By timestaff
May 19, 2009

It’s easy to sell an unwanted bathroom vanity light on Craigslist. But when you’re looking to gut the kitchen or bathroom, finding a seller-and arranging delivery-for a tub or stove becomes a bit impractical, so the tendency is to let the contractor come in, demolish, and haul off everything to the dump.

But there’s another renovation model to consider: Surgical deconstruction that salvages the material for resale. One of the leading deconstruction outfits is the San Francisco-based nonprofit The ReUse People of America (TRP). The firm arranges for a certified contractor to come in and carefully remove unwanted materials, from tubs, to doors, down to the wood beams if it’s a full teardown. You can then claim the value of the deconstructed goods as a tax deduction. If the value is more than $5,000 you’ll need an official appraisal to satisfy the IRS; a deconstruction firm should be able to hook you up with a qualified appraiser.

While the cost of the surgical demolition costs more than letting your contractor go at it with sledgehammer, the value of the tax break can more than offset that cost depending on your tax bracket.

It’s not just a matter of more green in your wallet; it means less stuff being hauled off to the landfill; TRP estimates that its programs have so far diverted more than 260,000 tons of building material from landfills.

While most of TRP’s business is in California, the deconstruction movement is gaining national momentum; TRP operates retail stores where anyone can pick up donated materials on the cheap in Chicago, Denver and Kansas City, along with more than a half-dozen California outlets. You can learn more here. And other firms, some for-profit, now offer deconstruction as well as demolition. The best way to locate deconstructionists in your area is to try a simple Google search of “residential deconstruction” with the name of your town. You can also ask your local home building association or contractors if they are aware of any programs.

— Carla Fried

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