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Planning your remodel

  • Confirm your project goals: what is driving you to add on? Is there an alternative that might save you time and money and still meet your goals? Consider reorganizing your space and downsizing (by recycling and donating) your stuff.
  • Plan early to make your home remodel “green” so you can take advantage of opportunities that might be missed with a more conventional approach.
  • Plan to reuse existing walls, cabinetry, plumbing and electrical layouts when possible to save money and reduce construction waste.
  • If you live in unincorporated King County, check with the Department of Permitting and Environmental Review. Otherwise, check with your local jurisdiction for applicable permits and code requirements. Most permit center websites have very intuitive help menus and online forms for your needs.
  • Consider going up instead of out. This reduces the overall footprint of impact, and may enable you to utilize existing framing and foundation.
  • Take advantage of local Green Home Tours. These may help you prioritize and “shop” for green building approaches and strategies plus meet local professionals that can help with your project.
  • You can find salvaged supplies for virtually every building material category, from flooring to fixtures. Especially in vintage homes, used building materials can temper the newness of a remodel while tying fresh elements to the existing home.
  • Consider expanding your definition of cost. Higher initial cost may actually result in a better deal in the long run. For example, efficient plumbing fixtures result in lower monthly utility bills and durable materials require less frequent replacement. Similarly, health costs resulting from poor indoor air quality are not reflected in the price of less expensive, off-gassing materials.

Green building certification

  • If you are going to do a green remodel, consider getting it certified as a Built Green Remodel as proof to others that the project really is green. Recent studies based on real sales data have shown that on average, environmentally certified homes have greater sale value than their non-certified counterparts, and tend to sell faster.
  • If you decide that a remodel is just too much work and opt to buy a new home, look for Built Green, ENERGY STAR and LEED for Homes designations in the Northwest Multiple Listing Service.

Construction and demolition materials

Many options exist for reusing and recycling used building materials. A number of retail locations and online resources now accept and offer salvaged building materials – making it possible to not only minimize your remodeling waste, but incorporate “new” recycled items into your project. A little sweat equity can go a long way toward reducing your disposal expenses. If you reuse materials on your own project, you will save money by not having to buy new. In some cases, you can also make money by selling your unwanted building materials, such as old hardware or a pedestal sink.

For optimum results, take the following steps to manage remodeling project materials:

  • Reuse in place (leaving material as-is, repairing, refinishing, or re-facing, etc.)
  • Salvage and reuse (on the project, in the home, sell, donate, or trade)
  • Recycling
  • Proper disposal of what's left

Nearly all projects involve a bit of each. The green goal is to get as much of your materials into the top steps, while minimizing the amount that ends up at the landfill.


  • By planning your activities and carefully removing materials to retain their value (deconstructing rather than demolishing), you can increase the likelihood of a future life for these materials, beyond the landfill.
  • Make a call to a used building materials store or salvage and deconstruction company before you start; tell them what you’re trying to remove and they can often recommend the best tools for the job, as well as what can safely be reused again. There are numerous outlets for reusable and recyclable materials: used building materials retailers, online exchanges, classified ads, and recycling companies.
  • Doing a large remodel? Consider deconstruction services. This process carefully dismantles materials for reuse and recycling, keeping up to 90% of materials out of the landfill.
  • If you hire a waste hauling company, ask about their hauling records (do they share receipts showing materials went to appropriate destinations?). Request at least 2 bins (1 for garbage, 1 for recycling) to increase the rate of recycling.
  • Pay particular attention to lead-based paint, lead fittings and solder on plumbing products, as well as asbestos in shingles, flooring, ductwork and some appliances. Improper removal could introduce new hazards into your home.

During Construction or Demolition

  • The key to successful salvage is careful removal. Keeping materials intact and unbroken maximizes the likelihood of reuse, and retains their value.
  • Bundle multiples of a particular material, and keep them tidy, safe and dry in a protected storage area. Ideally, you want to set aside space for organizing your materials by type and destination: salvage, recycling and disposal.
  • Use extra caution if you hire a private company to haul materials—some operations are unfamiliar with recycling and reuse options, or worse, illegally dump materials you believe are being properly transported. To avoid this, work only with permitted and licensed hauling companies that agree to take no more than half of their fee up front, with the remainder paid after you receive official receipts from the destinations you specified.

Codes and permits

What codes do I need to meet?

  • It depends! Where you live, the extent of your remodel and the current state of your home will determine what codes you need to adhere to. Check with your local jurisdiction.

Is a permit required?

  • Chances are, YES! Check with your local jurisdiction. Most jurisdictions have a “Do I Need a Permit?” section of their FAQs. For example, if you live in unincorporated King County, this page will help.

Additional resources

Construction and Demolition Materials

Salvage Options


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