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Salvaged or salvaged building materials come from development projects or from buildings that have been deconstructed, demolished or remodeled. Salvaged building materials can also be sourced from excess building materials from construction sites for reuse in other projects.

For builders or do-it-yourselfers, incorporating these salvaged building materials into projects is better for the planet and more financially responsible, as building all new materials can be costly. Additionally, recycled building materials often have a unique story or unique appearance that adds a special touch to your project.

Read on to learn some tips and tricks on how to recycle, reuse and salvage building materials.

Did you know?

Reusing old wood, windows, metal, brick and even concrete seems like a no-brainer (even some animals recycle used materials!), but unfortunately it doesn’t happen as often as it should. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, between 230 million and 530 million tons of construction and demolition waste are produced each year in the United States.

Determine best practices in your region

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Before sourcing scrap materials for your project, consult your local building associate and state or provincial environmental agency for information on best practices in your area. These organizations can help you plan your project and ensure that your project meets local government regulations.

If you receive permission to demolish part or all of a building, deconstruct it first to remove all salvageable items as early in the project as possible. Next, separate all the different types of debris into categories to keep everything organized (wood, metal, concrete, etc.).

Treehugger Board

If you’re new to the deconstruction process, hire a skilled team to remove difficult items like cabinets, appliances, drywall, or other reusable items.

Source your materials

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Habitat for Humanity ReStores, a nonprofit donation center that sells used furniture, building materials, and more at reasonable prices, is one of the best places to start. Even better, the money they earn will go towards building affordable housing for people in your community and around the world. Also check if your neighborhood has a Freecycle account—this is a non-profit organization focused on connecting residents of the same city to exchange free and lightly used building materials to avoid landfills as much as possible.

For wood and wood products in North America, look to ReuseWood.orga reuse and recycling directory organized by the American Wood Council, the Canadian Wood Council and the Building Materials Reuse Association.

To show creativity

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Not everyone has access to resources like Freecycle and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, so sometimes it’s necessary to look in less conventional places.

craigslist is a surprisingly large resource for materials like wood, bricks, flooring, roofing, and furniture that are resold or given away for free. Likewise, check your local neighborhood The next door page for publications on available salvaged materials.

Of course, you can always go straight to the source by calling contractors in your area to ask if they can set aside reusable materials for their next teardown or home improvement project. Try asking neighbors, friends and family who are working on their own big renovation projects if you can search their construction waste, but again, be sure to find out about your local regulations and policies beforehand.

Watch early (and often)

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Once you’re ready to start looking for salvaged building materials, consider it a thrift or antique store. Since stocks change daily depending on what is available, salvage building materials are usually limited. Start looking as soon as possible and think outside the box. Reclaimed floor materials, for example, can serve multiple purposes, such as doors or tables.

Once you’ve uncovered a few treasures, don’t be afraid to take advantage of good opportunities. Remember that there is no guarantee that the item will be there tomorrow and there is a good chance that it will end up in the trash if you don’t bring it home.

Take the right precautions

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Finding and using salvaged building materials is not without risk. Keep in mind that any salvaged materials used in structural support should always be inspected by a qualified professional to ensure they are safe to use. The same goes for reclaimed bricks, the durability of which must also be tested.

Materials salvaged from older buildings may contain hazardous components, such as asbestos or lead, and should also be evaluated by a qualified professional when their presence is suspected. Electrical appliances and old light fixtures may also contain hazardous materials such as mercury or be damaged due to faulty wiring.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are recycled building materials cheaper?

    In general, using reused building materials rather than those made from scratch is usually cheaper than buying new ones. The cost of recycled and salvaged building materials can vary depending on their age (such as items considered antique) and quality.

  • What are the environmental concerns of reclaimed building materials?


  • Where can I recycle building materials?

    Before planning home renovation, construction or deconstruction projects, take the time to plan where to dispose of the waste you will produce. Most construction waste will be too large and heavy for curbside programs, so opt for an on-site dumpster through a company like Waste Management Bagster, and ask about recycling options when ordering. Use the recycling locator from Earth911 to find out where to locally recycle construction waste.