Home renovation and demolition projects can produce significant waste — much of which can be recycled, but is not. Recycling and reusing building materials can keep debris out of landfills and can potentially be a frugal decision as well. There are many different kinds of old building materials that can be recycled or re-used again and again in some way, shape, or form. Being able to identify these materials and knowing what to do with them can help you make your home greener.
Generally Recyclable Materials to Look Out For
Wood, hard plastics and metal are typically reusable or recyclable. Sometimes these materials need to be melted down (plastics), refinished (wood) or cut apart before they can be used for something else.
Homeowners must be on the lookout for any materials that have been treated with chemicals that can leach into the soil or affect air quality, however. Presence of chemicals on old materials can affect their usefulness. Some materials that have been treated may need to be disposed of unless they can be used for something that is not inside the house.
Removal of an old roof and installation of a new roof can generate a lot of waste. Some of that waste, like the sheathing, cannot be re-used, although some types of paper-based sheathing can be recycled if taken to an appropriate facility.
Some types of shingling, like asphalt shingles, can be upcycled in various ways (e.g. a dog house or shed roof if the shingles are in good condition). Asphalt shingles typically last about 20 years, though some types of asphalt can last as long as 30. Recycled asphalt shingles are often used in pavement to reduce the need for new asphalt production.
Some types of roofing materials, like slate, can be used for other purposes. Slate tile is a type of natural stone that can last for hundreds of years if properly maintained. Good slate can be used for a tile floor in a kitchen, bathroom or outside.
Most appliances have a service life of about 10 to 20 years. Near the end, appliances will break down frequently and require constant maintenance. For this reason, re-use of old appliances is limited. Homeowners who are replacing old appliances during a remodel may consider donating their appliances to charity if they are still in good condition. There are many charitable organizations that will take old working appliances from homeowners.
Appliances that are no longer usable can be broken down and their parts can be used individually. Usually, it is the metal in these appliances that is most valuable.
Millwork is almost always re-usable, although painted millwork should be tested for lead-based paint. If millwork tests positive for lead-based paint, the homeowner must work with a lead-based paint licensed contractor to ensure that the material is handled properly.
Some types of millwork, like wooden doors, can be re-used as is. Other types of millwork, like decorative wainscotting, can be cut down and used to create something new. Depending on one’s situation, millwork may be recycled at a facility, taken apart and upcycled, reused, donated, or sold.
Lighting Fixtures/Light Bulbs
Light fixtures have a way of aging gracefully. They can often be re-used as is in other parts of the house, or in another home. Depending on the materials used or composition, some fixtures may be candidates for recycling/metal scrapping. Homeowners who don’t want to keep their old light fixtures for themselves can often sell or donate these items to charity. Before putting an old light fixture to use, homeowners must inspect it to ensure that it is safe. Exposed or cracked wiring and broken parts can prevent a light fixture from being used somewhere else.
Plumbing fixtures like faucets, toilets, and bathtubs can last for decades. Some antique fixtures like claw foot bathtubs are highly desirable (though difficult to transport) and will be gladly claimed by homeowners seeking vintage pieces for their homes. Older toilets often make poor use of water and are not environmentally friendly, so reuse may not be on the table. However, some areas do have recycling centers for toilets. Others may find creative upcycling projects in the garden.
Homeowners who want to re-use or donate their old plumbing fixtures should check them for presence of lead or old plastic before deciding the best course of action.
Classic flooring materials like wood and tile are generally reusable, as long as the pieces are in good condition. Damaged wood should be removed. Cracked or broken tiles can be re-used in outdoor pathways and in landscaping. Materials like laminate or bamboo may be recycled at facilities. Carpet – because it is a porous surface – typically cannot be recycled, but can potentially be repurposed as insulation, area rugs, and mats.
Copper is an extremely useful material that can be easily recycled and used for something else. In fact, copper is so easily recycled that old copper may be worth as much as 95% of newly ored copper. Homeowners can sell or donate their copper wiring to a processing center where it can be turned into something useful and sold again.
Stone countertops are highly durable and often fully recyclable. Old stone counters can be broken down into floor tiles and even backsplash tiles. Homeowners who no longer want their old countertops for themselves can donate their counters to charity.
If you’re a homeowner who is trying to keep your remodeling rubbish out of landfills, talk to your contractor and let them know of your goals. A good contractor will be able to connect you with recycling centers and can also talk to you about the various ways in which the waste from your home renovation can be re-used around your house.
Author Bio: Justin Havre is a Calgary native and owner of Justin Havre & Associates. Well known throughout the real estate industry, Justin is also a firm believer in environmental responsibility, believing that we should all take an active role in becoming stewards of our planet.