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Rethink, Recycle, Rebuild: How Deconstructing a Home Makes Environmental and Economic Sense


The process of taking a home apart and recycling it is called deconstruction. When you deconstruct -- instead of demolish -- an existing home, it means that you essentially dismantle the home piece by piece in an attempt to save and reuse as many of the building's components as possible. Instead of bulldozing a house and adding to landfill waste, a trained crew essentially deconstructs a home, with the home's components then donated or sold. This process focuses on giving materials within a building new life once the building as a whole is no longer viable.

Interested in the steps for deconstructing a house? It's simpler than you think. Here are the five major steps for deconstructing a home.

  1. To begin, find a deconstruction expert in your community.
  2. Arrange an appraisal consultation, where the deconstruction company will visit the home and give a preliminary assessment of the value of the home.
  3. A deconstruction contractor will then submit a bid to carefully deconstruct the home.
  4. The home will then be deconstructed over the course of several days.
  5. Finally, the materials will be donated or sold.

In a deconstruction project, almost everything in a home can be salvaged, save for the sheetrock and plaster. Salvageable items typically include doors, windows, cabinets, lighting fixtures, framing lumber, plumbing fixtures, countertops, copper wiring, roofing materials, brick and flooring.


Deconstruction is the process of systematically dismantling a structure in an environmentally, economically and socially responsible manner, aiming to maximize the recovery of materials for reuse and recycling.


The deconstruction industry has gained ground consistently in recent years due to the considerable economic and environmental opportunities it offers. Although the environmental benefits are a significant driver, the economics are becoming an important impetus in certain parts of the United States, especially in economically depressed regions.

Deconstruction can also be cost-competitive with standard demolition, when taking into account reduced disposal costs, avoided purchases of new materials, revenue earned from material sales and potential tax incentives. Tax benefits can result in a significant reduction in overall cost as compared to demolition for the same project (EPA 2000). Moreover, integrating recycled and reused materials helps toward LEED® certification, creating marketing advantages.


These broader socio-economic and environmental benefits show that deconstruction provides opportunities for a wide range of stakeholders in different ways.
For example:

  • Property owners can obtain a tax deduction by donating materials or gain income from reselling materials;
  • Remodelers can get a large stream of quality materials at lower costs;
  • Traditional demolition contractors can use deconstruction as an additional or new revenue source and position themselves for the emerging green economy;
  • Architects, engineers and design professionals can position themselves in the growing field of green building design by incorporating used, salvaged and recycled materials that can help achieve LEED points;
  • General contractors can use deconstruction to meet LEED requirements, gain a competitive edge from reduced waste fees and obtain valuable materials for resale;
  • Developers can save money, reduce environmental impacts, contribute toward community development and potentially command higher prices given the reuse aesthetic in new design trends; and
  • By championing deconstruction, cities and local governments can help improve management of solid waste, meet C&D waste diversion and recycling objectives, and reduce costs and tax burdens associated with brownfields and vacant properties.


The market for the deconstruction industry at large is contingent upon social and economic conditions, local policies and the presence of organizations driving the industry. These factors are present to a greater or lesser extent throughout the U.S.


The green building movement has been a major factor driving material reuse and recycling in the U.S. and influencing other sustainable building practices over the last decade.


Landfills have always been the cheapest option for disposing of materials perceived as "waste." Such practices have been widespread in the development and construction industry. But the number of landfills and the space within them is diminishing in many urban areas. Some jurisdictions are imposing surcharges or additional taxes on tipping fees and requiring waste plans that require demolition contractors to consider alternatives to landfill disposal.