Recycling an Old Home: Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose

Erica Blawat on Apr 21, 2020

Deconstruction is both a comprehensive and an environmentally-friendly alternative to standard demolition. Trained deconstruction crews carefully deconstruct the building to salvage as many of the reusable materials as possible, diverting them from local landfills. Salvaged items typically include doors, windows, cabinets, lighting and plumbing fixtures, framing lumber, roofing materials, and flooring. 

For both partial and full deconstruction, BBA has worked with Blue Earth Deconstruction for multiple projects. Blue Earth’s mission is to keep materials out of landfills.  According to their website:

  • 40% of America's waste stream is the result of construction and demolition. 

  • Blue Earth Deconstruction’s projects divert 90% of the existing materials into reuse.

  • Blue Earth partners with salvage and donation companies including Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

  • Deconstruction creates 7x more jobs than traditional demolition and provides a job-training program where laborers that show skill are then channeled into the construction workforce.

Visit their website for more information:

In addition to offering a greener approach to home-building by keeping these materials out of landfills, deconstruction may offer a potential financial advantage for the homeowner. To deconstruct a building, the owner donates the house for salvage to Blue Earth Deconstruction, who then distributes the various salvaged materials for sale or reuse in other construction projects. The owner receives a tax credit for the appraised value of the salvaged materials. For example, for a home with an appraisal between $70k and $90k for the salvage, and at a 33% tax bracket, the tax savings provided by deconstruction paid for the demolition cost of approximately $26,000.

The most impressive BBA deconstruction effort was at our Modern City House where we used almost all of the salvaged materials in the new house, including:

  • Wood flooring on the second floor milled from floor joints

  • 4” thick treads for stairs, bridges and beams milled from salvaged timber

  • Board formed concrete made with the salvaged sheathing of the house

  • Repurposed floor to ceiling doors closing off the children’s suite on the 2nd floor 

  • Reclaimed lumber to create the loft above the kitchen

  • Reclaimed lumber used for framing and finish ceiling at primary bedroom

  • Brick salvaged from the demolished house was cleaned and stored on-site and re-used in the warehouse building 

At our Urban Georgian House, we deconstructed two existing houses. Rather than re-use the salvaged materials from this site in the new construction, we traded for other materials that were salvaged from other deconstructed buildings, including reclaimed barn siding that was used for the walls, beams and ceiling of the third-floor party space.

We recently completed construction on our Modern River Cottage. For this project, a full deconstruction of the existing structure was completed by Blue Earth. The new home is being built on the broom-cleaned foundations of the original. Materials salvaged include:

  • Windows and doors

  • Framing lumber

  • Structural steel

  • Wood siding

  • Copper flashing

  • Plumbing Fixtures

  • Brick salvaged from the main house for re-use on the existing garage

While deconstruction offers the most comprehensive approach to keeping materials out of landfills, we have found many creative ways to thoughtfully and purposefully reuse and restore materials in many of our other projects:

European Cottage Reclaimed white oak timber beams, French terra cotta tile flooring, and salvaged palette wood planks for the ceilings were used throughout the main floor interiors.  A new fireplace was created in the family room by reusing brick from the original home.

Montana Vacation Home — Reclaimed wood exterior siding was chosen to showcase local materials.  Reclaimed wood plank flooring and timber beams were used throughout the interior.

Fairway Manor Existing slate roof tile was salvaged and strategically reused at the new roof, while existing garden stone pavers repurposed in the new exterior hardscape design.

Various other projects utilizing deconstruction methods windows and doors repurposed, salvaged brick, roof tile, lumber, casing and trim, and more.