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2021 Home remodeling: Making salvaging and recycling part of the plan

Remodeling your home is a big deal. Go green from the start, and that means deconstructing (instead of demolishing) the parts of your home that no longer work for you. Many building materials have the potential to be salvaged, reused, or recycled – with the cost comparable to taking it to the landfill.

A sledgehammer smashing a dry wall looks cool on TV but make no mistake: It creates waste and dust that someone has to clean up after the show. Deconstruction involves removing materials carefully to be given away, sold, or donated for reuse in another project.

Here are some tips to deconstruct before you remodel:

  • Assess what you’ve got
  • Take down the reusable stuff, and find it a new home
  • Hire a reputable company to sort the recycling from the rest

Assess what you’ve got

Light fixture

Reuse is preferred over recycling or trash disposal. By selling, donating, or giving away materials, you avoid energy use and costs associated with manufacturing new products. You also divert as many materials as possible from landfills while supporting local reuse retailers.

Pre-war era buildings (built between 1890-1940) tend to have high-value materials that can be highly sought after, such as:

  • Unique light fixtures or hardware
  • Hardwood floors and molding
  • Built-in shelving or cabinetry

Other items that could be salvaged for reuse:

  • Bathroom and kitchen cabinets
  • Solid wood doors
  • Hot water heaters
  • Lighting fixtures
  • Wood flooring and trim
  • Appliances
  • Structural components, such as dimensional lumber
  • Plumbing fixtures

Take down reusable stuff, and find it a new home

Front doors

Not sure if it’s worth salvaging? Check online to see what things people want for their homes. Materials can be sold or given away on platforms such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

There are also some companies that will both come to your home to salvage building materials and accept material drop-off at their storefront locations. Hennepin County has a list of business material salvage and recycling businesses here: Hennepin County Salvage Building Materials.

How big is the deconstruction project? Will you be generating a substantial amount of reusable and recyclable materials (e.g. major remodeling project involving multiple rooms or taking down an entire old house)? Then reach out to Hennepin County to see if you’re eligible for a deconstruction grant. You could get up to $5,000 to deconstruct that space to salvage the good materials for reuse in another project. Learn more about Hennepin County Deconstruction Grants.

Hire a reputable company to sort the recycling from the rest


Some building materials that can’t be salvaged for reuse can be recycled. There are several construction and demolition waste processing facilities in the Twin Cities that recycle materials such as asphalt, metals, and wood.

The companies listed below provide roll-off boxes in which you can load construction and demolition materials. They’ll take the filled boxes to their facilities, sort through the materials, and separate the recycling from the trash.

  • LRS (formerly Atomic Recycling), Minneapolis
  • Dem-Con, Shakopee

Oftentimes, unintended household hazardous waste is discovered during home construction projects. Household hazardous waste (HHW) should be taken to a Hennepin County drop-off facility for proper disposal.

household hazardous waste on a shelf

Commonly found HHW items include:

  • Paint
  • Fluorescent bulbs
  • Mercury thermostats
  • Lawn, garden, and automotive materials

Before you visit the drop-off facilities, check the Green Disposal Guide to A) verify that your items are accepted; and B) see if there are limits or fees.

Remodel time

Now that the space has been cleared and you’re ready to remodel, keep up your green approach. For each step along the way, you’ll find valuable information in Hennepin County's Guide to Green Remodeling.