An estimated 300,000 U.S. homes meet the wrecking ball annually.

Those homes form part of construction waste that accounts for 40 percent of the U.S. landfill by volume, according to EPA figures. For this among other reasons, EPA and environmentalists back recycling homes as the greenest approach.

It also presents a business opportunity. Demolition of a home takes a couple days and a bulldozer. Deconstruction and disassembly, with resale and reuse of salveagable appliances, materials and parts, can take weeks. But the income from the sale, and in some cases, related tax benefits, makes it worth the effort.

The environmental and business case for home deconstruction and recycling has spawned movements around the country to reclaim homes, for profit. These groups are also taking overstock or mis-matched building materials from home improvement and wood products manufacturers and selling them through coop channels.

The use of reclaimed wood for homes has also been on the rise, a mix of design trends and environmental concerns. Homeowners planning tear-downs will often arrange for their builder to pull out and reuse the oak flooring, salvagable moulding, and bricks. During the Closets Expo show one cabinetry and closet designer told me that she is buying up abandoned buildings and reclaiming the structural wood beams and interior appointments to give new homes touches of old-growth woodwork that is otherwise unavailable.

In Maine, the Building Materials Exchange provides affordable home-improvement materials to low-income homeowners with products ranging from Products are donated mostly from manufacturers and distributors, a few retailers and individuals.

In Illinois, the ReBuilding Exchange helps connect builders and consumers with recycled materials. (Vintage solid wood interior and exterior doors cost $40 to $120, for example).

The ReUse People of America, based in Oakland, California, spell out costs and benefits of deconstructing versus demolishing a single-story 2200 square-foot home:

  Deconstruction Demolition
Total Cost $24,338 $10,100
Donation Value $88,000 $0
Tax Savings
(in 24% tax bracket)
$24,640 $0
Net Loss or Gain +$302 -$10,100

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