Building Demolition Salvage, or, There’s Gold in Dat Thar Abandoned Building

before building demolition, get the good stuff out

Every collected cans to take to a recycler in exchange for cash? It’s one of the first ways many of us earn a little money: the five-year-old who lives across the alley from me always stops me when I’m taking out recyclables to ask if I have any “money cans.” Some take  this a bit further: there was our dorm’s janitor in college who must’ve made a mint off of aluminum cans, and, of course, the thieves who help themselves to easily (or even not-so-easily) available metals from abandoned buildings (or even occupied ones if the price is right). But few of us look at buildings in need of demolition and think “Hmmmm… I’ll bet that place is a gold mine.”

It turns out that a sharp-eyed demolitions expert may think just that… and his/her first act at a job site may well involve figuring out what not to demolish, but rather salvage for sale.  According to demolition contractor JD Elder, the top five materials that a demolition crew will want to hold onto include:

  1. Asphalt Shingles
  2. Reclaimed Wood
  3. Steel
  4. Drywall
  5. Glass and Windows

While I’m neither a demolitions or a building salvage expert, a couple of other materials came immediately to mind. So, I started poking around a bit, and, in no time, came across many more materials that could earn a building owner and/or demolisher a little cash on the side… and keep them out of the landfill.

Five More Materials You May Want to Salvage from Building Demolition

The EPA’s brochure on resource recovery from brownfield sites list all of the materials on Elder’s list… plus quite a few others. If you’re in the demolition business, or know someone who is, you might want to check the local market for these materials before that big steel ball starts swinging:

1. Asphalt Paving

Tearing up a parking lot? Recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) has multiple potential uses in road construction and repair. The University of Wisconsin’s Recycled Materials Resource Center has a ton of information on this material; provides some figures on potential savings/profits.

2. Concrete

We’ve discussed urbanite (broken concrete) before, and how hand-builders might want to use it for building foundations. At the commercial level, used concrete has plenty of other uses, including “road base, general fill, pavement aggregate, and drainage media.” The Construction & Demolition Recycling Association identifies other potential markets for this material.

3. Brick

We St. Louisans already know about this one – plenty of used brick dealers here in town, as lots of homeowners want that vintage look (if they don’t already have it). Beyond renovation, brick can also be used for a masonry aggregate.

4. Non-Asphalt Shingles

Metal, wood, and slate shingles also have reuses, either through traditional material recycling (metal), grinding into mulch (wood), or reuse as shingles.

5. Architectural salvage

Whether its a vintage chandelier, or less dramatic elements like doors and casing, many architectural elements can find new life in another building. You can likely find a local salvage company that will pay you for your finds.

What else can be saved from building demolition? Share them with us in the comments…

Image credit: Shutterstock


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