How to Salvage Building Materials: 5 Tips

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How to Salvage Building Materials: 5 Tips

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

For builders or DIYers, incorporating these reclaimed construction materials into projects is better for the planet and more financially responsible—since building out of all new materials can be expensive. Plus, recycled building materials often come with a unique history or one-of-a-kind 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 it sadly doesn't happen as often as it should. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 600 million tons of construction and demolition waste are produced yearly in the United States, and 145 million tons of that are sent to landfills.


Determine Your Region's Best Practices

Before finding salvage materials for your project, check your local builders' association and your state or provincial environmental agency for information on your region's best practices. These organizations can help you plan your project and also help ensure that your project adheres to the local government regulations.

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


Source Your Materials

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 it makes will go toward building affordable housing for people in your community and worldwide. Also, check to see if your neighborhood has a Freecycle account—it's a nonprofit focused on connecting residents of the same town to exchange free, gently used building materials to keep as much out of landfills as possible.

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


Get Creative

Not everyone has access to resources like Freecycle and Habitat for Humanity ReStore, so sometimes it's necessary to look in more unconventional places.

Craigslist is a surprisingly great resource for materials like wood, bricks, flooring, roofing, and furniture that are either being resold or given away for free. Similarly, check your local neighborhood's Nextdoor page for postings about available reclaimed 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 during their next tear-down or home remodel project. Try asking neighbors, friends, and family working on their own large remodeling projects if you can sift through their construction waste—but again, be sure to research your local regulations and policies beforehand.


Look Early (and Often)

Once you're ready to start looking for reclaimed building materials, think of it like thrift or antique shopping. Since stock changes daily depending on what's available, salvage building materials are typically limited. Start looking as soon as possible and think outside the box. Reclaimed floor material, for example, can serve multiple purposes, such as doors or tables.

Once you've discovered some treasures, don't be afraid to take advantage of good opportunities. Remember, there's no guarantee that the item will be there tomorrow—and there's a good chance it could end up in the trash if you don't take it home.


Take the Proper Precautions

Sourcing and utilizing salvaged building materials doesn't come without its hazards. Keep in mind that all reclaimed materials used in structural support should always be inspected by a qualified professional to ensure it's safe to use. The same goes for salvaged bricks, which should also be tested for durability.

Salvaged materials from older buildings might contain hazardous components, such as asbestos or lead, and must also be assessed by a qualified professional when presence is suspected. Electrical appliances and old light fixtures may also contain hazardous materials such as mercury or have damage due to faulty wiring.

Source: KGallagher

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