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Building Material Garage Sales

Okay, you've heard about deconstruction: saving materials from buildings that are being torn down rather than paying to ship it to a landfill that charges you to throw it away. But what can a builder do with the materials that can't be easily reused on-site?

Materials Exchange programs are designed to keep usable but unwanted materials out of landfills. Expensive transportation and landfill costs can be avoided by donating the surplus to a materials exchange -- and you can receive a nice tax deduction in return. Then, another builder, or even a do-it-yourselfer, can make beneficial use of these valuable, often inexpensive, sometimes historical materials.

Materials exchanges have existed for many years, but the system has evolved over time and expanded to nearly all fifty states. The old-fashioned way was a simple newspaper ad listing surplus items for the taking. These days, materials exchanges are usually run by non-profit organizations or state agencies. They allow you to post your items on line so that businesses, individuals or non-profits can browse the site to purchase materials. The builder posting the materials will then ship the item to the purchaser, or the purchaser may pick up the materials. There may be a fee for listing your materials, but you may also collect a fee when your items are purchased.

Some organizations will actually come on-site to remove your surplus materials, or you can deliver them directly to the materials exchange location. For example, Habitat for Humanity runs several reuse centers that stock surplus building materials and sell them to the general public for a substantial discount. An important point to remember is that materials exchanges focus on non-hazardous building materials, such as obsolete products, last year's model, and items pulled from remodeling projects. Hazardous items can be exchanged at a "waste" exchange.

The benefits of using a materials exchange are numerous. In addition to the advantages of deconstruction, you will usually pay much less for quality and hard-to-get materials. Often, your purchase will qualify for a tax deduction when the materials exchange is run by a non-profit organization. And your donations to a non-profit are always tax deductible. If you are helping to protect landfill space and reduce waste, thereby improving the environment, do not hesitate to let the public know -- it can only lead to a better public image and reputation.


For state-specific listings:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides state-specific information on materials exchanges including locations, contact information, services provided, and sources of technical and financial assistance for recycling businesses.

ReDO is a national and international tax exempt, 501(c) (3) non-profit organization promoting reuse on every level. ReDO's Mission: To promote reuse as an environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economical means for managing surplus and discarded materials.

The State of Washington has its own Materials Exchange site,, for a convenient in-state way to exchange small or large quantities of used or surplus building materials and large household items.

For listings by product:

Build is a fee-based ($25/month or $250/year) electronic information service designed to promote trade by bringing buyers and suppliers together using the Internet. Build is part of Recycler's World, a trading site for information related to recyclable commodities, by-products, used, and other surplus items.

Rehab Resource, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit corporation, that is dedicated to providing access to affordable building materials for the repair and rehabilitation of existing housing, for construction of new affordable housing for low to moderate income individuals, and for repair of 501(c)(3)owned facilities.

Content updated on 12/31/2003

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