Remodel for pennies on the dollar? Show me the money!

October 20, 2010

recycle this old barn

You could still get a few good beams out of this old barn for reuse

The old adage “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” aptly describes this growing aspect of the green building movement – recycling building materials.

The concept is simple: recycle parts of old houses and buildings that are reusable.  As with most  forms of recycling, this is a win-win situation for everyone.  These businesses are a cross between a Home Depot and an auto-salvage yard. If you are donating or selling your used building materials you get to recycle them. If you are looking for some, you get the same item at substantial savings.  They are especially great if you are searching for those older styles of fixtures, like a clawfoot bathtub for instance.   Instead of demolishing old structures, they are “deconstructed” – pulled apart piece by reusable piece for reuse.

Reused building materials centers are a boon to the home project do-it-yourself types, as well as construction professionals.  Did your dog chew through your door? Need windows for a diy backyard greenhouse or sauna? Did your teenage driver try to “back up” using first gear and take out the garage door? You will love reclaimed building materials centers.

Are you remodeling or renovating your house?  Besides the community, environmental, and “feel good” benefits of donating your deconstructed home materials; building owners can receive substantial tax write-offs for these donations.  That means your remodeling job could come out costing you a fraction of what it would have if you hadn’t recycled those materials.  Not a deconstruction pro? Don’t know what’s worth trying to get a write-off for or not? There are companies that will do this for you and provide IRS Certified auditors, but you have to do your research.

Here in Portland, OR we have a number of recycled building material centers, here are just a few examples:

Boneyard NW

The Rebuilding Center


These centers describe themselves in a variety of ways so there is no single phrase to use when searching in your local area. Try combining some of these more common words with phrases like “building materials”,  “remodeling”, or “renovation” :  reclaimed, reuse/reused, renew/renewed, recycled,  green, used, salvaged, eco, and sustainable.

With just a quick search I found some online resources to help you learn more and possibly locate a recycled building materials business in your area:


Building Materials Reuse Association

National Association of the Remodeling Industry

ReGreen Residential Remodeling Program

Habitat for Humanity ReStores

3 thoughts on “Remodel for pennies on the dollar? Show me the money!

  1. MJ

    We are getting ready to sell my Mom’s house. My sisters and I are actually fighting over dismantling the barn and who’s gonna get the boards and tin from it! (Looks as if it’s gonna be split 3 ways..LOL)
    I did get the chicken coop door tho!! 🙂

  2. Helen

    Recycling and building with old materials is not new to Portland. A few years ago I interviewed Fred Elsasser for our neighborhood newsletter. His father and uncle built two homes on NE 42nd in the early 1920’s when it was the edge of Portland. He told me they used timber from barns being torn down in what is now is West Linn. The houses are still there.

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