Cover story: Reclaim and recycle while renovating

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“You might have a neighbor who has gotten rid of a granite countertop,” Ms. Mundell says. “Buy that, and it’s a lot less energy than shipping granite from overseas.”

There’s no actual forklift here, by the way, unless you count the spirit behind the idea of the place, which also offers green jobs training.

“The name comes from our nonprofit status,” Ms. Mundell says. “We want to lift up the community.”

It’s the same spirit you’ll find at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore Warehouse in Montgomery County, where profits from its array of products go toward building affordable housing. (Other jurisdictions have their own ReStore warehouses, connected with the local Habitat organization.) Like many community warehouses, ReStore has trucks to pick up items, although its doors also are open for direct donations.

“Our biggest draw for customers are kitchen cabinets,” says Adeela Abassi, marketing and communications manager for ReStore Warehouse of Montgomery County. “When they’re put in by a professional, you can’t even tell the difference from something brand-new.”

Large sets of 14 cabinets generally run from about $1,300 to $1,700 at ReStore. Smaller sets of eight to 10 cabinets run from about $700 to $1,000.

Of course, if you are looking for a particular item, you might have a better chance at Home Depot or Lowe’s. But warehouse browsing carries with it a bit of serendipity. There is always the possibility that you’ll find something even better than you expected.

“Right now, we’ve got a set of white cabinets with granite countertops - 14 pieces - for just $1,790,” Ms. Abassi says.

Yes, deconstruction is more expensive than traditional demolition. But donations can mean tens of thousands of dollars in tax savings.

Using reclaimed materials - or even just donating them to a warehouse - does take a bit of planning. For one thing, you will want to let your contractor know well in advance which materials you want to save. And because deconstruction takes longer than demolition, you’ll want to make sure you contact your deconstruction team in plenty of time. Nonprofit groups, especially, often are booked months in advance.

Note also that some older homes may contain hazardous materials, so you may need to hire abatement specialists to deal with them. And even the best-planned deconstruction project can go wrong, if fixtures are so old that they don’t come out in one piece, or if floors turn out to be glued rather than nailed down. Some things just are not salvageable. But other things are.

These days, whenever Universal Floors puts down an old floor or lays in a new one, the workers tuck away a few slips of paper themselves.

“We do the same thing as they were doing a hundred years ago,” Mr. Lynn says. “We write our names, what the average pay is, what’s going on in the world.”

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