Shuster says that an old-fashioned “Free Building Materials” sign on materials in the homeowner’s front yard also works well. Sometimes, he doesn’t even need a sign. “We leave it on the sidewalk and it’s gone in the morning,” he says.
Remodelers can also list items on The Freecycle Network, a listserv that people sign up for to receive notifications about free items, or Craigslist, an online classified service. Shuster asks clients to deal directly with listing, pricing, and selling the items “so our crews don’t have to stop work and deal with someone looking at the stuff,” he says. “Usually the owner sets it up so everyone comes on one day. Any leftover materials, we charge them for hauling away.”
Hughes has also sold items on site, giving the proceeds to the homeowner. “If someone approaches us directly, we will call the homeowner, tell them a good price, and the person hauls it away,” he says. “That way, the owner makes cash now versus waiting to donate and file taxes.”
Hughes says that nonprofit reuse centers are the best place to start, citing the 125 Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores throughout the country, as well as other local nonprofits. If there is no ReStore in the area, remodelers should approach Habitat for Humanity about starting one.
Economics of Deconstruction
Weighing costs with tax credits for donations
When Brian McVay of Neil Kelly Co. was a deconstruction manager, he kept photos and written inventory that homeowners would use for documenting their credit.
Paul Hughes, of Deconstruction Services, says remodelers should make sure clients understand that the tax credit won’t apply until the next tax season. “If you remodeled in February, you would not file taxes for a full year, so you carry that front-end cost for the year,” he says.
Jesse White, owner of an architectural salvage firm, says that tax credits are available for donations to 501c3 charities. “At my store, we have a nonprofit partner,” he says. “We receive materials on their behalf. We notify them of the donated materials, and they write a letter to the donor. Values are assessed by the owner.” In some circumstances, his company sends a letter listing the retail prices of the items, which could be used as a basis for value. “When we sell the items, we send a commission check to the nonprofit. We do not keep track of which item was sold from which particular donor, so we can’t give an exact price of what items sold for,” he explains. There are nonprofit stores that accept materials and resell them. These organizations typically give a charitable-contribution receipt and usually let the donor assess the value of the materials.
Standard demolition and landfill fees: $10,000
Deconstruction costs: Cost of appraisal: $4,000; cost to deconstruct: $25,000
Difference between demolition and deconstruction cost: $19,000
Appraised value of materials donated to nonprofit: $117,000.
The homeowners were willing to pay the extra $19,000 because they could take the $117,000 deduction over a five-year period.
Building Materials Re-Use Association directory
Construction Waste Management Database
A listing of companies that pick up and have drop-off for a variety of construction waste.
Educational Web site created by the state of Florida, now run on pro-bono basis by Jesse White of Sarasota Architectural Salvage. Includes benefit calculator.
DeConstruction Services, Fairfax, Va.
Environmental Protection Agency resource conservation
The Freecycle Network
Habitat for Humanity Re-Store directory
Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s Waste to Wealth information:
National Association of Home Builders: The Deconstruction Series
A Guide to Deconstruction
ReDO ReUse Development Organization
The ReUse People (California and Colorado)
Listing of locations, deconstruction services, and Velvet Crowbar newsletter