You’ve redesigned and reimagined your space with new paint colors, lights and finishes. Then you realize you must first remove the existing materials.

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Q: We are remodeling our home and don’t want to throw away our old building materials. Is there another option?

A: A remodel can be a very exciting yet stressful time in your life. You’ve redesigned and reimagined your space with new paint colors, lights and finishes. You’ve hired a contractor and chosen the materials. So you can begin, right? Not quite. Because you then realize you must first remove the existing materials.

Until relatively recently, the standard protocol was to throw everything away. Even now with salvage and reuse becoming the norm, almost 70 percent of the material that ends up in a landfill is construction waste. Many people don’t know that a good portion of those materials can be reused and recycled in other projects.

A recent law passed in Portland requires that all homes built prior to 1916 cannot be demolished; they must instead be deconstructed to allow for maximum reuse and minimal materials sent to the landfill. Seattle’s similar regulation requires a salvage assessment to be conducted by a salvage company on all remodels or demolitions over 750 square feet. These new requirements have gotten people talking about salvage. But before we can talk about how salvage will benefit you and your project, let’s discuss what salvage is.

Architectural salvage is the process of salvaging or removing reusable parts from a home or building. Typically, this refers to “surface salvage,” meaning the removal of fixtures from a building rather than structural components. Depending on the project, a salvage company can work with a demolition contractor to remove structural items such as old-growth beams. Things like doors, windows, cabinets, flooring, lighting and plumbing are most commonly also removed. Once these items are removed they can be reused in a variety of ways by many different people.

There are several ways you can have your house salvaged. One option would be to have your contractor do the removal of salvageable items while you handle the “re-homing” of the items. You can both sell and source materials on Craigslist, OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace and elsewhere. Another great option in the Seattle area is to take advantage of the free salvage services provided by three architectural salvage companies who have licensed, bonded and insured crews to do the removal.

While all three companies accept different eras and styles of materials and offer different payment options, the general concept is the same. A representative from the store will come out to your project, perform a walkthrough and discuss what it is that would need to be salvaged, and then discuss payment forms and dates for removal. Once you reach an agreement, your project would be scheduled with the salvage crew. Working with a salvage company will save you time and money. And often, you are compensated for your materials that would otherwise be heading to the landfill.

Besides saving money, salvaging materials keeps reusable materials out of the landfill and gives quality items a second life. With the rapid growth in the Seattle area, we are at risk of losing the vintage character and charm of our city. Through salvage, we are able to preserve key elements to go back into restoring homes, upcycled projects or as key design elements in another space.


Lacy Kabrich works for Earthwise Architectural Salvage and is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s nearly 3,000 members, write to