Donate Leftover Or Used Building Materials: Re-Use In Action

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Photo: reclaimedhome

In an ever-greening society, there’s more concern than ever before about how we dispose of things, and more solutions available for doing so.

Reusing items ourselves isn’t always a feasible solution, so when it comes to home renovations and the cast-offs that come from demoing properties, it helps to know there’s a place for usable products to go.

Locally, there’ll be solutions for your area that you’ll have to research yourself, but, throughout North America, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore is a building supplies depot where one can donate used building supplies of all kinds, and proceeds go to building Habitat homes on a local level — or, products can even get used by Habitat in a sparkly new local build.

Great for Restorations

A place like ReStore, with everything from factory cast-offs and large-job leftovers right down to good-condition period pieces, can offer supplies solutions for lots of projects.

When doing period homes, finding products that suit your build can be tough in today’s retail market, resellers like ReStore or little independent shops might have that one-off item that’s perfect for your restoration project.

My town has the “Door Store,” for instance, where an aging fellow sells only old wood-framed windows or artisan doors in his crappy rundown shack. I’ve even used his windows to make decorative mirrors for my living room. It’d be to resellers like this that I’d turn to if restoring a great craftsman bungalow from the ‘30s, for instance.

Where do they get their stuff? Can I donate? Like what?

These shops survive on the products they acquire from home demos, leftovers from construction sites, discontinued products, “factory seconds,” home renovation “refuse,” and general donations.

What can get donated? Everything from kitchen and bathroom cabinets, pipes, toilets, all through to stained-glass doors and weathered plank oak hardwood flooring, and sometimes even more can fit the donation bill.

This California ReStore’s blog lists what they take, and is a good reference for most stores’ desired product, but each location may vary slightly. Call and ask.

If you’re looking for other organizations in your area, here’s a great article with some links about donating used building materials that might take you in the right direction.

Landfill or donation? How to decide, and what to do

Junk is junk. So if that pipe you’re removing has a leaky fit, they don’t want it either. If your wood-frame doors and windows function great but ain’t pretty, that’s not a problem — most customers plan to refinish it to match their product. They make wood-filler for a reason. Wear and tear doesn’t affect usage value if paint will cover it. Wood flooring can be scuffed and battered, so long as it’s whole and mostly unsplintered, because it can be refinished as well.

If you have a large donation to someone like ReStore, they’ll often do a pick-up. Call your local ReStore to find out more about their practices. Along with everything else, they’ll tell you that the proceeds from in-store purchases go toward building homes in your community. Homes for people who might not have them! Where you live! I know I love that. Don’t you?

Photo: Laura Rush

If you’re thinking you’d like to support leftover building materials resellers during your construction job, it may require you think about your demo differently.

Can those cupboards be reused? Is that countertop something that needs another life-cycle? What about that bathtub, will it work in someone else’s place? If so, remove it carefully to keep it in usable condition, so ReStore can use profits and build someone a home.

Okay, so I should buy used, too?

There are a lot of reasons to get things from a donated building materials outlet, whether from old-school product standpoints, or for community-giving.  But there’s good reason to buy new, off-the-list items from providers like BuildDirect, too.

If you need a longer product warranty, if your client wants “all new,” if there’s a chance you’ll have to reorder more of a product down the line, and so on, then sticking to a regular stock item with a stable supplier like BuildDirect might be a smarter move.

But if you’re looking for products for one-time, smaller jobs, maybe this is a solution for you. Some jobs I think would be great for ReStore or reused products:

  • Smaller scale “Antique” hardwood flooring for period reno
  • Smaller batches of factory cast-off tiles for a table that needs a new surface
  • Just a couple windows for your back porch’s sunroom or your kids’ treefort
  • Finishing a basement rec room or an in-home rental suite

Keep in mind, like any reseller, the stock is ever-changing in these places. What you saw last time might never come in again. You might find something great, or your visit might be a miss.

Today’s choices resonate long into tomorrow

Today, there’s no reason everything needs to end up in a landfill. With care and forethought, many products can, and should, be reused.

And if you’re not doing demo, or buying from donated building materials resellers, but you want to start having more control over what hits the landfill in the future, then invest in quality products so they will last long enough to have a second life at a reseller, when it’s time to make changes in a decade or two.

That’s all part of the solution to being less of a throw-away society:

  1. buy quality building materials
  2. treat them with care
  3. donate when you’re through
  4. buy used when it’s appropriate to do so
  5. be conscious about everything kept or discarded.

With organizations like Habitat for Humanity funding their projects by creating multi-solution places like ReStore — who resells items to keep them out of landfills, then puts the proceeds into building for the community — then that’s an even greater proof we’re heading in the right direction with sustainability.

It’s not just on Habitat for Humanity, ReStore, and organizations like them, though. It’s on all of us, and we all must keep doing our part to keep the cycle of sustainability churning.

Bit by bit, by making conscious decisions like these daily, with every item we save from a landfill and reuse, we’re changing our world.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.