The Best Building Materials to Salvage and Reuse

These are cleaned, salvaged bricks. Bricks are a great material to salvage for future use.When homes are renovated or demolished, all too often old materials are tossed in a Dumpster and hauled to the landfill. This is both wasteful and costly – there are many parts of homes that can be reused, repurposed, and recycled, saving both money and increasingly scarce landfill space. Wherever you are and whatever your project is, whether you are building a Colorado cabin or working with Minneapolis remodeling contractor to gut your Twin Cities dream home, it is worth it to salvage your construction materials.

We all know how to recycle newspaper, cans and bottles in the bins provided by our local government. Recycling construction debris is more involved, but with a little extra effort and some cooperation between remodeling contractors and homeowners, can be very successful. Let’s look at what building materials can be recycled.


Starting at the top, most roofs are covered with asphalt or fiberglass composite shingles. These can be recycled into a gravel-like material to be used as a base for driveways, roads and parking lots. After the roofing comes off, roof decking, rafters and other framing material are removed. Many older homes were built with heart pine lumber, a rare and valuable material that can be salvaged and re-milled into flooring, trim, and cabinets. Any unpainted lumber can be ground into mulch and used for erosion control or plant bedding. Some framing lumber is easily reused once the nails are removed from it.

Masonry and concrete

Masonry and concrete are easily recycled. Landscape contractors may be interested in older bricks, which they can use to build walls and garden paths. Broken or unusable bricks, concrete block and clay roof tiles can be ground into gravel. When removing an old concrete driveway, plan on sending the debris to a recycler instead of the dump. The costs are about the same, and you will reduce the volume of material going to the landfill. Other products that can be recycled as gravel include toilets, porcelain sinks and ceramic tile.

Kitchen and living room materials

Homes undergoing living room or kitchen renovations are full of treasures that can be repurposed. Cabinets, appliances, doors, windows, plumbing fixtures, lighting and flooring can be reused or donated to non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity for reuse or resale to support their programs. Copper wiring and piping, aluminum gutters and other non-ferrous metals provide a reasonable return on the time spent. The packaging that products arrive in is a major source of jobsite trash. Cardboard boxes, wood pallets and clear plastic all can be recycled, often removed at no cost by salvage companies. A little planning and jobsite management can reduce renovation waste by more than 50%, providing both cost savings and environmental benefits long after construction is complete.

Carl Seville writes for Networx

Updated March 28, 2018.

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