We hated the fact that we were going to have to tear down the old house.  Beyond the sentimental reasons (our first house together, 4 years living in it, etc), we just didn’t want the waste going directly to a landfill.  According to an article by Bradley Guy from the University of Florida, about 136 million tons of waste results from renovation and demolition of buildings per year.  Probably no more than 30% of it is recycled.  A great resource for deconstruction education and benefits calculation is the Deconstruction Institute.
Our first step was to talk to our builder about our concerns, and they were able to locate Environmental Recycle, Inc. (ERI).  ERI provided the big dumpsters for waste.  Our job was to make sure that the waste from the building was separated.  We had loads of brick, separate loads of bare wood, separate loads of concrete, separate loads of asphalt shingles, etc. (see the multiplel dumpsters in the picture below).  ERI hauled these materials to the different recyclers (they do some themselves).  If they sold the materials, they credited the sale amount against our cost of their services – we sold the brick, concrete and asphalt shingles.  ERI then provided us with the documentation of what went where and the weight of the different loads.  It was relatively painless (other than keeping the neighbors from using the trash container for their bags of dog poop!).  Here’s what we did with the ERI items:
  • Asphalt: sold to recyler who turns it into tar and pot hole filler
  • Brick: sold to recycler who cleans it and re-sells it
  • Metal: including wiring, pipes, aluminum window – frames, etc were sold to a recycler.
  • Concrete: sent to recycler who crushes it into gravel (we used some of it in our French Drain)
  • Bare Wood: all bare wood in the house’s structure is being shredded and brought back to the site to be used as mulch in the yard.

The second step was to use what I now refer to as “God’s Little Helper”:  CraigsList!  We listed a lot of items and sold or gave away the vast, vast majority of them…making sure that we told the purchasers that they had to come and un-install the items themselves.  Here’s a sample of what we sold:

  • Pink tile from the bathroom in the photo
  • Attic stairs
  • Attic insulation
  • All appliances (except a leaky dishwasher)
  • All kitchen cabinets
  • Interior and exterior doors (including some door frames)
  • The entire garage walls and structure
  • Can/recessed lighting
  • Sinks
  • Bathtub
  • Old gas bathroom wall heaters
  • Shutters
  • I even had someone pay me to remove and reuse the St. Augustine turf in the front yard!

We couldn’t or didn’t find a recycler or re-user for a couple of items:

  • Other ceramic tile – although I sold one bathroom full of pink tile to one purchaser, CraigsList kept removing my other bathroom full of yellow tile saying that no one would want to buy it.
  • Toilets – we went back and forth on this.  We had the old-style toilets that are not water efficient, so we finally decided to send them to the landfill, but not after I tried to get them recycled by EnviroGlass.  Unfortunately, there’s no local recycler of ceramic toilets that I could find.
  • Insulation – although someone bought a chunk of it, we ended up having to send most of it to the landfill.
  • Painted wood and sheetrock – because the house was built in 1955, the wood and sheetrock could have easily had lead paint hidden under their layers.  The best place for these items is not around people.  Note:  Unpainted sheetrock left over from new construction can be recycled!

We still have some recycling left to do from the old house (mainly more concrete and a chain link fence).  Once these items are added to the calculation, it looks like we’ll be able to provide detailed documentation that we have recycled almost 95% of our house by weight.  We will be applying for an “Innovation Point” (basically an extra credit item in the LEED system) based on our deconstruction.

So what does it cost?  For the ERI services, we haven’t gotten the final bill, but we think it won’t be any more expensive than waste services would cost otherwise.  The real cost is that it takes several more weeks to deconstruct a house versus about 2 days to wipe a lot clean.  You end up paying in time and in wages for the folks who are doing the deconstruction.  When we figure out that cost we’ll post it.

Does anyone have deconstruction experiences?  Was ours typical?