show that for every three square feet of lumber saved from an old building one square foot of a new building.

In the article entitled "815 North," the homeowners deconstructed an old, dilapidated building and used most of the materials in their new eco-friendly, alternative energy home. The redwood siding and deck became siding for their new home as well as lovely planter boxes.


Salvaged or recycled bricks add character and charm to any renovation project. If you are salvaging them yourself, knock any residual mortar off with a hammer and pick. Of course, wear eye and hand protection. Use them around fireplaces, stoves, outdoor grills, and garden areas. They can also be used for driveways, patios and spa steps or to add rooms and garages.


Recycling concrete saves the costs about $.25 per ton per mile of transporting concrete to the landfill and the cost of disposal, or about $100 per ton.

Crushed concrete can be reused as an aggregate in new Portland cement concrete or any other structural layer. Mixed with a virgin aggregate it can be used in new concrete. If on-site use of the concrete is not an option, homeowners can have the concrete hauled to a recycling plant. This aggregate is commonly used in a sub-base layer such as the layer under a driveway or other area requiring support.

Find a Builder Who Recycles

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is a professional association whose members voluntarily subscribe to a strict code of ethics, including green remodeling. Find a qualified contractor who is also a member of NARI.

With a little bit of creativity and a desire to reduce the environmental impact of remodeling projects homeowners can also save money by recycling used building materials. Share your ideas or suggestions on recycling or salvaging building materials in the forum.

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