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Cashing in During a Remodel

Something most homeowners don't usually associate with a remodeling project is saving money. The very essence of a renovated bathroom or a spiffed up kitchen seems to be large amounts of cash being doled out in exchange for fancier living quarters.

Surprisingly, more and more homeowners and contractors are making efforts to minimize waste during construction and remodeling by reselling or reusing existing building supplies.

Benefits of breathing new life into used building materials, says Joel Morrow, owner of Morrows antique and building supply in Medford, make both economical and environmental sense.

"The biggest reason to save the old stuff, from an economical sense, is that if they throw it away, they have to pay to take it to the dump," he says.

"And from an environment standpoint, it's good for the planet and it makes people feel good to recycle."

Items that can be salvaged and reused range from doors, windows and cabinets to hardware, bathroom fixtures and sometimes flooring.

"If during deconstruction, which is the process of tearing down, if they are careful, almost anything can be salvaged," says John Cunningham, manager for the Habitat for Humanity building supply warehouse in Medford.

First and foremost, a homeowner should determine whether materials can be used elsewhere. Old kitchen cabinets, for example, will work just fine in a garage where more storage space is needed. If cabinets are in disrepair, and cannot be reinstalled, salvage handles and hinges.

Old bricks from a chimney could create a nice border for a raised flower bed. An old window frame could create a wall hanging to frame a mirror or old photos. Older aluminum windows could be used to add a window to a dark garage in which temperature control is not an issue. And don't forget the barn. An old, outdated, colored sink might work just fine there to wash up after chores.

If a homeowner has no further use for perfectly functional materials, used building supply outlets will either purchase or accept donations of used materials. In Medford, for example, the HUD warehouse will accept donations. At his store, Morrow will offer a third of what he can sell an item for.

"A lot of homeowners don't consider it, but the contractors have done it for awhile. There's really a market to sell stuff," says Morrow, who cautions homeowners to plan for extra time for deconstruction.

"When they're taking the old stuff out, they don't want to get in a hurry. You have to be careful to get it apart in usable condition," he adds.

If considering a donation of used supplies, Cunningham says non-profit organizations will provide a receipt for tax deduction purposes, leaving value amounts up to the donor.

"One of the bugaboos of being a non-profit is we can't give somebody amounts," says Cunningham. When calculating the value of a used item, tax preparers recommend claiming up to half of the retail price for a used item.

"If somebody brings us a door they paid $500 for, they can probably claim about $250," he notes. But always check with a tax professional first. "If they bring us a toilet and take a $2,000 deduction, they better have a picture of the solid gold toilet they took out of their bathroom and donated."

Before donating or selling, Cunningham encourages a yard sale, "that way they get cash in hand and they can make a bit more on it," he says. "But the most important thing is keeping perfectly usable materials from going to waste."