Whether you’re gutting your home completely or renovating a single room, you’ll probably end up with building materials and fixtures you won’t want or need. But before you go ahead and toss dated lighting, banged-up doors, or worn tiles in the dumpster, consider these more sustainable options for offloading your renovation throwaways.
Take your items to an architectural salvage
Architectural salvages are like antique shops—but for building materials. They collect everything from light fixtures and cabinet hardware to doors and old toilets to bricks and hardwood floors and resell them to be used in renovation projects. Salvages operate under the concept that one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
“If it’s useful, why throw it away?” says George Venizelos, owner of George’s Demolition and Salvage Supply Company, an architectural salvage shop in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Some shops may offer demolition or deconstruction services, while others serve merely as a clearinghouse for buying and selling. Venizelos says he will occasionally go to someone’s home or business to remove salvage pieces and haul them away, but most of what comes and goes from his shop is delivered and donated by clients.
In most cases, you won’t get much—or any—cash in exchange for your salvage items. Experts say wood flooring can sometimes be resold, but if materials aren’t particularly unique, or if they require a lot of work to get back to a usable condition, architectural salvages are simply there to take them off your hands.
“Anything will sell if it is cheap enough,” says Pablo Solomon, a Texas-based artist and designer who specializes in historic renovation. “But in some cases, you will be lucky to find someone who will haul off all your discarded stuff for free.”
Junk removal companies will pick up your throwaways for a fee, but Solomon notes that some individuals will do it for free in order to resell items themselves. You can find those people through a Craigslist or classifieds listing.
“Of course, if you have bronze cast panels by a famous architect or designer, or Tiffany [glass] windows, you may walk away with some real money,” Solomon adds.
Donate to a recycler, reseller, or charity
Just as you might take your old clothes to a Goodwill, donating renovation throwaways to a nonprofit reseller, charity, or church group is a meaningful way to get rid of old household items and fixtures.
For example, Big Reuse in Brooklyn, New York, takes donated furniture, appliances, and building materials from demolition and remodels and resells them from their warehouse. Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore offers a similar service in locations across the US.
Anderson Kenny, a NYC-based architect, says donating is a good alternative for “generic” items like doors and hardware. In many cases, compensation comes in the form of a tax write-off.
“Unless it’s historically documented, then we typically don’t advise [clients] to sell these things,” he says. “We advise them to either donate or barter.”
Restore valuable or one-of-a-kind pieces
Items with historical significance or value—vintage wallpaper, custom track lighting, and unique ornamental metal fixtures, for example—may be worth a little TLC so you can reuse them rather than get rid of them. Your architect, interior designer, or contractor can help you determine which pieces are worth restoring, and which you’re better off replacing.
“We look at anything that appears to be custom, one-of-a-kind, or crafted using materials or techniques that you can’t get any more,” says Kenny.
For example, when his clients wanted to remove a mantle and chimney breast made of endangered Honduran big-leaf mahogany in favor of a more modern look, Kenny worked with them to turn the old piece into a “high-low moment.”
In some cases, you may simply be able to repurpose items rather than restore them to their original form.
“Realistically, it’s rarely cost-effective to restore versus build new,” says Dylan Murray of Murray Builders NYC, which provides contracting services for high-end renovations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. “We do it all the time, however, if the owner is really attached to some architectural detail or element or if it’s mandated by Landmark Historic status.”